Not “Goodbye,” just “See ya later”

Monday, August 31, 2015

As we begin our journey back to Entebbe, I am sitting here in the car watching the SOAP property and Soroti disappear in the distance. I know without a doubt that Greenville is where God has me right now and the job He has placed me in is truly equipping me for what is to come in His plan for me, but I also know without a doubt that God is going to bring me back to somewhere like SOAP someday. So, as I sit here and the miles continue to take me farther from the kids I grew to love even more this trip, I feel like my heart is breaking, but at the same time, I am so thankful that God is giving me a glimpse of His future plans for me. I really can’t wait for the point in my life where God brings me to my “Soroti.” I have no idea where that will be or what it will look like, but I know that God has a plan for my life and I know that I don’t want to waste the opportunities for growth and learning that God has for me right now in the place where He has put me. There are souls everywhere in need of a Savior, we just have to have our eyes on Christ so that we can see them and give them the Hope they need.

My heart’s desire:

Lord, send me anywhere, only go with me.
Lay any burden on me, only sustain me.

Sever any tie, save the one that binds me to your heart.

I consecrate my life, Lord, to thee.

Tonight we are staying in Jinja and going to see the Source of the Nile and have the opportunity to spend time with Kerri for one more night. I am not looking forward to tomorrow. Saying goodbye to my big sister, knowing that I won’t see her until December, is going to be very hard, but we vowed the first time we said goodbye at an airport that we were not going to be “those people” who make a scene, so tomorrow we are going to try our best to maintain that promise. I am so lucky to have such a godly example in my life and I thank God for her and all that she has taught me about patiently waiting on God’s timing and not running ahead of His plan. If you know her, you know exactly what I am talking about, and if you haven’t had the opportunity to meet her, I hope you get the opportunity to someday. Her love for God and joy in life is contagious!

Thanks for an unforgettable trip, Kerri. We really did hit everything on the bucket list. Check…Check, Check.

Last Sunday in Soroti

Sunday, August 30, 2015

On Sunday, we got to sit in the children’s Sunday school and watch Kerri lead music with the kids. If I learned nothing else this trip, I know two things without a doubt. 1. Kerri loves her kids more than anything and 2. She is clearly in the center of God’s will for her life. Her story and the way that God brought her to Uganda is such an encouragement to me because God opened all the right doors and closed all of the wrong ones at exactly the right time in order to bring her to Soroti Orphan Assistance Project and the children who are now hers. The message was so good in church. God really convicted me about how ineffectively I am using some of the gifts that He has given me and how I really need to be looking for ways that I can serve Him in the place that He has me right now.

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Saturday with the Kids

Saturday, August 29, 2015

They go out on visitation every Saturday morning. One of the missionary families was sick so Kerri, Lyss and I took two groups with us. Kerri took the younger girls with her and Alyssa and I took the teen girls and we walked through town passing out tracks and inviting people to church. As Mzungus, Alyssa and I had a large following of children pretty quickly. They love to follow the foreigners and ask for money or whatever else we will give them, but I did get some good pictures, so it was a good trade off.

DSC_0360 DSC_0363 DSC_0410 DSC_0427It was good to go with the girls and watch them talk with people and invite them to church. Many people know some English so I was able to have some Ateso/English conversations. Which means…I would greet them in Ateso and say the few phrases that I knew and then they would go off in Ateso and my girls would just laugh and leave me on my own because they knew I didn’t know what the people were saying. They had a great time with it and would eventually step in to save me when I gave them that pleading look that I had no idea what was being said to me!

DSC_0346 DSC_0347 DSC_0348 DSC_0352 DSC_0354 DSC_0380 DSC_0387After we handed out all of our tracts, we went to a climbing rock in Soroti to climb up and be able to have a good view of the city. I love spending time with the girls outside of the property. There is just a different type of freedom and openness with them that I love being a part of.

DSC_0430 DSC_0448 DSC_0438 DSC_0455 DSC_0460 DSC_0462 DSC_0466 DSC_0480 DSC_0498 DSC_0502 DSC_0505 DSC_0513 DSC_0518This afternoon we had the championship volleyball game for the boys and Kerri and my team played each other in basketball. It was a good game and the kids really enjoyed the tournament this week.

DSC_0535 DSC_0562After the games, Kerri, Alyssa, and I went to the Sutphen’s home for dinner. We made pizzas which were awesome! She’s on the brink of having pizza as good as Papa John’s!

