Saturday, September 5, 2015
Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday - 8/10-8/12
We can’t believe how quickly the time is flying by! Ever since the team arrived we hit the ground running! Monday morning we still had an early morning breakfast because of morning devotions with the hotel. This time it was Desiree & Shannon’s turn to share. They too did an amazing job. They were able to share about what God has been doing in their lives and what they have been learning. I was so proud of the both of them for the way they were able to stand before the group and share from their hearts. Speaking in front of people was not the favorite thing for both of these women. Yet, because of the way that God had been stretching them last year and this year, they stood confidently and boldly to proclaim His Word.
On our journey I tried to have one-on-one time with each of the team members. After the morning devotions, I was able to have a significant time of fellowship with one of the girls. It is always good for me to have this time as it gives the person an opportunity to share things they may not share in the group. I believed long ago that one of the reasons that Raining Hope exists is for discipleship, not only for our children but for those that travel with me to Uganda. This morning as I met with one of the girls, it was apparent that these one-on-one times are valuable and important. I am really proud of my team and how they allow God to stretch them & mold them into the women of God that He has designed.
After lunch at the hotel, we had an adventure that awaited us! Each trip I try to take the team to the land we own on Lake Victoria. This is the original piece of land we were going to build a house. After much prayer and discussion, Raining Hope made the decision that the land was not practical for us to build the home on. Originally when we bought it, a hotel was suppose to be built right next door. This would have brought in better roads and electricity. It is a more remote area and we were waiting for those things to happen. It has been over 3 years and they have still not done any of those improvements. Plus, it takes us about 35 minutes by boat to arrive to that land. It is too far from town and also any schools. But, the land is fertile and excellent for growing crops. We have had someone taking care of the land and allowing him to use it for growing crops as a trade until we were ready. This is a good friend of someone at the hotel so we were not in danger of loosing control of the land. It has been mutually beneficial.
This trip to the land was to introduce this man to Godfrey and let them begin the process of Raining Hope using it for our crops. We took the boat ride to the land with the team which was a good relaxing activity for us after a full weekend of ministry! We go by the Source of the Nile where the Nile river actually begins. We travel on Lake Victoria until we arrive to the landing where we then walk to our piece of land. We have 4 acres that is prime land for crops such as maize, cabbage, greens, potatoes, etc. They had just harvested the last crop of that season so it is perfect timing for us to begin new. The person managing the land is willing to work for us to maintain the farming. We are working out a trade for him to continue to do some farming for his family. Be in prayer for us and especially Godfrey as we enter into the next phase for this farming project. It will help us become more self-sustainable. After the first crop is ready to harvest, we can not only use the food for the house, but we would be able to sell some of it to gain a small income. This way they would have money readily available to use. We are in need of raising funds to start clearing out the land and putting up a chain link fence to mark off our property. We have been blessed these past three years as God has protected us from “squatters” and those who own the land on either side of us. Godfrey said that we need to put up a fence to mark off the boundaries so there is no question in the future as to what land we own. Godfrey is going to hire local men in that village to come and “slash” the overgrown foliage and old harvest. This also gives Raining Hope a presence in that community by giving some work to the locals.
A couple of years ago, we did try to put up a “natural” fence by purchasing seedlings of trees. We planted those to mark our boundaries. But the lack of good rainfall caused these trees to not weather well. The only option that we have is to purchase a chain link fence that will make the boundaries clear.
The funniest thing about the boat ride is where we dock at the hotel next door to us. We have to walk down these incredibly steep steps in order to get to the Nile. Once we get to the bottom, we still need to walk down these aluminum type steps that have really aged (and disappeared!) over the years! Some of them are missing and we now have to walk to the side of the steps on the hill in order to make it! But with the help of the men who take us on the boat, we laugh and all make it onto the boat that awaits us! It is always worth it. The climb back up those step stairs is what is the most challenging! You should have seen Pastor Doug race Godfrey up those last few steps! I know there is video of this in one of the video updates!
We had a little bit of time before heading to the house. While the team went back to the hotel to get their things ready for the evening, I went with Godfrey into town. On Saturday, when we had the huge Dedication party, our little refrigerator was jam packed with the sodas which left no room for anything else. Something that has been a problem is we can’t buy too many things ahead of time because there was no way to keep them fresh. We got caught at the last minute not being able to buy the meat ahead of time because we had no room to store it. We are so thankful to Grace Fellowship & Raining Hope because of some funds made available to us by donors, we were able to purchase a much needed deep freezer for the home! Godfrey and the staff were overjoyed! They now can purchase especially some of the meat and keep it in the freezer until ready to use. We have a great relationship now with the shop owner who sells appliances and furniture. He gives us great deals because he knows it is for the kids.
