"And I pray that you being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ." Ephesians 3:17b-18

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Thank you!

The final newsletter has been posted, a little later than I had planned. As normally happens we arrive back home & life takes off with a rush of trying to unpack, get caught up, & getting back into a "normal" routine. The team would like to thank everyone who prayed & support us for this trip. Without YOU we would not have been about to answer God's calling to go! In the next week (hopefully) I will post several more slide shows of pics...there is 14GB of pic & video to wade through :) A time consuming but fun thing to do as it spurs wonderful memories, thoughts, & emotions.

REFLECTIONS.... Our final newsletters

Uganda Summer 2013
Newsletter #7 / June 9, 2013


Cole: At SOG one of the kindergarteners  during their g-nut break walked up to me and said “Thank you”, like I said in my post the other night. Mrs. Rieger said that I touched their family by giving them some of the drink powder packets and Amos and I played with their sons Henry and George and they haven’t had American interactions for a year and a half and that meant so much to their mom. Then while we were at Jinja we did a Bible school at Mr. Jerry’s school and it made me think about my life in America with so much and these children have almost nothing. Today I met Katie who wrote the book Kisses from Kate and she adopted 13 African girls who had almost nothing and now a loving mom and so much more. It just stuns me to see how much one person can do in a poor country, or village for that matter.

Susan:  Rachel, a nursing student who came on vacation and hasn’t left yet because she’s working with a paralyzed child;  Katie, the young woman who has adopted 13 Ugandan children and has many more staying with her;  Mary and Alyssa, young Ugandan women who are working with babies…countless names and faces, too many poor children, too many sick people who look and live as though there is no hope.  Lord, don’t let me forget as I get back in my comfort zone.  We know there is hope in You.  We hope we have shared some of that hope in these last few weeks.

Amos: My favorite part of being at the Nester’s place was hearing his sermon at his church, and seeing the church members sing and praise God the way everyone should praise. The most important thing about this trip was how welcoming everyone was the Nesters, G.S.F, the Riegers and Keith and Lisa Coggins. I praise God for letting me come to Africa again.     

Danielle:  On our way to Gulu, I sat in the front of the bus with Cole. I was waving to all the children we passed and they were waving back with smiles on their faces. Cole asked me, “why do you have to wave to everyone?” I remember telling him that if one wave or one smile could make someone’s day, then my job has been done well. Sometimes all someone needs to see is a smile or a warm greeting to make them feel special. That was just the beginning of the wonderful memories from this trip.

Rhonda: I had team devotion this AM before heading off to an awesome church service that was outside. With the sun warming my face & the cool breeze keeping the temperature down, I was totally Blessed by the praise & worship music & hearing God’s Word while standing on Holy ground in Jinja, Uganda. Anyway, my devotion message came straight out of my journal. I had written on the 5th of June (@ 1106), “Karuma Falls Bridge where you can’t take pics got more pics of monkeys before crossing the bridge. After crossing the bridge saw single blue flip flops on side of road (my side) on embankment & thought that it would have made a good pic & story/lesson about being alone & lost without the Love of Jesus. The flip flop itself doesn’t know it’s lost, but passer-byers do & it only takes 1 to stop long enough to pick it up.” Please excuse the misspelled words, but I was writing in a moving bus & thinking quickly. The message seems obvious to me & fits why we as missionaries feel led to take time off from work, spend so much time planning, leave our families, & travel half way across the world just to show & tell people how much Jesus loves them & how much we love them.  I praise God for every missionary that heads God’s calling & I truly thank every person who supports a missionary financially and through prayer. Will sadly be leaving tomorrow :<( Thank you Lord for the Blessing it brings to serve you wherever you call me to be.

