Monday, July 29, 2013

Trusting In God

I have found in my life that when one has something particularly difficult to say one should simply say it right away. So, it is with no small amount of sadness that I inform you all that in consultation with our mission director Doss Estep, we have decided to return to the US in March of 2014.

Since the beginning of our journey toward Africa in 2008, we have moved forward trusting in God's direction and timing. Along the way, we hoped that our presence in Africa would last a lifetime. Thus, we planned accordingly and it seemed that God had provided a perfect long-term outlet for our unique gifts and skill sets. However, in recent months, situations and circumstances have occurred that have brought into question the long-term viability of our current assignment in Africa. I will not go into many of the specifics in writing as I do not want to be misunderstood, but there has been a deepening sense of unrest in our hearts for several months. After our return to Africa in June, however, it became readily apparent to us that this was no longer where we belong. 

Upon our return in June, we found the situation had significantly changed here for us and we began the heart wrenching process of looking practically at the possibility of a future removed from Africa. In our opinion (which is also the opinion our mission director), the long-term stability of our mission here has become too precarious for us to properly launch our oldest children in the next few years. The challenges of reintegration, college, work, and their futures would only be impossibly complicated should the family situation change rapidly due to a sudden unscheduled international relocation. In addition to considering the future of our older children, we have had to make some tough decisions concerning the education of our youngest child who has significant developmental delays. These decisions have brought us to a realization that resources in the US which are simply not available out here might be a key to his long term educational success.

So, what now?
Finishing well means closing things down in a way that is thoughtful and forward looking. This will take some time and as of this writing our plan is to remain in Jinja until the beginning of March 2014. In the following months, I plan to keep you all informed of what that looks like specifically as we proceed. However, at this juncture we are still praying and thinking that through. To be quite honest, we're still trying to deal with the reality that next year we will no longer call Africa 'home.' My goal professionally is to continue to teach at the seminary as I have been. The training of leaders is still the most effective means of changing Africa and as long as God has me in this place I will do so by His grace. Again, we are a long way from having the details worked out, but, well, we've lived that way now for some time so this is not uncharted territory ;-). Please please please, pray for us as we try to cope with all of this; it's not an easy thing by any stretch of the imagination.

In closing, I cannot stress enough to you the gravity with which we have approached this decision. While we are indeed deeply saddened by it, we are firmly resolved that this is the leading of the Holy Spirit and, as such, we will proceed forward trusting in the same God who brought us here. My chief concern in communicating this decision to our team, and then living through its reality together is that it should serve to increase all of our faith in our great God. As we have seen together throughout the years many of us have been on this Africa journey, He works all things together for good. This includes the confusing things as well as the clear. Clarity comes through obedience so we obediently trust even (and especially) when things seem a bit dark.

Thank you all for your prayers and continued encouragement and support! We need you all now more than ever.

In Christ,

Aaron, Dana, Nick, Dylan, Marie, Joey
The Uganda Bogans

Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Excitement is Building.....

Christmas has come and gone. We are now in a New Year and before we know it we will be back in the States.  We are very much looking forward to it.  As the days are coming closer to leaving, our family finds ourselves talking about all the things we can't wait to do.  Many of you may be wondering what kinds of things do we miss.  Well I could write pages but these are just a few:

  • Skyline Chili
  • Good Hamburgers and Steaks
  • Marie misses Olive Garden
  • Joey misses McDonalds
  • Driving on nice paved roads
  • No burning of tires or plastic
  • Going to a library
  • Shopping at a grocery store and finding what you want
  • Soft tissues and toilet paper
  • Drive-thrus and fast food
So I think you get the point that we will be like kids in a candy store.  The problem is deciding what to do  first.  I think it is unanimous that Skyline is first on our agenda.  However, more importantly than these things are the opportunities that we will have to visit many of our family members and friends.  Many of you have messaged us on FB or sent us emails stating how excited you are for us to return.  We are so grateful and blessed to have people on the other side of the world who love and pray for us daily.  Our family is looking forward to seeing all of you, catching up, and eating some good meals together:)

Our calendars are quickly filling up with conferences, visiting our supporting churches, and traveling.  We hope that we will get to see most of you and if you would like to have lunch or an evening with us, please let us know.  Please pray for travel safety, for our health, and for the last few weeks as we try to organize things in both our worlds.  We thank God for the opportunity to travel back to the U.S. to see family and friends!!!