Alyssa and I had the opportunity to talk with the girls tonight during devotions. Alyssa spoke to the young girls and I spoke with the teens. I had really been thinking and praying about what I wanted to share with them for the last few weeks and I had many different ideas in mind, but just didn’t have peace about any one direction. 20 minutes before we left to go over to the property, the Lord really just laid it on my heart to be candid with them and share my heart for their lives. God gave me 5 things to share with them that I wish someone would have shared with me at their age. God has really allowed me to connect with many of the teens this time and to build relationships with them. I believe that helped for me to connect with them during our devotional time together. I vividly remember being a teenager and it is such a difficult time in life. God has given me a great burden for that age group and has solidified that desire in my heart through this trip. Being a teen is hard and, on top of that, there are so many kids who don’t have family support to get them through those years. I really feel that God has called me to be that consistency in the lives of teens wherever He has me.

While out on visitation today, Kerri took us to meet some of her Ugandan family at their family business in Soroti town. They invited us to come for tea after we had devotions with the girls. We got to their home around 9pm and sat outside and talked for a while. When we went inside to eat, they had made us a huge meal of food that they normally only eat on special occasions. It was such an honor to experience that type of sacrifice and giving on my behalf. They were a very sweet family and I enjoyed getting to know them a little more. They let me know that I always have a home and a Ugandan family to stay with when I return. I love that aspect of the culture here and how important people and relationships are. Yes, there are downsides to that as well, like how time is irrelevant and it sometimes takes hours to get a meal at a restaurant, but I want to be more focused on building relationships than my schedule as I go home.

The Long Awaited Futbol Tournament

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Today was a long-awaited day for the boys, the futbol tournament. We had one of the teachers, Mr. Paul, ref the futbol games today. The girls’ game was supposed to be two 15 minute halves…I can say with confidence that our game ended up being at least an hour, and in the Ugandan heat, that is a long game. We had a fun time playing with the girls, and I experienced my first defeat. Those girls are very quick, and while they don’t know the fundamentals very well, they can definitely run circles around me! (Photo Credit to Pamela Wheeler)

11922997_10204940124569545_1993619268_n 11933049_10204940124369540_1876933334_n 11940192_10204940124649547_1347142692_n 11940636_10204940124449542_1571906030_nThe boys requested that their game be played after lunch, so that they would have their strength. They are very typical teenage boys, everything in their day revolves around food. I asked one of the guys last night how his day was going and he said “fair.” I asked him why it was just fair and he responded, “It is almost dinner time. I will be better after I eat!” So we postponed the boys’ game until after lunch. They were so excited to play and had told Pamela that they would not be doing anything tonight because they were going to play so hard that they would be exhausted tonight! They did play really well and it was a very exciting game. Unlike the girls, the boys spend almost all of their free time playing futbol, so they are getting very good and it was fun to watch them play. Their game was supposed to last an hour in total. We started right around 3pm and did not finish until around 5. I have no idea how they were able to continue playing that long with NO subs! I was impressed!

DSC_0484 DSC_0468 DSC_0485 DSC_0489 DSC_0488 DSC_0517 DSC_0520 DSC_0531We have added up all the points for each team and on Saturday afternoon the top two boys teams will face-off over volleyball (their choice) and my team will face-off with Kerri’s team in basketball (my choice) to determine the overall winning teams.

Trip to Lake Kyoga

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

We did not play any tournament games today, since it is Wednesday, so today was a relaxing day for everyone. This morning we got to turn the lower level of the house into a clinic. One of the girls, Sharon, hurt her finger in the basketball game last night and Mr. Sutphen, the medical missionary, came over and took x-rays and it turns out that she broke her finger near her wrist. We got to watch him cast it, “Ugandan style.” He doesn’t have all of the newer things that we have in the states so he had to use plaster for most of the cast and had fiberglass for some of it. Sharon amazed me with how tough she was. She had tears in her eyes a few times and you could tell she was in pain, but she didn’t cry and she didn’t want any pain medication. I am definitely not that strong and would have taken all the pain meds I could get!

DSC_0313 - Copy DSC_0314 - Copy DSC_0318 - CopyAfter her wrist was casted, we went to the Sutphens home for lunch with the other missionaries, and as always, Elana made a wonderful meal for us! I really enjoy eating meals with all of them and just learning about the country/culture and the different things they have to think about on a day-to-day basis.

We had more toothbrushes to give out so we told the older girls that we would take them to the lake that is about 30 minutes from the property and pass out toothbrushes on the way back. Everyone wanted to go and, I believe that the final count was 17 girls in Kerri’s little truck!