That evening when we went to the house, we were able to have a great time of fellowship. The main thing we did that night was the reading of the Dedication Book. We were so busy on Saturday, I had Godfrey wait to open the gift until tonight. We wanted time to just read through the notes that all of you who contributed to the making of the book. The book mainly was from those who have traveled with me on a Raining Hope or CBU Service Project trip and from the sponsors of the kids. I started reading the first few entries, then had all of the team take turns reading. After each entry, we would walk around the room with the book so we could show them the pictures that were on that particular page. They were especially amazed at my past ISP teams to see new husbands and/or children! They LOVED each and every one of you who took the time to write a word of love and encouragement. It really was as if each of you were here celebrating with us. THANK YOU all for taking the time to write and be included in this book of memories and dedication. It meant the world to me and to the kids.
Tuesday morning I let the team sleep in a little bit longer which they appreciated! We were able to meet just before the breakfast closed down. After that, I was able to have another one-on-one with another team member. Again, I am always blown away by how God uses these times of just sitting and sharing what is on their hearts. While we were meeting, I asked the team to use that time to prepare for the final debrief which is set aside intentionally for the day before we leave. That morning, I had slid under the door a 4-page paper that they fill out that gives them time to think and pray over their answers. Mainly the debrief is a time to ponder on all that God has done and what they have learned from their experience. We cover reverse culture shock as they prepare to re-enter the American culture. We talk about things that are highlights and things that were challenges. It is one of the most significant moments of the trip. We set aside the majority of the morning and early afternoon for this. It is also a time of bonding for the team as we support one another with all of our emotions, our successes and our struggles. It is a time of bringing together all the snacks that we have with us...and I always save some for this time of debrief just for the team! We laugh, we cry, and we celebrate all that God is doing. Having their answers on the questionnaires makes this time go more smoothly and then I mail back them back to them about six months later. It is a good reminder of all that God has done in their lives on this journey.
We did go into town one more time to see our friends and say our farewells. We had to pick up g-nuts (ground nuts like small peanuts) from Rita. This team has come to just love those g-nuts as one of their favorite things! We did last minute shopping for any souvenirs they still needed. I also gave the team an assignment to purchase a few things for Raining Hope. We also needed a few more things at the market so Godfrey and I ran into the main market to buy those food items.
The whole time that we have been here, the children were still in school. They were in the last session of this 2nd term and in the middle of exams. They were not returning home until about 6 pm. That is why we were not going to the home until late afternoon/early evening. By time Tuesday came, most of the children had finished with their exams and were home a little earlier. We tried to get to the house before dusk as we were trying to get a photo for Raining Hope of all of the children. We were successful and did a team photo with the kids as well!
That night before devotions, we were able to have Annet distribute the clothes that we brought. The girls on the team all leave their skirts which the Raining Hope girls just love! We also brought many clothes from home which I can do when I have a team that allows extra luggage. Annet systematically will distribute the clothes so each one has at least a couple of new pieces. They all proudly put on their new clothes and model for us. It warms our heart to see how much a new skirt, trousers or shirt means to them.
The team had been in the next room blowing up balloons! One of the things that this team did last year was fill the room up with balloons and just bat them around. It was so fun and chaotic last year! I wish you all could have been there to just experience the joy and laughter playing with a bunch of balloons could bring! We played until the last balloon ended up popping! That was our lead in time for our evening devotions.
During the devotion time, everyone knows that this is our last evening there. The kids and the team have an air of the reality that we will leave tomorrow. But one of the things that has helped this to not be such a sad time is the reason why we are here. We are here to glorify God. It is not about the team. It is not about us. I learned over the last nine years, how to leave well. It means helping the team to communicate to the kids that as much as we all love one another, this trip is not about us. God did amazing things on this journey and we are to celebrate that! I had all of the team speak. They each shared about what being here has meant to them and all that they have learned. I had Pastor Doug share about loving God and loving others & helping the kids to know that this trip was all about Him. It helps us all to finish well and keep our focus on the main thing and that is pleasing Him and bringing glory to God.
The kids seems encouraged by this time. They even honored us by a meal of a special type of “porridge” that was a sort of delicacy. It really was quite good. It was a perfect way to honor the team and our time together here.