Friday, December 7, 2012 Joey and Marie

Our neighbors from Oxford, OH emailed us and wanted to know how Joey and Marie were doing and how they liked living in Africa.  When our friend teaches her little boys about Africa, she explains to them that is where Joey and Marie live.  I thought their insights too cute not to share with others:)  I typed what Joey told me.  For those who ask how the children are, this gives you a good idea of what Joey and Marie have been up to lately.  Thanks again for many of you who continue to pray for our family.

Dear Xavier and Nicolas,

Hello, Xavier and Nicolas. This is Joey. I wish I could be there to play with you, but I live in Uganda now and not in America. The things I like about living here is I like the food and our house here. I have a good friend that lives at our house named Mbusa. He takes care of the outside of our home. I also have Moses as a friend. He is our guard at night. We have to have a guard so thieves won't get into our yard. We also have a fence that goes all around our yard and four dogs outside. Their names are Misty, Anthony, Pokey, and Remus. Pokey and Remus are puppies of Misty. Pokey is about a year old and Remus is three months old. Remus is the puppy of Misty and Anthony. So we have quite a family of dogs that protects us too. I don't like how it's warm all the time because we can't have snow. I want to come back to America so, I can play in snow. I like to spend my time reading books and playing with my Leapster. My favorite games are Batman and Star Wars. I love doing school with my mom and writing. I like learning about all different animals around the world. I'm excited about Christmas this year because my Gram Gram and Grandpa Nick are coming. We have our Christmas tree up and I made a chain to countdown the days till Christmas arrives. I can't wait to see Gram Gram and Grandpa Nick!!!! We hopefully will get to see you when we come back to America next year. I can't wait to play with you again.

Hello. This is Marie. I am glad to hear from you. My favorite thing in Uganda is the lovely sunsets. They can be pink, purple, orange or other colors. They are so pretty. I also love the people here. We have a helper named Prossie who cooks all our food. She is wonderful! This morning we had chocolate donuts for breakfast. Prossie does a wonderful job. She has a boy and a girl. They are so fun to play with. The little boy is two years old and the girl is four. We also have a great church close to our house. I enjoy going so much. I have so many friends that God has blessed me with. Another favorite thing I like doing is going swimming. There are very nice swimming pools in Jinja. Sometimes I go with my friends to the pool. Swimming is so fun because it is always hot here. School has been going fine this year and I am now in sixth grade. I've been memorizing the book of James. I know chapter 1 and almost all of 2. By the time we come back, I should almost have all of chapter 3 memorized. God is teaching me a lot of new things. The hard part now is doing what it says and that is what some of chapter 2 talks about. We are also learning about the first colonies in America. It has been very fun to learn how our country started. I have one more week of school before Christmas break. I am very happy that Christmas is coming! My grandparents are coming this year and are staying until after Christmas. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas this year. Hopefully we will see you next year. Bye!

Your Friends,

Joey and Marie

Friday, October 5, 2012

Doubts and Deliverance

Sometimes life in Uganda is tough. I know many will say life in all places has its ups and downs and realistically I know that. However, there are days where you get tired of burning trash and smoke rolling inside your house, screaming/crying children that live all around you, gates clanging shut and people yelling as you try as you might to have quiet time in the mornings with the Lord, dogs barking at all hours of the night, leaking pipes, and nothing ever going according to your plans. That is some of our life in Uganda. Most days I can overlook and not let these things bother or irk me so much. But then there are times where it just seems too much.

This has been a tough week with just living life here. There have been doubts that have crept in my mind. God is this really where you want us? Will I be able to live here year after year? Lord is anything I'm doing here making a difference? And the list goes on and on. I pray. I wait on Him. Then last night at my weekly Bible study all the women sat around and shared their struggles with living here as did I. God so sweetly answered my questions, one after another. I had a sweet Christian sister pray for me, During her prayer she asked God to clearly show me this week and reconfirm that this place is definitely where He wants us. Even as she was praying, I felt a peace overcome me that surpasses all understanding as Philippians 4:6-7 states (6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus). Not only did my Father surround me with that peace but at the same time Aaron received an email from a friend back in the states. In every paragraph our friend constantly reminded us that what we are doing here is for eternity. God is using us here to advance His kingdom. Then today I read where people have and are coming to Christ because a team from our home church, Urbancrest, were obedient in August to go share Christ in this Muslim village where a pastor from Uganda Baptist Seminary has a church. This is the update I just read from Terry Nester's newsletter:

We held a medical clinic in August for two days and treated over 300 families! We treated a 70 year-old church member named Sylvester, who had a huge mass completely covering the right side of his chest. I mean, it was swelled as large as a throw pillow! He was taken to Jinja Main Hospital first, who then referred us to Mulago Hospital in Kampala. To make a long story short, he was operated on last week and they removed the mass and said, “It was innocent.” That sounds much better than just using the word, “Benign”! On Wednesday, last week, we took him to his home in the village and the whole family was there to welcome us! Pastor Robert called me on Friday to let me know that all six of Sylvester’s sons want to receive Christ because of the love of Christ shown to their father through the local church! It reminded me of what I just preached in I Peter 2:12: “To live such good (excellent, fair to look at, noble, righteous, holy) lives among the pagans (nations) that, though they may accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us.”