Jennifer: There were a few things that really made an impact on me this trip to Uganda, one of which was when we visited the Nzigu Village School (~40 min from Jinja). Those children were hungry for the Word of God and just so happy to see and hear everything our group had to say about the Bible and maintaining their purity until marriage. While we were teaching them you could just see the wheels turning in their minds, then they would ask these phenomenal questions and after the day was over it was apparent that they had learned a few new things from the visit. The other aspect that encouraged me was meeting some new and familiar missionaries at the various locations we visited. Just to hear about their struggles after arriving in Uganda and how God has slowly led each of them to a place where they can help others through their ministry was so enlightening for me. We were able to ask questions and get some priceless advice from wonderful, Godly people that I feel privileged to have met. It was a wake-up call to the true lives that these missionaries live—the good times but also the struggles that daily living in a different culture presents. I think that as I live the majority of my time in a comfortable house with plenty of food and “luxuries” of life I tend to gradually forget these things and all the suffering and poverty we have just experienced here so I just pray that God would continue to convict me to not be complacent but a willing vessel for his work whatever that may be.  So at the end of the trip I walk away with another year under my belt and a better appreciation for all the work being done to glorify God’s name.

Justin: There were a few times during this trip where I faced dangers (green mamba hunting, a motorcycle crash, and class 5 rapids in a flipped raft come to mind). I didn’t really realize it until afterwards but things could have ended a lot worse than they did but praise God they didn’t. It made me remember how finite our time on Earth really is and how at any time our lives could be over. Some may not like to think about that but I choose to use it as a reminder to work until the end. We don't know how long our lives will be so we can't choose to wait until later to act. There is so much need in this world (which we were reminded over and over again this trip) and we are all called to help those in need one way or another. There is no better time than now because you are never promised a tomorrow. I was also so thankful to meet several different missionaries leading very different lives all for one purpose: Jesus Christ. They all had different stories, both of life before the mission field and where they are now, but one reoccurring theme was flexibility and obeying God’s will. We may think we know what is best but if that doesn't match up with what God has planned you will find out, many times the hard way. So we need to be proactive about helping those in need but at the same time be listening for God's guidance to ensure we are doing what He intends for us to do.

Deborah: It was my privilege to travel with 8 of the finest people I know for this mission trip (actually9 with Andrew our driver) this year.  I enjoyed meeting two new mission families and was touched by their comments on the praises and trials of their mission work in Uganda.  It makes one really think that the work they do in their ministries makes such an impact on the people they work with on a day to day basis.  The children in the schools where I taught make me want to go back and share the knowledge I have to them to bring new joy to their lives.  Sitting on a hot concrete slab with 28 children all attentive to the story of Christ even in the hot sunshine makes me feel stronger in my faith.  Sitting with the people from Jenga at an outdoor service listening to Pastor Terry and his message gave me renewal of what I am trying to do when I come on the mission trips.  I hope to come back for many years to come.  Thank you to all who helped the "old lady" on this trip.  Your help and support was a godsend to me.

Cindy: Where do you start when you are trying to share everything you have seen happen around you in the past 2 weeks??? The words are hard to find… Uganda children dressed in filthy rags-their best outfit, with the biggest smiles you have ever seen, laughing and playing, wanting to hold your hand…Ugandan adults, struggling daily to provide for their family, who are willing to totally give of themselves, their time, and their resources, to share the Good News of Christ with a dyeing world….Missionaries who have left home, family and friends to come to a foreign culture, where people don’t think or act like them, to struggle, love, hold, and cry with those they came to serve-the be the hands and feet of Christ to those in need of not only physical, but spiritual healing. We have had the privilege of serving alongside some phenomenal people while here in Uganda. It never ceases to amaze me what God can do – I am in total awe that although He doesn’t need our help, He invites us to be a part of His work….to be blessed & to bless.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Uganda 2013: Jinja Pregnancy Care Centre & Village school VBS (Slide Show)

