Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas time--family time!

A challenge at the orphanage is being able to have family time so we were praying and concerned how we would be able have that time on Christmas. God was gracious and gave us that time in the morning without any interruptions. Mark was able to make our traditional coffee cake and we were able to take our time enjoying each other and our gifts. The last gift was a scavenger hunt that we took the kids on while looking for that last present. We will take you on the hunt in pictures:Reading the card that was in the present for all three of them. It said to go look where mom adds color to her face:They found the next card in my make-up bag. They were then to go where dad keeps his tools:
In their dad's closet they found the next card that said they may want to have some "walking pills" (their nanny and poppy's term for m&ms):

Meg ransacked the trunk in the pantry and found the walking pills and card which said, if you are going walking you may need to clean your shoes so they went to the shower room outside where they clean their shoes. It also reminded them that they needed dad's tool box. We don't have a picture of them at the shower room but the card there said that maybe Uncle Bob and Auntie Carolyn (our directors who are in Ireland for Christmas) would like a pineapple when they get back.
Titus found the pineapple with the message but it said maybe they needed to check at Uncle Bob and Auntie Carolyn's house to make sure they didn't have any pineapples already. It also says that it has been said that they keep them in their bedroom.
Up the path with tool box in hand.
The treasure at the end of the hunt! Bikes for each including one for Dad!
A special gift for mom! A duvet and cover!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

catch-up and Newsletter

The last month has been crazy . . . (not unlike the last six months). We were involved in a wedding that threw us for a cultural loop and then the next day Titus woke up with a fever which we eventually discovered was malaria. Through this time, I was dealing with a parasite who was refusing to leave my body and Mark has had computer problems for two months and the internet has not always worked. All of that to say we are doing well right now and learning tons! God has taught us a lot and our latest E-Newsletter shares some of that so instead of trying to write it all again I will copy this newsletter here.

Joy to the World!

“You all look so happy!” is something we hear a lot from friends and family back home when they see a picture of us here.
Happy... I have to ponder that word. Honestly, I am not always happy living here in the middle of the sugar cane fields of Uganda.
To be even more honest, Mark and I have been ready to pack up and leave several times and would have if it were not for the confidence we have that God sent us here and He is molding us more into His image... The confidence to know that our Maker, the Creator of the universe, loves us so much and wants to use us and make us more like Him. Now that gives me joy!
I am not, at times, happy with my circumstances. I am not always happy about learning a new culture that is so foreign to me, but I am joyful in the fact that God loves those in this culture just as much as He loves me and He has much for me to learn from them.
I am not always happy about the many knocks on our door all day and night, but I am joyful that God has placed the little faces on the other side of the door in my life.
It is God who sent His Son, who is the giver of JOY, to earth . Joy
to the world is what we share with the our little world of GSF and Uganda. No matter what your circumstances (and we know some are going through some tough ones) this holiday season, we pray that you will experience the JOY that comes from God!
A Very Merry Christmas and Joy to all! We love and appreciate each of you!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Warranty Service?

Warranty service is a foreign concept in Uganda. If your purchase breaks a week after you buy it, the store owner is likely to give you a blank stare if you try to return it. It's as if to say, "That item doesn't belong to me. It became yours when you bought it. Why are you asking me to fix your problem?" By contrast, check out these warranty stories we have had in the last few days:

1. "Game" is a department store in Kampala that specializes in the western concept of low price guarantee and customer satisfaction. When I went in this week, I asked what I could do about a malfunctioning CD player. It had stopped working, but I didn't have the receipt. The lady told me plainly, "You bring it in and tell me when you bought it." They are now repairing the CD player under warranty, simply based on my word that I purchased it there 3 months ago!

2. That same day I took my ailing laptop to an authorized Toshiba service center in Kampala. The computer has been giving me fits for over 2 months. Only recently did I realize that the one-year warranty in the USA actually had an international service option. So I cruised into the shop on Monday with a copy of my receipt dated December 15, 2007 - exactly one year earlier. The man laughed that I arrived on the very day the warranty expired. However, he didn't put up a fuss. I was armed with evidence of previous service efforts with other stores and my case number from Toshiba USA to show that the problem had been ongoing. He contacted me the next day to let me know that he was ordering a new motherboard. Though it won't arrive for 3 weeks, the warranty is in effect and it's not supposed to cost me a dime (or a shilling)!