So now I step back. I see that through the inconveniences of a life lived in Uganda there is such sweetness. Sweetness in the people that I teach at the seminary, ones that I encounter as I am in Jinja, and my children who I teach at home. As I've been teaching community health at the seminary, I work to use the Bible to show how Jesus taught about the Christian's responsibility to care for a person spiritually as well as physically. Had the older man not seen the love of Christ lived out through others by caring for his physical needs, he may very well still be in spiritual darkness. It has been so sweet how God has used this one story to show how obedience to serve, to partner with pastors that we are teaching at the seminary, to be concerned for ones physical state as well as their spiritual, to love on others as Christ did can change the world one person at a time. As Jesus taught, the Harvest is plentiful but the workers are few (Matthew 9:37). There are many who still need to hear the redemptive story of Christ, but our family is dedicated to remaining steadfast in our purpose to teach and disciple to the end's of the earth:)

This is now my prayer: Lord, help me to be a faithful worker and follower of You as I share the gospel through not only my words but my actions as well. You are my teacher and I want to continue to sit at Your feet and learn all I can from you. Give me the wisdom to stay the course and keep my eyes fixed on You in times of weariness. Thank you Heavenly Father for delivering me from doubting our purpose here. Jesus you are my sweet Deliverer!!

Monday, September 3, 2012

A Year Has Gone and Went

A Medical Clinic in the Village
It's really hard to believe that a year has gone by since moving to Uganda.  Where has the time gone?  I wrote that there is a time warp here:)  Not really, but days fly and since there is no change of season here, it is harder to keep track of time.  The other day I was talking with a few Ugandan friends and was mentioning  that Aaron and my birthdays are in the fall.  As soon as the comment left my mouth, I realized they had no idea what fall was.  So I quickly explained about the seasons.  I do enjoy teaching the Ugandans about life in America, because they are so curious and it quickly opens doors up to mor conversation.

Living here has been beyond anything I could have ever dreamed.  God's plans always seem to turn out that way:)  Much better than anything I could plan, dream, or even imagine.  Some people have asked if five years ago we could have imagined this is where God would have us.  I just laugh, because honestly five years ago we had only been Christians less than three years.  So no, this is probably one of the last places on earth I thought we would ever be.  Plus, beyond that I would have never imagined a year ago that I would be teaching at the seminary alongside of Aaron.  That has been the greatest leap of faith personally for me.  Many don't understand the fear I had speaking in front of adults.  I can remember when we were visiting and sharing with churches, I would threaten Aaron not to put me in front of people to share.  At one point I did share in a women's Bible study with my knees a knocking and my stomach in knots.  So for me to be teaching in front of adults, let alone pastors and teachers, is a huge hurdle that God helped me to overcome. Every day God is showing more and more of who I am, how He gifted me, and what He wants me to do with those talents.  Now I look so forward to traveling back to the States in the spring and having opportunities to share how God is transforming East Africa by what is going on at the seminary.  It's so amazing and humbling to be a part of and I want to give God all the glory how it is happening.  I sometimes tease Aaron that he better watch out when we share at gatherings and churches from now on because he may not be able to shut me up:)

So I haven't done a very good job of keeping this blog updated in the last few months.  Every time I have thought about it, I get overwhelmed.  There is so much to tell, and many times I don't know where to begin.  In the last few months here are some things that have happened:  I have finished up teaching Marie and Joey school, went to Kenya, had two teams visit, taught at the seminary, started another school year with Marie and Joey while the older boys are finishing up last years curriculum this week, and am preparing to begin teaching again in another week at the seminary.  Much of this is just every day life for us.  I wonder why others want to hear about this or that, but then people will say that they love to hear updates of our life since they don't have the opportunity to talk or visit with us face to face.  Because of this I want to strive to do better at updating the blog.  I know there are some that don't use Facebook which is where I post many of our family and ministry pictures.  For those of you who don't, I would like to share some pictures below to give you a better idea of what the last few months have been like.  I hope you enjoy.

