Sunday, November 29, 2009

Gifts of Joy

It's like Christmas around here today! when the lights were turned on in the living room this evening the children entered to find giant suitcases for each of them filled with new clothes, shoes, towels, school supplies, soccer balls, clothes for their families, and everything they will need for when they return home (in two weeks!). Imagine 21 children screaming and running around. Imagine teen boys wrapping their arms around a suitcase and kissing it over and over. Imagine a small boy throwing underwear in the air and shouting "new knickers!" Lindsey, Laura, and I have the privilege of going through the suitcases with each of them as they try on all the clothes. Their responses have been priceless. Rose said she was shocked and cried out in excitement. Patrick said "I am going to sleep in my suitcase. I think so."I can't wait to go through the rest tomorrow. No matter what Christmas holds, this makes my Christmas. I don't need a wii, or an iphone, or ten new sweaters. These children have reminded me what it means to have joy no matter the circumstances and what it means to be thankful for each blessing God gives. May I never take life for granted.

Jackson led devotions tonight and he did a fantastic job. I know he wants to be a chef, but I secretly hope he becomes a pastor. He read the Great Commission and talked about what it means to go and make disciples. The children fired questions at him like, How do you make disciples? Do you have to go to another country to be a disciple? And if you make disciples of your family members can they go and make more disciples? Nine year old Jackson confidently stood and answered those questions like any good pastor. As I listened to these children talk about following Christ, teaching their families everything they have learned from us, and being missionaries no matter where they are, I was filled with such pride and joy. These children are special and I have no doubt that they will go on to change the person at a time. May God protect them and bless them on this journey!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

In Christ Alone

In Christ Alone is one of my all time favorite songs. It has a lot of meaning in my life and brings up many memories. Five years ago I sat in Torrey Gray Auditorium at Moody Bible Institute listening to that song for the first time ever. I cried. It was then and there that God showed me that he wanted me to move to Chicago to attend Moody. Much has happened since that day, I graduated with my degree and have been many places, but I still love the song just as much, if not more. Tonight the words of the song floated through the room here at Mirembe during devotions, as the children wrote down what Christ has done for them. They pinned their papers to a handmade wooden cross that Geofrey and I made this afternoon. As I watched them, I thought back to that day at Moody and marveled at how far I have come. I just finished reading back over the 112 blog entries I have written on tour, to prepare myself for debriefing. It's crazy to see it all written down. Thanks for prayerfully following the journey with me.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thankfulness Abounds

I don't have to think hard this Thanksgiving to figure out what I am thankful for. My heart is already brimming over. I have just been reading back over old blog entries from the past year however, to help process and get ready for debriefing this coming week. I noticed that my older entries flowed much better and were beautiful to read. The more recent entries seem to appear more straitforward and not so eloquent. Not sure what happened. Anyway, it's wonderful to go back and see what I wrote and what I was thankful for this whole year through. God's faithfulness is incredible and his blessings abundant. I sometimes fail to see them though. It is my prayer that I will never lose the eyes to see God's fingerprints on everything around me every day of my life.
Our time of celebration here at Mirembe House has been great. Yesterday we piled in the bus and went to the movie theatre to see Fantastic Mr. Fox. Kind of a wierd movie...but also strangly funny. Today was more of our Thanksgiving celebration. Thanks to a family from Kings Park International Church we spent a fun morning, at their Christmas tree farm picking out a tree, playing games, and taking lots of pictures.

With some time to kill after the tree farm we decided to crash the party at Starbucks. After ordering 21 hot chocolates and several fancier drinks for the aunties and uncles we settled in at the tables, on the chairs, the windowsills, and the floor of Starbucks to read books, play games, and enjoy our drinks. Once again, the children's behavior amazed the people around and made us proud! You should have seen the barista's face when I informed him that these are the children that recorded on the CD that he had on his counter. Right now if you purchase $15 worth at Starbucks you will receive a free CD called All You Need Is Love. The first song of the same title was recorded by Playing For Change and features in part The African Children's Choir (our kids!). The song was recorded by many people/groups so you may not be able to distinguish their voices but they are part of the chorus :) Go pick it up if you get a chance. This afternoon a lovely family from KPIC invited us all over for a Thanksgiving Feast. It was wonderful. With full tummies and full hearts we enjoyed a leisurly afternoon and then toasted marshmallows by the fire in the evening. With 21 firey marshmallows being waved around I was a little nervous. God spared us all though and we left with sticky fingers and warms hearts. Thank you to the Metty's!

