Saturday, September 25, 2010


On a Sunday morning, a few weeks ago our family woke up ready and excited to make the 1 1/2 hr drive to worship in the village of Nyalakut. The village church had been planning a special baptism service and were anxious for us to arrive. So when Hagen woke up saying he wasn't feeling well, I was caught in the "Good Mom dilemma". Should I stay home with him? Wait on him with Sprite and a thermometer? Should we go anyway? Hoping he will feel better as the day goes on so we don't disappoint the village that has been waiting for a visit from us for months. I hate those moments when I am suppose to be able to make the "right" decision. The one that later on in the day your husband says,"I am so glad you made that decision. You are so wise". At which point I smile and nod humbly. This morning I made the decision to go anyway with the promise of sitting by Hagen on the ride. We were all of 45 minutes out of town when his temperature spiked and he started really not feeling well. (The second guessing of my "right" decision began now) By this point we had picked up an African man who was to attend with us and he had informed Josh that he, Josh, was in fact the preacher for the services today. This now made it impossible to turn back. We arrived at the village and were escorted to the front of the square mud structure where church was held. I tried to sneak in the pillow and bottle of Sprite I had for Hagen as I positioned myself behind the podium, on the wobbly bench that was our seat. The preacher's wife got up and began to lead amazing worship songs sung in a mixture of Swahili and Lugisu languages. I absolutely love the worship here in Africa. As the service went on Hagen began to get so uncomfortable that I decided it would be best to move him to the car. At this point, I am fairly sure it is malaria again and I know there is nothing I can do for him until we get home. I make him as comfortable as someone with a 104' fever can be laying in the back seat of a truck in 90' weather. The village children that couldn't fit inside the building were outside with me, peeking in the windows trying to catch a glimpse of the sick little white boy. I decided to try to talk to them. They decided to just stare at me. So in the highly respectable "Me Tarzan, You Jane" style of communication, I pat myself and say "Denise". Then I point to them awaiting their wonderful African names. They respond with blank stares. I am obviously getting nowhere. Hagen by this time has fallen asleep so I head to the back of the church to listen to Josh and make sure my other kiddos aren't making faces or sleeping as they sit facing the church listening to their Dad preach. As I stand there listening, I feel a tap on my arm and turn to see the children I had been trying to communicate with. They say "Madam, your son is vomiting." My first response, I wish I could tell you was to rush to the truck to aid my puking child. I did respond that way, but only after I said, "Hey! you speak English!" They laughed at me, and I ran to help Hagie. News soon spread about our sick son, and at the end of the service, the preacher got up and addressed the church. He spoke of how when white people get sick, they close themselves and their families in their houses. They don't let anyone in or let anyone help. He spoke of how much we must love them to bring our sick son to them today. He spoke of how important it was to us to bring the love of God to them, that we would not stay home and close them out. They truly felt His love that day. They got to lay hands on Hagen and he was blessed by being prayed for by African brothers and sisters who love the Lord. The humble nod came from me later that night, but not because I made the right decision .... I made the wrong decision that day, by mom standards, but in doing so I realized that my decision in the hands of God is always the right one.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Another Day....

Add Image In the Last 10 days my family has seen glimpses of amazing and wonderful things. In Kenya our hearts were captured by the children who grabbed our hands and shared the day with us at the Children's Home. In Karamoja, with wide eyes we observed what a tribal people looks like untouched by civilization. (And when those glimpses didn't meet the minimum clothing criteria, my children enjoyed the view of my hand over their eyes :) But today I saw a glimpse of a red balloon in a tree. Probably unnoticed by anyone walking by below or by those swinging a machete to cut the grass in the yard across the street, but from my kitchen window I saw it and it made me smile. It was held tightly in the hands of one of the local children. They climb the tall Mango tree across the street and hang out there where the can see everything we crazy mzungo (white people) do behind our fence. My kiddos enjoy playing with them and every once in a while we hear a slight knock on our gate and the kids come in with some amazing gift they have made for our children. Once it was a car made of wire and bottle caps. Once it was a girl doll made from banana leaves, followed a few days later by a boy one. Once it was miniature statues of animals they had sculpted out of termite mound clay. My kids proudly display these treasures in their rooms. However, Josh, (the hubby), began noticing that our kids were getting really good at accepting gifts and not very good at giving them. A little disturbed by this, He helped them to understand the importance of giving and not just receiving. To which they replied, "Ok Dad" and headed on their way, probably back to the latest game they had concocted that involved Star Wars, a princess(my daughter may play with the boys, but it is always on her terms), and balloons brought from the States. We were left wondering if anything we tried to teach them was able to hang out in their cute little noggins long enough to affect their hearts. So when I glanced out the window and saw the red balloon it made me smile. They did hear. A red balloon shared may seem like a small thing, but when it arrives in a package that still smells like America, it becomes a treasure. A treasure worth sharing. I can think of another treasure worth sharing. One that still smells like heaven and wants nothing more than to be given to someone who will hold on tightly with both hands. Grateful to be here to share that gift, and for the glimpse of Him today in a red balloon. Hope you enjoy these pics of our recent road trips :)