3. Upon returning from Kampala last night, we received an e-mail from Amy's parents. Our Black & Decker power tools won't work because the battery charger stopped working. We purchased the charger in May just before we came to Uganda, but the 2-year warranty is only good in North America. So we returned the charger to Amy's parents, via a pastor who had come on a mission trip here. He "just happened" to be from the same area of Virginia, so he hand-delivered the charger to Amy's parents last week. Knowing that it was purchased at Lowes in Southaven, they took the charger into Lowes in Lynchburg to see what could be done. With no receipt in hand, they prayed for God's favor before they went in. The returns desk contacted the tool department manager and sent the Roots to the Customer Service desk. As they were explaining the situation to the lady there, the tool manager walked up with a new Black & Decker charger still in the box. When asked how to ring it up he replied, "It has a two-year warranty. Just exchange it for them." The new charger will come to us when Amy's parents arrive here for a visit in just two more weeks.

Amazing! Whether it was Ugandan, International, or North American only - all of these warranties worked out in our favor, mostly with no questions asked. Just this morning I read Psalm 4. Verse 6 states, "Many are saying, 'Who will show us any good?' Lift up the light of Your countenance upon us, O Lord!" In the midst of many trials, God is good; He has indeed shone His light upon us. He relieves our distress; He hears our prayers. "Thank you, Lord, for being gracious to us!"

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The other side of the world

On our way to the introduction, we reached the other side of the world so to speak in that we crossed the equator.

We went to the introduction and safari with a missionary friend of ours, Claudia. She has adopted three girls, Maggie, Hope and Emma.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Introduction

The pastor of the orphanage chapel is getting married in several weeks. While the wedding is important, in Ugandan culture it is not as important as the Introduction. We were invited to go to Pastor Michael's introduction. As we were told more and more about it, we began to realize it would be also an "introduction" for our family into another aspect of Ugandan culture. The Introduction is the time when the bride and groom bring their family and friends together to meet one another. It is also the time when the groom "pays" for his wife, typically with livestock, household goods and whatever the bride's family requests according to her value. In this case, Pastor brought seventeen gift baskets (with an assortment of breads, fresh produce, tubs of butter, etc), a live chicken, money for a goat, a sofa set (in lieu of the cow), and bags of sugar, salt and rice. He also brought a suitcase for his bride to use in moving with him and gift bags for all the many family members.

Here are some pictures of our time there:

We got the kids outfits made for the occasion and the girls even got their hair done. Unfortunately, things were too crazy to get a family picture that night.

Mark was asked to be the best man for the groom. Mark had originally declined, saying he needed to be with his family for such a new experience, but when we got there we discovered he was still expected to be the best man. Here is a picture of him and our pastor, the groom. (Ugandans typically look away with a straight face as a sign of humility - he really is happy!)

The kids were getting restless, so when we saw some people getting up to get some of the gifts, Claudia and I sent our kids out to help. Titus choose to go sit with his dad but the girls and Claudia's 3 girls carried gift baskets in on their heads.

Some of the men trying out the new sofa set.

Titus came to join Mark and Pastor.

Have to include a beautiful picture of the bride, "Precious Rita" as Pastor Michael calls her.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Priceless smile

Mary is smiling and cooing so much now. We had to share a picture!

All in a day's work

My cell phone reveals a glimpse of the kind of morning we had today. This text was sent by Mark to my phone at 5:45 this morning:
"Had to come to Nyenga. She delivered the baby outside on the sidewalk then the doctor came. All seems well now I think. Keep praying. Love you!"
Now I will let Mark explain. . .

At 4:30 a.m. one of our guards, Paul, called through our open window, "Uncle Mark, we have some problem." That's not exactly what you want to hear from the guard at 4:30 a.m.! It turns out that the wife of another guard, Michael, was in labor over at staff housing. They needed someone to take her to the doctor. Why didn't they call her husband? Well...