DSC_0339 - CopyIt was a huge crew, but we had so much fun with the girls. It is great to get them in a different environment sometimes and just relax and hang out with them. We went down and put our feet in the water. There were little minnows so soon everyone was trying to catch those, which turned into everyone trying to push everyone else into the water! We had a great time.

DSC_0346 - Copy DSC_0349 - Copy DSC_0344 - Copy DSC_0351 - Copy DSC_0359 - Copy DSC_0361 - Copy DSC_0375 - Copy DSC_0384 - Copy DSC_0388 - Copy DSC_0394 - Copy DSC_0397 - Copy DSC_0400 - Copy DSC_0403 - Copy DSC_0404 - Copy DSC_0407 - Copy DSC_0417 - CopyOn the way back, we stopped by people walking and handed out toothbrushes. Sarah, a little one, and I learned the hard way that you should only hold out one at a time because if you hold out many, you will be swarmed and they will try to take them all. Sarah almost got pulled out of the car because she wouldn’t let go of the toothbrushes! It was hilarious and we all had a good laugh about that!

DSC_0434 DSC_0435 DSC_0438 DSC_0445 DSC_0446We made it back in time for the girls to get changed and head over to church. The message was good and, although it is hard to understand everything with their accents, I have learned a lot. God has really been teaching me. I know that I am called to missions, I just don’t know when or where. Coming to places like SOAP makes it really difficult to be patient and wait on God’s timing. I know that God has me at my current job for a reason and I can see how He has grown me so much already in my position there and the different things I am responsible for. Kerri and I have talked a lot about pursuing the desires that God has given me while I wait and see what doors He opens as I do that. I know I love sports, teens, and the Hispanic people/culture, so I am praying that God continues to open doors in those veins while He has me in South Carolina. It’s an exciting time to know that God is orchestrating every step, but it is sometimes difficult to be patient and not know the end result of when and where. Please pray with me about that and that God would clearly lead me and that I would be listening to the steps He is showing me.

The Basketball Tournament

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Today was the basketball tournament and I can say with complete confidence that it is not the boys’ strong suite. It looked more like American Football. It was very comical to watch and ref.

DSC_0459 DSC_0464 DSC_0469 DSC_0473 DSC_0494 DSC_0512 DSC_0505Kerri has been playing a lot with the girls and some of them are getting really good. It was a fun tournament, and just like in volleyball, I faced Alyssa’s team in the championship. By the time we got to the girls’ championship game, it was dark out so we pulled a couple trucks up to the court and used the headlights as our court lights. It worked out pretty well and was a fun game to play!

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Let the tournament begin!

In Uganda, it is rare for things to be scheduled in advance or for them to happen at the time they are scheduled. We experienced that today. Mom and Shannon are going to fly from Soroti to catch their flight in Entebbe so that we didn’t have to spend two days driving them there. As of Sunday night, we weren’t sure what time their flight was going to leave. It was possible that it would leave at 8…or 9…or 10… or 11…you get the point. So we were all up and ready by 7:30 just in case they had an 8am flight. I’m so thankful for a God who is in the little details of life. We got a call that their flight would not be until 2:30pm which meant that mom and Shannon got to spend some more time with us and the little kids at the property, as well as, watch us play in the volleyball tournament with the older ones. It was a great blessing because none of us were ready for them to leave that morning…Truthfully, I wasn’t ready for them to leave this afternoon either, but I am thankful for that little extra time.

This week we have split the older children into 4 boys teams and 4 girls teams. We have paired 2 boys teams and two girls teams to make the “green team” and two of each to make the “white” team. We are having boys and girls tournaments in volleyball, basketball, and futbol. Today we did the volleyball tournament. It was a lot of fun to watch the kids play and get so into cheering for their team! My team won the girls volleyball tournament and our boys team won as well so that put the green team up. Tomorrow we will play basketball and Thursday we will play futbol. The top two teams with the highest scores for the most wins, will get to choose what sport they play for the overall championship.

DSC_0354 DSC_0385 DSC_0381 DSC_0364 DSC_0339 DSC_0372 DSC_0424 DSC_0419Mom and Shannon entertained the little ones with games and bubbles!

DSC_0314 DSC_0320 DSC_0389 DSC_0390 DSC_0392Tonight after we finished the tournament, we came home and relaxed. We were able to talk and just watch a movie, which was much needed after a long, hot day in the sun!