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Shoes and Sugar Cane

I was in the kitchen doing dishes when Dylann ran in and asked, "Mom, can I give Daniel a pair of my shoes?" I should have seen this coming. The brothers who hang out at our house have maybe 2 shoes that aren't falling apart between the four of them. Although it isn't uncommon to see someone wearing the only 2 mis-matched shoes they could find that would still stay on their feet, I knew Dylann wouldn't rest until Daniel had real shoes on his feet. "Why should I have 3 pairs when they don't have one?" Feeling motherly pride well up inside, I promised a trip to the market to find shoes in their size. That seemed to satisfy her so she skipped out to play.

Because we are still learning the culture here, it isn't always as easy as, " I see a need I can meet, so I will just take care of it." I have been advised by wise workers here of the ramifications of giving handouts. But the needs here are so real. I had had a conversation with Simon, the oldest about his mother earlier in the week. I asked how they got money for food if she didn't work. He told me that she sold the sugar cane at their gate that grew in her garden. Equipped with this info I walked over to Mamma Jennifer (the boys mother), and explained that I needed sugar cane. I asked, however, if that instead of payment I could use the money to buy the boys shoes. She smiled and said yes.

They boys hopped in the back of the truck and we headed to Republic street. The street where you can find everything there is to find here in Mbale. Simon picked up Moses, the 3 year old, and we all held hands and headed toward the street corner where there are used shoes, probably from America, lined up neatly for sale. The men saw us approaching and immediately began forcing shoes on the boys feet. Not knowing exactly what they would want I just stood back and watched. The younger ones were all smiles but Simon kept turning the shoes over and bending them. I asked him what was wrong, and he said "Madam, these are not good shoes." We disappointed the salesman and walked to find another place to look. Eventually we found shoes that were good quality and satisfied everyone. Shoes I would have paid .50 for at a garage sale in the states mind you, but they were happy. And the salesmen were happy to get way more than .50 from me that day. I didn't pay asking price for any of them, but I admit I am still working on the whole barter economy thing.

Feeling success, we loaded up the truck and headed back to the boys house. I am still smiling as I think of the looks on their faces as they showed off their new shoes. I picked up my load of sugar cane and headed home. I am reminded of the "Father" who loves to give good gifts to his children. (Anyone know what to do with sugar cane?)

Friday, July 30, 2010

Snowballs in Africa

I met a friend here the other day. It was one of those divine appointments. I was browsing the web looking up mango worms ( a not so pleasant event we have so far managed to avoid), when I stumbled upon a blog of a woman living and working in the city I am living in. We began emailing and a few weeks later happened to run into each other at the grocery store. She is an amazing woman and I thank God for his gift of friendship to me. Today I recieved an email from her remembering people she had lost in her life...including her 18 year old son 3 years ago. So today I enjoyed the little everyday wonderful things, like a snowball fight in Africa.

There are 4 brothers who are becoming a regular fixture at our house, Daniel, Ivan, Simon, and Moses. They were showing us the new gadgets they had made out of wood and rubber strips when the guys showed up with our replacement fridge. So that meant the old fridge was coming out, with about 4 inches thick of frost caked inside the freezer. I was inside learning how to make matoke in banana leaves with Lydia, when I heard laughing and shouting. I went outside and found an impromptu African snowball fight going on between our kids (including the brothers), and the children outside of our gate. I laughed thinking about all of the impossible things that have followed the sayings like, "They'll be snowball fight in Africa before.....". Well this is a place where impossible things are happening. I can't wait to see what happens next.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

We have been in Africa for almost 2 months now and I have decided to give this blog thing another try. Because so many people have written and told us how much they enjoyed being a part of the 40 days updates, and because we were so encouraged in hearing from them, I have been motivated to pick up my computer and give it a go. While I won't be updating everyday, you can peek in on us every once in a while and see what we have been up to. There may be nothing more exciting than a chicken laying an egg on our front porch, or an invasion of bees on the back porch, but you are welcome to share it all with us. Knowing all that God has done to bring us here, and what he has already been doing, I am confident you will be apart of many great things to come. But for today I will add some of our recent pictures and leave you with a promise of more to come.