19 days left until the children fly home. The marbles in the jar hardly cover the bottom and as each day slips by I try to focus on the children and not think about how hard it is going to be to say goodbye...

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Andy Griffith

I remember watching the Andy Griffith show at my grandparents house when I was a kid. I loved watching all those old shows. Television used to be worthwile and funny, now it just makes me sick or worries me, or makes me wish I had a boyfriend or different clothes. Pointless. Today I took a walk down memory lane in Mount Airy, NC. I'm staying with my friend Kimi, from Moody, and her husband Adam for a few days vacation. This afternoon we decided to take off and go to the hometown of Andy Griffith. It's a pretty tourists place, but we had fun playing tourist. We got to see the real squad car used in the show and did some shopping. Apparently we were close to getting arrested too...I went on some private property to get a picture in a rare laurelwood gazebo and a lady jumped out of her car and came running to tell us to get off the property. I guess they have been having trouble with trespassers and the police had just left a few minutes earlier. She was worried they would see us and arrest us. Ha! Would have made a great story. We managed to stay out of trouble the rest of the day, but got some good pics :)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A Boy with a Vision

No 13 year old boy has ever brought such tears to my eyes or hope to my heart, as my precious Nelson. I made some tea and sat down with Nelson at the picnic table this afternoon to have a chat with him about preparing to go home and about his future. I am absolutely blown away by the wisdom and vision that God has given him at such a young age. Last night Nelson was asked what poverty is and he answered that it is people who do not have enough money. I decided that though he is young, I think he is knowledgeable enough and mature enough to discuss world poverty. So I asked him if poverty is only a lack of money. He replied that there is also poverty of the heart, in which people (even people who have money) are hopeless and unhappy because they don't have Jesus). Exactly the point I was getting at. God has undoubtedly given this boy the heart and mind of a preacher / missionary. We chatted about how hopelessness is at the root of poverty and people who don't believe they are worth anything or that anyone loves them, cannot get out of their circumstances. This is why the cycle of poverty continues. We had a really good talk about it and I told him that I want him to make sure he understands poverty because I firmly believe that God is going to use him to help pull other people out of poverty and give them hope. He has an amazing testimony of God's faithfulness. He didn't have a relationship with Jesus Christ until he came to Makindye and Music For Life. God rescued him through Music For Life and he is a changed person. He now wants to help others and give them hope and a future. I asked Nelson about what he is excited about when he goes home. He said he is worried about his family because so many of them are not saved. When he went on break from Makindye he tried to tell them about Jesus and they told him he was just a small kid with silly childish ideas. He has such a vision to go home and give hope to his family and teach them how to love Jesus more. It's incredible. He said he wants to increase their faith. Nelson wants to be a minister, but he asked me what I think he could be if he doesn't become a minister. I told him he would make a good teacher, or possibly a businessman, but most of all I think God might call him to be a missionary. He agrees. I showed him the video clip of Jimmy Wambua, a man from Kenya who was sponsored through Compassion International as a small child. He is now in the States studying at Moody so he can go back to Kenya and stand in the gap to help others break the cycle of poverty. He even sponsors his own child now. Well, a few months ago he had the opportunity to meet his sponsor for the first time at a Compassion convention on stage. He wept. I watched the video and cried too. I showed the video to Nelson because I thought it would be good for him. He loved it and he told me that when he grows up he wants to be like Jimmy. He wants to come to America and study God's word. He wants to sponsor other children. He wants to adopt children and help them. He wants to travel the world and spread a message of God's love and grace. He has such an incredible vision for such a small boy. And he is so humble about it all too. I was very honest with Nelson and told him about my hopes and dreams for working with the poor and oppressed. I told him about wanting to come back to Uganda. I told him why I came to work with the African Chidlren's Choir. The boy brought tears to my eyes. He gave me a string of the greatest compliments I have ever received. He told me I have changed his life because I have loved him, I have taught him to love Jesus more, I have educated him, I have helped him learn really good English (like supercalifragilisticexpialidocious), I have given him hope, I have believed in him, I have encouraged him. Honestly, the boy just reaffirmed God's calling on my life. Giving hope to others is the best possible way to spend every day of my life. He told me a good teacher is one who believes in the students, who cares about them, and who loves God and gives hope. The moments I will never forget. I love that boy and I wish I could adopt him. I can't wait to see how God uses him. Never has any child made such an impact in my life or inspired me so.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Living Without Regret