Michael had gone to town with their 3-year-old the day before. He had malaria and needed treatment. Later in the morning, their 4-year-old was brought to our house with a broken arm. (Our house has become the hot spot for such injuries since Titus broke his arm in June.) We called the mother and she went to town with the broken arm boy. Michael was contacted and he joined them at the clinic after getting treatment for the malaria child. The broken arm was complicated, so Michael stayed the night with that son at another clinic while his wife returned to GSF with the 3-year-old. That night is when she went into labor, so Michael wasn't around.

... So I hopped in the car with Paul (the guard who woke me up), we picked up the mother at staff housing and sped off to the hospital. The nurse in the nearest village wasn't around, so we proceeded to a hospital about 15 minutes away. Now, hospitals in Uganda generally consist of a complex of single-level buildings for the different wards (TB, maternity, children, etc.). We drove up to the gate about 5:00 a.m. and the guard pointed us in the direction of the wards. Not knowing which one was the maternity ward, we drove toward the center of the complex, then got out to search for a doctor and/or the maternity ward. Paul ran here and there checking the various buildings while I waited with Michael's wife on the broken sidewalk. She was in pain and I was praying for her as she paced back and forth.

Then she squatted down on the sidewalk and I heard a splash - yes, her water had broken. She speaks little English, so all I could do was pray, not knowing exactly how soon the baby might come. Paul couldn't find the right ward, nor did he find a doctor right away. Then I heard a thump on the sidewalk as I was standing there in the dark with my hand on her shoulder - still praying. The "thump" was the baby coming out. She had just delivered while squatting right there on the sidewalk!!!

I wasn't "helping", just "observing" - but I told her in English to turn the baby over so the stuff would come out of its mouth. She had apparently already done that when she picked up the baby, because it started crying off and on. I knew that was a good sign. I hollered at Paul, "The baby is here!" What I didn't know was that, in the midst of rushing around the compound in the dark, he had tripped in a concrete drainage ditch and skinned his knee. It was a minor accident, but it slowed him down. So I stood there with the squatting lady as she held her baby, umbilical cord still attached and the occasional cry to let us know that the air passages were clear. What a strong woman! This was her fifth child.

Finally Paul showed up with a doctor and two nurses shortly behind. They clamped and cut the cord, wrapped up the baby and picked up the placenta from off the sidewalk. Yuck! Off we went to the maternity ward, being careful not to step in the pool of blood remaining on the concrete. I called Michael on the phone and congratulated him with the news that his wife had given birth while he was at a clinic in town with the broken-arm son. Mother and baby are both doing well. Oh, by the way... It's a Girl!!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Pictures of our house

Several have asked to see pictures of our house, which is one side of a duplex here at the orphanage.
This is looking in at the kitchen and dining room; the sink is on the right:

This is taken standing at the island (in the middle of the kitchen and dining room)looking at the living room. The schoolroom is beyond the wall.

Our schoolroom. The bathroom is the first door to the left of the schoolroom and the master bedroom is the second one to the left and the kids room at the end.

The bathroom/laundry room; there is a door going to the master bedroom on the right

Our master bedroom

The kids' room

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A get-away

Mark and I felt the need for each of our kids to have a special night. Megan who has been the most homesick of the the three kids got to spend time with friends while Titus was aching for some boy time (as Mark mentioned in a previous message). Caralina and I got to get away at a resort for the night (costing us $30 for the room and $12 for the food). Caralina loves to take pictures so I thought I would add some for you to enjoy!

Monday, November 3, 2008

update on Mary

I am trying to restrain myself from using lots of exclamation points but we are thrilled today to let everyone know that Mary is HIV negative !!!!!! (opps I did it :)). For those new to our blog, Mary was born on Aug. 4th, her mother died on Aug. 17th and she was brought to the orphanage on Aug. 19th weighing in at 2KG (4.4lbs). We have been alternating with Claudia, another missionary here at the orphanage, and keeping her every other week.
Claudia took her to the clinic today to get her 2nd round of vaccinations and to find out the results. We are all thrilled to find out she is HIV negative and weighs 5KG (11 lbs)!
Praise God with us on this wonderful news! We continue to pray for Mary's future and what God has in store for her.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