Loving Africa

Monday, February 16, 2009

Drawer full of socks

Everyone has something they put off. Something they absolutely dread doing. Something that falls somewhere behind alphabetizing the silver ware drawer on your priority list. (At least, this it what I tell myself, so I don't feel like I am the only one) If you hang around me very long, you will know for me, that something, is laundry. I do good for a few days, then I blink, and it's everywhere....again. I actually thought I was on one of those "good" days, until this evening. I was leaving my mom's after our annual President's Day cherry pies when she, knowing my husband is out of town, yells after me, "Let me know if you need anything!". Hagen, fully dressed as a robot, yells from my arms, "I need socks." This is the point where I look down at his feet. Sure enough, no socks. Well, at least it's not the middle of winter and below freezing outside. Oh wait, IT IS.

So as I drive home I am mentally forcing laundry up on the list of priorities. OK. OK. I will tuck the kids in bed, and then I'll dive headfirst into the pile of laundry and not come up till it's done. With my game plan and bad attitude firmly in place, I tuck, squeeze, kiss, pray, and turn to face the giant, when Dylann says, "Mom, remember when Daddy could raise his hands all the way up and was still really far from the ceiling in our old house? Now that we live in the trailer it is easy to touch the ceiling." "Yes." I say curiously wondering where she is going with this. " I think God brought us here to bring us closer together as a family." Wow.... She rolls over, done with her story. I walk out, far from done digesting what she has said. How many times am I so distracted by the needs, wants, perceived hardships of my situations, that I miss out on the blessing of right here, where He has me. I never wanted to sell everything we owned only to show up empty handed at a trailer door. But I realize now, we didn't show up empty handed at all. God's love living inside us is something we brought with us. That love for Him has filled the walls of our home (even if they are made of metal). That love is bigger than discontentment. That love is warmer than than our old fireplace in the winter. That love makes us laugh at the sink hole in the kitchen. The love of Christ in our family has made our trailer a home. It has helped us overcome many hard things during our transition to Africa. And that love will travel the ocean with us as we make our home on foreign soil.

Snapping back into reality...I remember my game vs. laundry. With a renewed sense of "I can do all things through Christ...", I will bring the love of Christ to the pile of laundry. Grateful to be where He placed me tonight....up to my eyeballs in jeans, soccer uniforms and socks. Just as Christ pours His love into me, I can love my family by serving them tonight. Thanks Dylann for reminding me of things I had forgotten. So Dylann, here's to a trailer full of love. And Hagen, here's to a drawer full of socks.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Dylann's Lovelies

My Dylann is 7. My Dylann loves with absolute abandon. The recipients of her love belong mostly to the stuffed animal family, but she is an equal oppurtunity lover. At the moment the number is 17. 17 is the number of animals that make their way into and extremely oversized bag and are toted to safety when our family has to seek shelter in a storm or for a sleepover at grandma's. These 17 are also the reason she struggles to find joy in going anywhere (including Florida!) where she isn't allowed to take all 17. This deep devotion isn't limited to stuffed dogs and American girl dolls; anything she deems herself "protector" of would fall in her category. Yesterday, it was her hand-me-down pink wallet with an "R" on the front (for her big sister Rylee), complete with $7.00 and a VIP license from Chuck E. Cheese. You see yesterday we, along with several thousand of my fellow Joplinites, braved the mall for some bargain shopping. 2 hours, 2 pairs of jeans, 2 pairs of boots, 1 potty break and a snack at the Great American Cookie later we are walking through the rain back to our car when it hits her.....her beloved is gone. With an agonizing scream of "It's gone! I have to go find it!", she is out the door and halfway across the parking lot before I can catch her. If I would have known I would be sprinting in the rain I would have re-thought my shoe choice of high heel boots. But, If I'm going down, at least I'll look good on the ground! Unfortuneatly it wasn't me who went down, it was Dylann. She hit the hard ground of the mall hard. Now sobs of pain mix with sobs of fear as we limp around to every place we can remember being with no luck in finding her lovely. With arms around each other we begin to head back to the car when she looks up at me, tears brimming and chin quivering, "Mom, it's O.K. It's not as bad as loosing a member of my family." Oh wallet and 17 stuffed animals, you don't deserve the love and devotion of this sweet little girl! Where did she learn love like this? Love that puts others first. Love that loves getting nothing in return. Love that may cause pain in order to be given completely. I know I am suppose to set the example of Christ for my daughter, but today she reminded me of the way He loves us. As I think about some rough things I have heard about taking my family to Sudan this week, I am reminded that I am one of His, and even though I don't deserve it, He'll protect me where ever He takes me. He loves me when I don't get it right, and when it was necessary His love was filled with pain as he laid His life down for mine. It's in love like that, I can feel safe. With that thought I know that I can greatfully be thrown in the bag that He holds close and go wherever He wants me to go for He is my savior and I am His lovely.