Yesterday I did a lot of thinking about how to live without regret. I feel like I have done a pretty good job of living without regrets on this tour, but in preparing to do some staff devotions for our team last night I realized how precious each moment is. I read a quote I loved..."a moment lost is gone forever." What a good realization. I made the most of every moment. It was a great Saturday. Started off with Chocolate chip pancakes and little smokies, while blaring the Christmas medley that the children are trying to learn for their symphony performances next month. Laura put up the lyrics on posters all over the dining room and we listen to the song at least three times at every meal. Lindsey commented the other morning that it looks like Christmas threw up all over our walls. It's true. We added some lights the other day to make it look very festive. After some bopping to tunes while cleaning up around the place I spent the morning with a few of our smallest boys. We jumped on the trampoline (a very rare treat), and then had a treehouse club meeting. Hannington, Mo, Christopher, Patrick and I made some chai tea, put it in travel mugs and headed up into the fort. There are conversations that take place in a tree fort that just don't happen other places. Can I just say that I love little boy conversations..especially from these little boys. They actually spent 20 minutes seriously trying to convince me that mermaids are real and they have seen them in Uganda. When I insisted that they are pretend and Ariel is just make believe they made up some elaborate story about seeing mermaids sitting on a rock when they went to fetch water and told me that there different things in different places. I said yes, but I know mermaids don't exist-even in Uganda. Chris then gave me a very spiritual answer-if God wanted to create a mermaid he could. I replied.."well yes, but he didn't." They didn't believe me. O well.

As we drew pictures of tree houses, airplanes, Superman, and Veggie Tales, we talked about life and what we'll miss after tour. Christopher almost made me cry when he commented. "I don't think I'll forget Lino because he teached me." My other favorite Christopher quote from the morning:
Can God talk to the sun? -Chris
Yes. -Me
Then why doesn't it have eyes? -Chris

In the afternoon we built a fire and roasted marshmallows. Well..I sat on the picnic table pretending to play guitar, while Julius roasted them for me :) I've decided one of my goals for this coming year is to learn guitar. I know i've said that before. But I really mean it this time. I think.

A dinner of grilled burgers and now we are finishing off the day watching a very nostalgic movie...Homeward Bound. Perfect Saturday.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Rainy School Days

Today I am having a hard time with organized/structured learning. I am a firm believer that children learn best when they are doing something hands on and talking about it. Some days we do that, but in Uganda school is mostly done sitting still and quiet, so I find myself trying to uphold that expectation. Some days it near drives me crazy. Hurrican Ida has left us with a few days of heavy rains and high winds so the children haven't been outside for a couple days. They are a little stir crazy and so am I. This morning we are trying to make some thank you cards. They are cute, but the only think getting me through is my hot tea and good music :) Lord give me patience.

Tonight I am making pork loin . Never made pork loin before, but I found a tasty looking recipe online. Hope it turns out as good as the last few meals. Here's hoping!!!

P.S. Did you know you can make at least 264 words with the letters in the word edification? Crazy.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Settling in at Mirembe

The touring part of tour has come to an end and though we are a bit sad that the concerts are over, the host families are over, the bus rides are over, the new cities are over, and the amazingly generous churches are over, we are happy and relieved to be together and have a rest from the craziness that was so much a part of tour life. We have settled in to our life here at Mirembe House in North Carolina for the next 6 weeks or so. It's good to be back, nestled in the woods, next to the lake, at a place all our own. Here the children can run around and play outside or inside and we can just be a family. What a blessing this place is. This past week was camp, meaning the children did nothing but play. They thoroughly enjoyed themselves in the warm sunshiny NC weather.
One of the highlights of this past week was our complimentary trip to the Paul Mitchell Salon training center, for free haircuts and manicures. Even the skeptical boys ended up having a good time. After all the pampering was over, the people at the salon turned on music and the whole staff had a giant dance party with all of us. How many can say that have had a dance party at the salon?! Haha. Then they all played a big soccer game in the field next the salon. Good times.

Being at Mirembe House also means we get to do all our own cooking which is fabulous. I have learned many things and aquired many random skills while on tour, one of which is grocery shopping and cooking for approx 30 people :) This past week I had to make beef stew for everyone and I was terrified, because I have no idea how to make beef stew. Laura, my faithful sidekick and I looked up a recipe online and started chopping. Five hours later we had two giant bubbling pots of delicious beef stew and a pumpkin cake for Laura's birthday. It turned out so good they came back for thirds! Yes! I was excited.
This week we started back into school and rehearsals to prepare for our Christmas program with the Cincinatti Symphony Orchestra. I asked a few of the boys if they were excited to go back to school and rehearsals or if they still wanted to play all day and they excitedly said school and rehearsals...because they love to learn. Bless the teacher's heart :)