The day at the Jinja Pregnancy Care Centre

Uganda Summer 2013
Newsletter #6 / June 6, 2013

Today, we visited the Pregnancy Crisis Center in Jinja. It turned out to be quite an eventful day, and there was a good turnout of both pregnant women and postpartum women. For the morning session, the women went next door for a game and Bible study while Cindy and I watched the babies in the other room. As the babies came in they got weighed and had their temperature taken. There was one family in particular that stood out to me, a mother with a child of fetal alcohol syndrome. The infant was four months old and only weighed 6 pounds, 2 ounces. The infant was very malnourished. She had an extra digit to one hand, and a sacral dimple. Upon assessment, the infant had a poor suck and uncoordinated swallow. The mother stated that she was formula feeding the infant since she was still drinking alcohol. However, the infant would not take to the bottle and acted as if she did not know what to do with it. She did ok on the breast though. This was a sign to us that the infant was not getting the proper nutrition through the formula that was provided for her, and all she was getting was the alcohol through her mother’s breast milk. We spoke to her through an interpreter, and took her aside to discuss the serious issue at hand. It was recommended that she give the infant up to a baby home until the baby was properly nourished and thriving. After some education, the mother decided that it would be best to give her baby up for a period of time. It was later arranged for her to return tomorrow to surrender the infant. Although heartbreaking to be a part of, it is also a blessing to know that we were able to help give this infant a chance at life. I pray that the Lord watches over this little one, and that she grows to be big and strong.
We returned from lunch to have another family with a serious need. A mother came all the way from a local island with her eight month old and two year old. The eight month old baby had received an immunization a few weeks ago, and there was a large abscess noted to her thigh. The mother stated that the baby had been running high temperatures as well. She had already been to the doctor for the abscess, but was only given a topical cream to apply. It was evident that there was a need for a systemic antibiotic. The two year old had a bandage to the back of her head with old drainage down her dress. The mother stated that the little girl had hit her head. Both girls were taken to the local clinic with Cindy and I in tow. The power and water were shut off to the entire city. There was no evidence of hand washing or sanitizing. The doctor attempted to aspirate from the infant’s abscess with no success. There was no sterile field noted. The nurse did not even wear gloves. He wrote for the infant to have an antibiotic and a multivitamin. The two year old received a malaria test, a tetanus shot, and an antibiotic. They could not run any labs because the power was out. The pharmacy stock included what was in a closet, and we had to fish around to see what would work best for these two girls. At the end of the visit, we learned that the two year old was positive for HIV but the infant had not yet been tested.
I left the clinic with a wounded heart. We had to send the family on their way home by foot. The infant was tied to mom’s back, but the overly tired two year old had to walk while mom carried some belongings in both hands. I wish there was more that I could have done, but I know that through prayer these babies will be ok. My eyes have seen more today than I ever expected, and one day at the Pregnancy Crisis Center did not feel like enough. We could spend days on end here with all the needs that come in daily. However, our time here was time well spent because even helping one family is a blessing. I pray that the Lord protects these babies, and provides great health to them and their families.

”For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”   Jeremiah 29:11

Rhonda - as Danielle mentioned above we were at the Crisis Pregnancy Center, which fell right in line with Susan (mid-wife), Danielle (Mother Baby Unit Nurse), & me (Labor & Delivery Nurse). Susan & I started the morning next door with a game (puzzle) and Bible study. The puzzle game that Susan does helps to teach the teenage moms how to work together & encourages them to ask for help – be it from humans, but most importantly from God. There was a woman named Sol who comes in on Thursday mornings & does Bible study so Susan & I enjoyed her Bible study on The Lost Son. Sol reminded them of their previous Bible study on The Lost Sheep & the Shepherd – this was Amos’ devotion this same morning. How wonderful the Lord works to confirm what He wants you to hear & learn from His Word. After lunch Susan, Jen, & I were on our own with the 2 groups of women who came through. Susan did the puzzle lesson & Jen & I were told at the last minute that we would be doing the ladies Bible study. We did it though and twice. We talk to them about a pregnant, teenage, unwed Mary who gave birth to the greatest present the world ever received – Jesus! We made sure that the women understood that God sent His Son to die for our sins and through Jesus (our bridge) we have a place in Heaven. I read them the birth of Jesus from Luke 2. The first group of ladies ask only one question – When on the calendar was Jesus born, what day is His birthday? I explained to her that the calendar was created by man and though in America we celebrate the birth of Jesus in December, we should celebrate this birth everyday!  I also explained that the day He was born was not important, it was the fact that he was born in Human form, that Mary gave birth to Him just as they have given birth to their children and that all children were a gift from God & not a mistake. It was such a Blessing to share with these ladies. We commended them on their bravery – they chose life and not abortion (illegal here & thus performed however they can get it). I ask that all those reading this remember that we are all God’s children and that no child is a mistake and that many are born into difficult circumstances, but by Love, Prayers and Crisis Pregnancy Centers the can grow & thrive. I pray that God Bless us all with the strength & ability to give to others who are less fortunate than ourselves.  