Then we had our traditional time of goodbyes that Kristen White from California Baptist University helped us to establish in 2009 with my first ISP team. We had all the kids come back into the room where we spent about 10 minutes saying all of our goodbyes. Each person was able to hug and share words of love. It was more of a joyous time not sad. There was laughter and hugs and our kids would say, “bonus hug” after hug number 2 or 3. After that time of saying personal goodbyes, they put us in the middle of the room as a team. As we huddle close together, the kids surround us and all lift up their prayers to send us back home. The prayer time is powerful as they share words of love and encouragement. As this time of prayer closes, they kids all go outside and form two lines that lead to our van. They begin shouting, “strong & courageous, strong & courageous!” Our team then one by one RUNS to the van giving high fives to the kids on either side of them. They can’t stop as that is part of the plan. After they all are in the van, the door is shut and I have also climbed into the front seat. The kids all are still shouting, “strong and courageous!” and also this year added. “aloha ohana!” We begin to drive away with the kids happy as they send us off! We believe this is the best way we can honor God with our time that He had us here.
In the van, I have told the team that is when they can cry. It helps the kids if we don’t fall apart in front of them. I was so proud of the team because yes, there were some tears...but on the most part, they were very strong and courageous. They finished extremely well. They made this journey all about HIM and not about themselves.
What also helped the team was knowing that tomorrow (Wednesday) we were going to stop by really quick on the way to the airport. That is the beauty of where the new home is! It is so close to the hotel and on the way to the airport! We had to go by and pick up some of the paintings that Fred was finishing for Raining Hope to sell. We also had all of the luggage on the top of the van in the luggage rack. We wanted to cover the luggage with tarp just in case of rain on the way. As the guys were putting the tarp on the top of the van, the team had a little more time with the kids that were home. Because we had done the big send off last night, when we stopped by today, it was a lot easier to leave when that time came. It was a real positive time filled with smiles and love.
Our flight was not leaving until 1:00 am on Thursday morning. It still meant that we needed to leave early in order to miss the traffic in Kampala. But it was nice to still have a full morning at the hotel. We had one more time with the hotel during the morning devotions. I led the time but had the team all share their personal testimonies as a word of thank you. I closed by signing the song by Building 429, “All the Glory.” This song really sums up all of what this trip was about.
As I closed up our bill at the hotel that is when I ran into Mrs. Otile and Andrew in the lobby. That is what I wrote about in a previous update. Getting ready to leave and seeing our plaque up on the wall was a perfect ending to a wonderful trip.
Of course on the way to the airport we had to make our traditional stop for chicken on a stick! Even with leaving early, we still hit a lot of traffic in Kampala. By time we got to the airport than night it was already dark. We were concerned about Godfrey turning around and making the trip back home. But he had a friend in Entebbe that he said he would stop, shower, and get back on the road. He actually made it all the way back to Jinja before we even boarded our flight!
At the airport, we had so much time that I was able to have another one-on-one with another team member. It still leaves me with three more that I still plan to do now that we are home! But this turned out to be another significant time of ministry for both of us!
I hold things together so well...mainly for the team. I was not sitting with the team when we took off mainly because my ticket was separate because of my original stop in Maryland. It turns out ok because I am emotionally when I leave Uganda. I am fine until the wheels on the plane leave Ugandan soil. I too just need a moment as I transition home. What is different for me is this is my 20th trip...and I am truly leaving family. This is more than a ministry that I am in charge of. I have to pull out of my role as team leader and leave my 32 kids who have become a part of my family. Understandably it is always hard for me to go. But what always helps me is to remember that it is all about Him and not about me. And, that I have my family waiting for me back in California that I need to get back to. It is a beautiful life to live to have family in Uganda, California, Maryland, and Hawaii. I am privileged and blessed to be a part of the family of God and to have so many to love & who love me.
The last part of the journey was a beautiful lesson in trusting God. Even with a 1:00 am departure time from Entebbe, we were delayed. The time of arrival in London was already going to be short. We originally had a little under 2 hours to make the connection. At least half or more of my past 20 trips have been with this stopover in London. I have been on this same flight before and normally the two hours still allows for time to stop at Starbucks for a coffee! But this time I was keeping an eye on the time realizing that the delay in departure was a factor. When we landed in London, I realized that our two hour window was cut down to about one hour. I was only about five rows ahead of where the team was sitting. When we were getting ready to leave the plane, I turned to the team and said, “The connecting gate will close in one hour. We have just enough time to get to the gate, but that means we can’t stop at Starbucks. Sorry!” They seemed to trust me and said, “Ok” even though I know they were wanting that taste of a latte!