"How life is in Uganda"

Friday was "boys night." Caralina and Amy were having a special night out and Megan was staying with a friend, so Titus and I headed to town for a few errands and dinner together. It's impossible to leave the orphanage without multiple interferences and delays, so we were off to a typical late start. Instead of running a few errands, we found ourselves simply trying to reach the computer repair shop before they closed, because my laptop has a problem with its power system. We were heading toward Jinja when my window came completely off the track and clunked to the bottom of the door. Leaving your car with a window down in town is most certainly NOT a good idea, so we altered our plans and headed to the mechanic's shop before they closed instead. After sitting for an hour and seeing the window successfully repaired, we went directly to the market to pick up some supplies for an upcoming event. We did well there and at a corner supermarket (Don't think WalMart - it's like the size of a convenience store in the states), but it was already late, due to the aforementioned delays.

We went to a favorite restaurant for pizza (again, don't be fooled into thinking Pizza Hut or Papa Johns, or even Little Caesar's)... and we played a round of pool while waiting for our pizza. Returning to our table, we discovered someone else was sitting there as we had vacated, so we had to wait for another table. They were short-staffed and our main waiter was a Trainee. it was still good and we got home about 9 p.m. So much for watching a movie together when we got back.

Titus is adjusting well to life here in Africa and he summed up the evening appropriately. At one point he sighed, smiled and said, "This is just how life is in Uganda." Ha, ha - very true, my son. Very true!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Great Ugandan Soil

Thought everyone would enjoy seeing latest thing grown from the garden at GSF. The zucchini below was not the largest one picked!

It was a great opportunity to have some of the girls over to teach them a few cooking skills. We made fried breaded zucchini.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

hanging out at the veranda

Sometimes when the veranda of our house seems to be the happening place (which seems to be almost daily), one of us will get out the camera and take a few pictures. Here is sampling of those pictures:

Mark giving out bananas

The kids love sugar cane

Mark and some friends

Chloe reading a book. They love to borrow books and puzzles but they must use them on our veranda. They will get lost otherwise.

Lily, the star of one of our previous entries (The queen and baby Airy) and most likely will star in other entries to come.

What a great smile, Henry!

Super Heroes

My friend Laurie sent Titus a super hero kit from her son Thomas. It was a book all about being a super hero and included a cape, 3 punch out masks, 6 punch out armbands and stickers. Titus decided he wanted to share with his friends at GSF. So he eagerly ran to get his friends while I pulled out some of Mark's t-shirts for capes. Here is a picture of the Super Titus, Captain Geoffrey, Amazing Brian and Wonder Will!

They took off to save the day!

Checking on Uncle Bob to make sure he didn't need to be saved.

The Super Hero Craze has now taken off here and everyday now, I am passing out Mark's T-shirts and making masks and the kids are loving it!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Ugandan Driving Games

Our ride into Jinja, although long, is neither boring nor uneventful. Our kids have never asked to take something with them to do in the car, nor stated that they were bored. Two reasons they do not get bored are the pothole game and the crocodile hunt.

During our trip, we eventually come to a part of the road which is unlike 90% of the roads in Uganda - it is paved! However, it is full of potholes littered along the way. Mark and Titus have made it a game to see how well Mark can navigate this thoroughfare without hitting the obstacles. The goal is to hit a minimal number of potholes, while avoiding pedestrian, vehicle and animal traffic. Like Super Mario Kart for the Nintendo DS, there are levels in this game. Level 1 is on a clear day without any oncoming traffic. Level 2 would be a clear day with only a few small cars or motorbikes. Level 3 - cloudy day with a large oncoming truck. Levels 4 and 5 include rain or dark. We have not achieved level 10, which would be a dark and rainy night, with cows, goats and pedestrian traffic moving in addition to large oncoming trucks flashing their high-beam lights at us! Yikes!

Soon after we leave the pothole game, we approach the Nile River and begin our new adventure, the crocodile hunt! As we traverse the bridge going across the dam, we immediately look to our right for the float where many birds and monitor lizards congregate. We have even seen otters swimming here a time or two. After counting lizards and bird species, we turn our attention to left side of the dam where two crocodiles are sometimes spotted. If it is a particularly hot day, we have a better chance of seeing them sunning on the bank of the river below. Titus has learned to sit on the left side of the car just so he can have an advantage for sighting them. Unfortunately we have only seen them a few times, but when we do it is with great excitement.