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

We are in Jinja

June 5, 2013

We have made the transition from Sanctuary of Grace in Gulu, Northern Uganda to Jinja in the south. We are being hosted by the Nesters. We will be working in Jinja for the next few days at a Crisis Pregnancy Center for young girls & doing a VBS/Bible Club at a school in a village. Although we miss the Coggins & Riegers already, we are excited about the work we will be doing here.

Hope you enjoy the pictures - Please continue to keep us in your prayers!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Newsletter #5 :) - Still having a blast!

Uganda Summer 2013
Newsletter #5 / June 4, 2013

Cole’s observations & thoughts…    

Today started with waking up at around 2:00 to the sound of a rooster crowing then falling asleep again, and finally waking up to the sound of that dumb rooster and the amazing sound of Henry playing the guitar. I was pretty sluggish but I then snapped out of it when I ate the French toast and cheesy eggs made by the greatest cook I have ever met (next to my mom): Maddie. The time flew by after that because Justin had a really good devotion on patience and endurance. We could have used that lesson yesterday during field day when the kids were doing everything we kindly asked them not to do, but I’m guessing he did the devotion because through all that chaos everyone was stressed and we needed more patience and we did endure through the long day.

My grandma and I got the kindergarten class and I have to say they are officially my favorite class at Sanctuary of Grace. The kindergarteners are fast learners because they have never done stickers before until Friday last week and now they are experts on Monday. One thing that touched me was during the kid’s g-nut break I was walking back to my grandma after putting stuff in the hut for her, but one of the kids in our class walked up hugged my leg and said “Thank you.” I asked for what and the answer I received was “For the stickers and sweeties.” But back to today; we had an Easter egg hunt and inside the Easter eggs were two jelly-beans and the kids loved it. Then they were done with school, because kindergarten only has a half day, but skipping ahead a few hours the school had their class presentations and that went well.

Amos and I then went over to the Rieger’s house and watched movies with them and played with the water balloons. Most of the people went to the market and Mrs. Cindy got me a Mountain Dew, which was the highlight of my afternoon besides the presentation, which I am savoring and/or have savored for three hours. Dinner was cheesy potato soup, made by Maddie, which was out of the park. Now I’m doing this and I’m sorry about 413 words isn’t that much. I could have done more but the day flew by, and I’m about to go watch another movie with Henry and George.

My calling to Uganda was under attach this year.  Every time I started to work on the plans for my trip it was like Satan was standing behind me making me doubt my commitment to God’s work.  Problems with my mother’s health made me question if my decision to travel to do God’s work was valid.  After talking with my family we decided that I should come and do God’s work.  As I prepared to teach my P1 (1st grade ) class at Sanctuary of Grace school I would pack, then pray, then cry with frustration that at times overcame me.  This was Satan working as hard as he could to make my trip a not so good idea.