God bless and please continue to pray for health and safety for our family.  This country that we live in is absolutely beautiful but at the same time danger lurks almost everywhere.  Because of the diligent prayers of others, its why we can live and work here.  We thank all of you who take our family to God's throne regularly.

Teaching at the seminary

Morning teaching with Joey and Marie

Nick and Dylan at Hanah Moshi

Marie teaching/singing with the children

After a long day of ministry (health clinic and VBS)

Taking a break with great friends from the U.S.

The team from our home church, Urbancrest (missing Doss and Michelle)

Dylan and our dear friend, Todd at a local supermarket ( like the Santa hat!!)

Marie and a very good friend, Mindy.

Joey's 9th Birthday

Marie and Joey with Dad in Kenya

Marie dressing Dad up:)

Us in Kenya

Kenyan landscape

This is paradise!!!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Time Warp

It seems that Uganda has a time warp.   In many ways things moves slower...people on foot and bikes, no power tools for planting/building, or people taking time on their way to visit with others.  However, in other ways time just disappears and moves at warp speed....bodas(motorcycles)/taxis(vans) zooming everywhere, another graduation at the seminary finished, and we've lived here for 9 months but it only seems like a few months.  I just realized that it's been about a month since I've last posted, but it seems like yesterday.  I guess that's what happens when God  has you engaged with your surroundings and you are learning so much in such a short period of time.  

If you saw our latest newsletter, you read where Uganda Baptist Seminary just graduated almost 40 students.  Needless to say that much work goes into the preparation of graduation, and I had the opportunity to help where I could.  I've also been helping out in the clinic at the seminary since Evelyn Frost, the school nurse, has been back in the states for a few weeks.  That always provides great learning experiences.  However, the students were so gracious to pass the flu on to me, and  after two weeks I'm still trying to rid myself of it :)  I'm looking forward to Evelyn being back as I prepare to start teaching an English class to a Certificate class on Tuesday.  I haven't been able to teach in a couple of months, and I'm so looking forward to being back in the classroom.
Aaron and I with Jacob, a student and good friend

All lined up and ready to begin
Our family also had an opportunity to travel to Kampala this past week for orthodontist appointments for three of our children.  While we were there we decided to spend the night at a nice hotel that is connected to the mall.  It's the first time we have stayed in a hotel that is very much like any hotel you might find in the States.  It was a real treat, and we even were blessed with an upgraded room when we arrived.  The hotel said they wanted to give us the Villa.  We didn't exactly know what that meant, but we ended up with a 3 bedroom, 3 bath, LR, dining room townhouse.  Like I told Aaron, I've only seen something like that in the movies.  We thank the Lord for blessing us which such a nice surprise. While we were there, we took the children to see their first movie in Uganda.  We viewed, The Avengers, which was okay.  The movie theater was little too warm for my liking even at 10:00 at night:)  We had a good time getting a way from home for a few days.  Even the traffic wasn't too bad and Aaron trusted me to drive all the way to the big city:)

This is our local fast food drive-thru on the way to Kampala
You have the choice between chicken or goat on a stick or livers on a stick
Aaron calls it salmonella on a stick:)

Sad to say, Nicholas, has been dealing with malaria.  He started not feeling well last Tuesday and continued to get worse each day.  I tested him twice, but the rapid malaria test came back negative both times.  By Friday someone mentioned that the rapid test only checks for one type of malaria.  There are four different strands of malaria.  So, I quickly started him on the medication and by that night his temperature was 104 degrees.  That was after two hours of ibuprofen, so I became quite concerned.  After sending out a prayer request on Facebook, within an hour his temperature broke and by the next morning there was great improvement.  I thank God for many of you who prayed and encouraged me as I was waiting for Nicholas to start feeling better.  It is so difficult when one of your children is so sick.  So please continue to pray for our family's health.  We are coming into contact with so many new bugs and parasites and our bodies are continually having to fight these new things.  Your prayers do matter and we find strength through them.

Please continue to pray for us as Aaron and I teach at the seminary.  The next term starts Tuesday.  We are looking forward to it and the opportunities that God presents in the classroom.  Many times it's hard to believe that we are teaching men and women from all over East Africa.  The impact that this teaching could have could be huge, but only God knows for sure.  Please pray that we make the most out of the time that we have with these students to disciple them and grow them, so in turn they can teach hundreds of others about the Gospel of Christ.  We are so grateful to so many of you who have continually prayed for us through these past few years.  We have a wonderful team of supporters, and we couldn't do what we do if it wasn't for you all.  Till next time, God Bless!!!