As we departed the plane, I was in front of the team. The beauty of all of this was what I had hoped would happen as soon as I stepped into the building. There were two British Airline agents standing with signs in their hands. Most of the time when there is a short window in between connections, they have agents that will escort you to the next plane. I have had this happen to me before when the connection was tight. I saw the sign and it had our flight number with all of our names. Immediately, I was filled with a sense of His peace because I knew they would get us there in time. Once we were all off the plane, she radioed in and said, “I have all of the passengers. We are on our way.” It was a good lesson for the team to trust her and to trust me as we worked our way to the gate. I was talking with her as we walked and she said, “We are going to take you downstairs to walk through a different corridor if that is ok. If we go through the normal security check, it will hold us up. All the flights are going through that same checkpoint. This way we will avoid all of that. We will walk to the next checkpoint, take a short tram ride, then end up at a secondary security check.” I said, “perfect” and we would follow her. At one point as we walked through this long empty corridor she asked me, “If it ok and you all feel like walking more, we can skip the tram and just keep walking.” I asked the team and they all said, “Ok, we have been sitting eight hours and would like the walk.” We continued walking at a normal pace just enjoying not fighting any crowds. Then we came to a service type elevator that she had to key in a code. When we arrived at the next floor, the doors opened to a small security check that NO ONE was going through! We put our bags on the scanner belt, walked through the x-ray thing, waited for one another then were on our way again! We emerged into our awaiting terminal and she led us right to our gate! I told her if I had a gift I would give it to her!
The whole time that we walked, I was filled with His peace. It was a picture of what this whole trip has been about. Trusting Him and letting Him be our guide. There was no way we would have made it to the connecting flight without the guidance of this British Airlines agent. This mainly was because we would have had to go through the main security line that would have held us up. But as soon as I saw her, I knew that we were going to be fine and I was at peace. She was communicating with someone the whole time on her radio letting them know our position and how far away we were.
I watched our team do the same thing with God on this journey. If you remember from an earlier update, the goal of this trip for the team was this:
Show up Be spiritually prepared Do whatever is asked of you SERVE, SERVE, SERVE Trust me as your leader...Trust Him as your God
I know there were times I asked the team to trust me as I led just like we had to trust this woman who led us the back way to our departure gate. Sometimes we are unsure. Sometimes we want to know all the details before we can fully trust. Sometimes we think our way is better. Yet, by fully trusting this British Airlines agent, she was a picture of what I had been trying to say all along. She had someone on the other end of the radio and I trusted she would get us to where we needed to be. GOD is on the end of my line and I pray that the team was able to trust me as I led. This will be a good illustration for the future and I hope an encouragement for you as you too can apply these truths from our experiences.
We made it on the plane with time to spare. The funny thing was there was a Starbucks right at our gate! They have been remodeling the airport and I think this is one of the additions. I think if we really wanted to, we could have gotten a cup of coffee! No one at this point really wanted to take that chance. We were so thankful just to have made it to the gate. To me, it was just a personal “kiss” from God to seal up a wonderful journey!
This has been a journey of trust and believing fully in Him. He receives all the glory for all that we have reported on. Thank you for joining us on my 20th trip. I think it is interesting that for Chapter 20 there are 20 updates! I did not plan it that way but I think it is cool!
I do have testimonies from team members that I will share in the next newsletter. I will also include updates on what God has been doing at the home since we left. The last couple of weeks have been filled with God moving in amazing ways! So get ready for the next chapter in the lives of those who you pray for and support at Raining Hope!
This has been all for His glory alone!
Love you all!
ALL THE GLORY - BUILDING 429
You turn my world upside down - You turn it all inside out
You take the least, make them first - Pour yourself on those who thirst
And You use me because I’m weak
It’s here I find you lift me up just to lift You high
It never was about me, You get all the glory
And if I stand it’s only that I am in Your hands
It never was about me, You get all the glory
You’re the author of it all - So I live to make you known
Oh If I’m last or if I’m low You’ll make something beautiful
And You use me because I am weak.
It’s here I find you lift me up just to lift You high
It never was about me, You get all the glory
And if I stand it’s only that I am in Your hands
It never was about me, You get all the glory
Your way higher, Your will above my own
Your glory greater, and Your story will be told Your story will be told