When we got to Sanctuary of Grace and started to get the supplies together I was able to finally feel that the things that we were doing was the will of God.  I walked into my class on Friday and saw a sea of young faces looking to me to teach them the word of God.    My teachers, Jeremiah and Vincent were wonderful to work with.  They helped with translating concepts that the children were not grasping.  My first story was about Daniel and the Lions den.  We talked about how God protected us from Satan throughout our lives.  We also talked about health issues that the children faced at home with unsafe water; poor wound care and using the bathroom in the bush toilet that polluted the ground where people walked and lived.

We learned new songs for the students to sing at a campus wide presentation for chapel on Tuesday afternoon.  The songs included “This little light of mine”, “The B-I-B-L-E”, “Jesus loves the little children” and “My best friend is Jesus”.  The children were very enthusiastic in their learning and singing.  We decided to use the song, “This little light of mine” to present at the chapel on Tuesday afternoon.
Monday morning I went back to my P1 class with great expectations for God’s work through me.  My stories for this day talked about Noah and the Ark story and completed our color pages that went along with the story.  We talked about nutrition and how it affects us by eating good food and drinking good water.  My helpers, Amos and Hank worked with the children doing outdoor games that the children really enjoyed playing with parachutes and relay races.

In the afternoon, I worked with the Teachers talking about the importance of reading with the children every day.  I made a challenge to the teachers to use as a project to get the children to go home and talk with their family and bring back a story that was important to the family and then use the writing of the story in their Reading and Writing classes.  When the stories are collected, I will ask Miss Lisa to e-mail the stories to me so I can create a book for the school that is representative of their community.  We worked with a flannel board with the story of Noah and the Ark for each teacher to use in their class for Bible stories and to use the animals to teach math classes.   

 During our workshop two of our classes were found to be misbehaving during the field day activities.  They were told by the Headmaster that there would be consequences for their misbehavior, one of which meant they were unable to give their presentation at our closing chapel. This was very disappointing for the teachers who had worked so hard to plan for the children.  Our teachers were very embarrassed by their children’s misbehavior, but stated that it was providence that they now are aware of the behavior problems that need to be addressed in the school. -- There is always a reason for everything that happens and we may not understand what the reason is, but will be made known in the future.

I look forward to traveling to Jinga to complete more of our challenges for God.

*I am sitting here in the dark with a torch i.e. flashlight, posting tonight's update. The power is off - everyone has turned in & I think I am going cross eyed LOL...so please forgive me for not posting any pictures. Will try to post some tomorrow. Have a wonderful day!!! I am going to sleep now - Cindy

VBS Day 2 (as posted on Day 3)

Here is the post from last night; but with power/time/etc, the posting has to be delayed... TIA:

Today was day two of our VBS here at Sanctuary of Grace. I am with the P6 class this year which is the same class I had last year as P5. There were many familiar faces when I met them last Thursday, most of which remembered me from last year. It was good to have that instant connection and then time to build upon that relationship. The children are always shy when we come to their classes but it also helps to have good teachers he encourage the “pupils” (“pupils” are in primary school, “students” are secondary school) the answer our questions and participate.

So far our class has gone over 4 topics describing God: Amazing Creator (the Creation story), Miraculous Provider (three stories of God working through Elisha), Powerful Healer (Jesus’ healing miracles as told by Matthew), and Living Savior (Jesus appearances after raising from the dead). We have also had additional sub-lessons on 1 on 1 relationship with God, how to maintain good nutrition (keeping a variety of foods and not just starches such as poshu [ground corn with water]) and ways to stay healthy (such as how to treat wounds and preventing intestinal worms but using clean water). Tomorrow we’ll be finishing up with God being Lord of All and then a lesson on sanitation, which is a very big deal around here; sometimes the difference between life and death.

Today was also our Field Day for the last part of the afternoon. We brought the P1 through P6 classes together to take part in different relay races, such as potato sack races and the over-and-under ball pass, and other outdoor activities, with all-out water balloon fight finale. It was a sight to see all of the kids playing with and against the other classes; kids are kids no matter what country you are in. Tomorrow afternoon will be out closeout assembly in which all of the classes will be putting together a presentation to perform in front of the school. It’s sad to see it coming to an end but so is the nature of these trips: short time frame, life changing impacts (at least on my life they have been).