Soon after the crocodile hunt, we arrive at our destination. Our games were fun, but we are glad to get out of the car.

Saturday, October 11, 2008


Our ride to the main town, Jinja, is a 30-45 minute drive depending on how many cows are in the road and if we get behind a trailer overloaded with sugar cane. As we go, we must also dodge the chickens which dart across the road in front of oncoming vehicles. But the most endearing part of the trip is the many children who start to jump up and down when they see us coming. They begin to wave with huge smiles on their faces! "Mzungu! Mzungu! Mzungu, bye!"

Mzungu in their language means "white person." Yes, our white skin stands out and can be seen far away. Sometimes we think that the word gets out that there are Mzungus coming even before we get there, for there will be children watching in expectation just to see the bright white skin coming.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

The tooth rat

A few weeks ago, Titus lost his first tooth! A big deal of course and especially since he had watched his big sister lose 5 or 6 during the 6 months his tooth had been loose! The next day, he proudly showed our helper his gap in his mouth. With this she replied, "Here in Uganda, we tell our children to put their tooth in a special place and a rat will get it and leave money for it."
Hmmmm. Not sure what that says about each culture. Tooth Fairy in America; Tooth Rat in Uganda. But we all got a great laugh at the difference.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Cost of Living

Saturday we were in town for a few errands (including the ever joyful retrieval of a care package at the post office!). Prices here range from normal to outrageous to incredibly cheap. Here are the observations from our morning in Jinja.

The cost of mailing a letter to the US? $1.20
The charge for retrieving a package that won't fit in our PO Box? 60 cents
A 500-gram tin of infant formula? $11.00!
Cell phone airtime (for approx. 7-10 days)? $12.00 each phone
2 kg (4.4 pounds) of potatoes? 88 cents
1 medium (and dirty!) head of lettuce? 94 cents
24.6 litres (6.5 gallons) of diesel? $36.00!

Across the street from the fuel station (after being grateful that fuel prices are dropping below $6 per gallon), we grabbed "Ugandan fast food." We asked the guy at the curb to prepare 5 Rolexes. No it's not a watch; it is an Indian-style chapati (flat bread) with an omelet rolled into it. "Two with veggies and three plain, please." It was a great lunch in the car as we drove back to GSF. The total cost for our whole lunch (5 Rolexes)? $2.40!

That's better than the 99 cent menus in the states - and much more filling!

By the way, the Ugandan Shilling is about 1,600 per US Dollar. We calculated the conversions for you. :)

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Queen, and Baby Airy

Titus and I took Mary on a walk yesterday around the property of the orphanage. We had two others who joined us from the beginning of the walk and several others who joined in as we walked. Grace, an 8 year old twin and Lily, a mentally disabled girl from next door were our walking companions.
Lily, as usual, kept us laughing and talking the entire time. "Whose this one. . . the baby?"
"It is baby Mary, Lily."
"Baby Airy seeping"
"No, Lily, baby Mary is not sleeping"
"I take the baby"
"Okay, Lily you walk with me"
"I don't know" (Lily's favorite phrase when she doesn't understand what you have said)
This continued on for most of the walk. We would talk amongst ourselves, and others would join our walk, and every once in awhile, Lily would say something about Baby Airy.
As we continued our walk, Grace noticed something in the sky and remarked that the queen was up in the sky.
"The queen?" I asked.
"Yes, see look at the plane and the silver line"
Others chimed in that it is always the queen going overhead. (Uganda has a president and first lady so I am not sure if they are talking about the first lady, a fairy tale queen or the queen of England as Uganda is a former British colony.) They then began to tell me that the queen's airplane is the only one that has a white or silver line behind it. I tried to refute that but to no avail. To them, only a queen would be rich enough to ride in a plane with a silver line behind it.
So we walked on home with the queen overhead and Baby Airy in the stroller "seeping".

Friday, September 19, 2008

Thursday, September 18, 2008