It has been really good getting to spend more than a day with the children as well as the Coggins and Riegers. I personally have had many conversations with Keith and Lisa (Coggin) and Joe and Susan (Rieger) about their life as a missionary, the road that got them into that ministry, and a lot on raising a family. I have really enjoyed getting to know all of the Riegers (all 7 of them currently in Uganda) and trying to take pointers on how to raise a truly God-fearing family. I am thankful for the people God has been putting in my life lately as I work to grasp what God’s plan is for me and my family. Last year I came back with a whole different outlook on what is important in life and this trip is not disappointing on that. Until the next post…

- Justin

A Quick Update

June 4, 2013

Just a quick note to update everyone. We are all doing well and having a wonderful time. We have completed our 3 days of VBS at Sanctuary of Grace in Gulu as of 1pm today with our Celebration Assembly scheduled for this afternoon after their lunch break. Each class has been busy working on a presentation for the entire school. We do have a more detailed update to post, will do that later today since we ran out of time for the power being on & it was getting late. We will be posting more pictures as well.

More to come later today - Hope you have a wonderfully blessed day! We sure are!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Ministry Insights

Uganda Summer 2013
Newsletter #3 / June 1, 2013

Greetings from Uganda!

Since we have been in country we have hit the ground running and today was no different J. Saturday is not normally a school day for the children at Sanctuary of Grace but we had a special assembly about purity for the boys and girls in grades P4, P5 and P6 (it’s the equivalent of Grades 4, 5 and 6 but further behind the education system in America).
In the culture here certain subjects are considered inappropriate to talk about especially in public and even in most homes. I was so surprised to learn that even the mothers of the young girls don’t talk to them about puberty and all the changes that come along with growing into a young woman so when that time comes most girls have a skewed impression that they have done something wrong or are sick. It truly broke my heart to hear about some of the struggles that these young people go through on a regular basis. From being beaten, abused and run off from their homes to being raped and used by others just because of their vulnerability and gender…it goes on so often and since we are not immersed in it every day we tend to live with this “out of sight, out of mind” attitude. I also think we take for granted the security that comes with having a tight knit family that is open with each other regularly, shows true affection for each other and is there for spiritual support through the difficult times in our lives.
Now as a whole there were so many good things that I saw happening today as the conference continued throughout the morning but if I am honest with you it is so easy for Satan to make me question whether or not we are really getting through and making a lasting impact with these children. Having said that I will tell you that God knows my heart and was gracious enough to open my eyes to see a group of young girls from the conference that stayed behind after they were dismissed to copy down information they had missed. After seeing this it was so apparent to me how hungry these children are to learn and grow which was not only an encouragement but a confirmation about God’s sovereignty. God says in Isaiah 55:11 “so shall My Word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.”
In anticipation of another opportunity to glorify God—Good Night! Jen Decker

Favorite Moments—Amos Kiser

My favorite moments of visiting Uganda are singing with Meri and Hank (2 of the Rieger children). It is always fun praising God not just to praise because everyone else is doing it but because it is what He wants us to do. Another fun time was VBS with all the kids from the culture I came from and seeing how happy they were that they were singing with Mzungus (white people). I also love cooking with Maddie Rieger because we always cooked things that everybody on the team loved to eat. The most fun thing was playing and singing with Henry and George Rieger. I enjoyed listening to the kids laugh and sing and praise God, it made me feel joyful that the future of Africa might have more Christians than now. I also learned that a lot of people in Africa are tempted to do wrong and more deaths are happening than people know about. I would like for more people to pray for Africa because when people think about Africa they think of poor people who need help with food and money but there is more than food and money that these people need they need prayer, help and God. I am happy that Keith and Lisa are making an impact to change the future of children in villages in town and in orphanages.