Monday, August 31, 2015

Chapter 20 - Update #19 - August 9, 2015

Desiree & Sunday School 

Desiree, Kelly & Katie 

Making flowers


Kelly & Sunday School 


Glory Be to God Church 

Waiswa reading his letter

Mama Kisakye & Hope 

Dinner with the Otile's & Hotel Paradise

Dinner with the Otile's & Hotel Paradise

Sunday  - 8/9  - Glory Be to God Church

Sunday we were able to worship at Glory Be to God Church.   It was an amazing morning.  The children presented one of their Raining Hope Choir songs.  Then we presented the song, “Alive” together.   I had Esther in front signing with me as the rest of the Raining Hope kids had choreographed dance movements behind us.  We all ended the song signing the chorus together.  This song as well has become an anthem for Raining Hope.  People are starting to ask, “What is happening at Raining Hope?”  It is such a blessing to hear the children say, “Jesus is alive in our home!” 

Here are the words to the praise song, "Alive."

I was lost with a broken heart, You picked me up, now I'm set apart
From the ash I am born again, Forever safe in the Saviour's hands
You are more than my words could say, I'll follow You Lord for all my days
I'll fix my eyes, follow in Your ways, Forever free in unending grace

'Cause You are, You are, You are my freedom, We lift You higher, lift You higher
Your love, Your love, Your love never ending, Oh oh oh

You are alive in us, Nothing can take Your place
You are all we need, Your love has set us free

In the midst of the darkest night, Let Your love be the shining light
Breaking chains that were holding me, You sent Your Son down and set me free
Everything of this world will fade, I'm pressing on till I see Your face
I will live that Your will be done, I won't stop till Your Kingdom come


You are, You are, You are my freedom, We lift You higher
You are, You are, You are my freedom, We lift You higher, lift You higher
Your love, Your love, Your love never ending, Oh oh oh



After the time of worship, our ladies on our team went to minister to children’s church.  There were about 150 children in this time of Sunday School.  They shared the Word and they had a corresponding art project.  They made tissue flowers that were so pretty.  It was a site to see all the children after Sunday School carrying their art flowers so proudly.  I saw some give their flowers to their moms which just warmed my heart! 

Pastor Doug was invited to preach the message that morning to the congregation.  He gave a great message on Psalm 23.  He taught verse by verse the very familiar passage.   He used good illustrations that they can culturally relate to.  It was challenging message and one well received by the church.

We have to rent a larger van that is more like a bus each Sunday in order to get all the children to and from church.  They all piled into the bus after the service and our team got into our Raining Hope van.   It only takes a little over 5-7 minutes to get back to the house which is such a praise!   We drive past some shops on the main road.  We were following the bus when all of a sudden it stopped on the side of the road.  I got out of our van with Jonathan to find out what had happened.  It turns out, the driver just wanted to stop to pick up something at the shop!    I was about to turn to return to our van when the children said, “Mum Kisakye, you need to come on the bus!”  I told Jonathan I would stay and he could go back and take my seat on our van.  When I jumped onto the bus, the children all shouted with joy!  It was a simple thing as my joining them in their bus that made them so happy!  Three of the little children turned and gave me their paper flowers that they made in Sunday School!  I was filled with such joy and love.  I was able to get the flowers back to Ventura without getting crushed!  They now have found a nice spot in our living room as a constant reminder of their love. 
We spent the rest of the afternoon at the home.  I had warned the team that last Sunday after church, the children are exhausted!  They were so glad that I had warned them because this Sunday was no different.  Church service worship is an amazing time of praising the Lord.  There is a lot of dancing that happens and the kids are physically worn out!  They worship with their whole being and need Sunday afternoons to just rest in the Lord.   So many of the kids just fall asleep right in the living room chairs! 

Before they got too tired, we took a huge group photo with the team.  I also needed a group photo of just the Raining Hope kids.  Shannon has done a tremendous job for me in getting photos for Raining Hope.  I am so thankful for the way she is sharing her talent as a photographer. 

Before we had lunch, our Raining Hope family provided the team with sugar cane and bananas!  I think for some of the team it was the first time they experienced eating raw sugar cane.  It is a special treat for our kids!   The bananas are the sweet miniature bananas that you don’t find much in the US.  They are incredibly sweet!  

The kids played futbol (soccer) with some of the team for the first time.  They had been playing volleyball most of the other days.  We also took this time for Shannon and Desiree to do the interviews I needed on video for Raining Hope.  I have not seen the finished videos yet, but I know they will be amazing! 

The kids were not only exhausted from church service, but from the Dedication Day on Saturday.  We wanted them to get some needed rest.  We had a short time of devotion but then we left to head back to the hotel for dinner.

That night, the Otile’s had invited my team for a special dinner.  Most of the time when I bring a team, the Otile’s do invite us to share a meal with them.  At times we have had the meal next door at their sister hotel.  One time, we went to their house for refreshments.  It always varies depending on their schedule.  This time, they wanted us to eat right there are the hotel.  They had us order our food ahead of time so it would be ready for us. 

This team has come to love the Chinese food at the hotel.  The cook that specializing in the Chinese food mainly works next door at their sister hotel.  But if you remember from my past updates, I was given the privilege of learning from this cook how to make this food.  So now, whenever we want Chinese food, they call this cook over from the other hotel.   They brought my friend, Mutete over especially to cook our meal that night with the Otile’s.  The Otile’s also invited Godfrey and his wife Irene to join us.  Little did I know that they also invited, Andrew, one of the operating managers, Selevus, the Food & Beverage Manager, and their son, Robert the General Manager to join us!  These are all dear friends of mine who have become part of my family.   It was so nice to have them sitting and enjoying a meal instead of being the ones serving us!  It was the first time that the Otiles had invited anyone other than the team to join us!    It was a great time of fellowship for all of us.  I just love having my families all come together as one! 

The biggest challenge for the team was the Ugandan culture of not leaving any food behind!  Mrs. Otile was sitting closest to the girls on the team.  She said, “You know, when there is food left over on plate, it means that something is wrong with the food or you don’t like it.”  I had also warned the team that tonight was a special night and they would be aware if we didn’t eat all the food.  Again, the team was thankful for the warning!  I was so proud of them.  We we had the debrief after the meal, we had lots of laughs!   They said when Mrs. Otile made that comment, they took a deep breathe and went for it!  Their bellies were a little more full than ever...but at least it was with food that they loved eating! 

As the weekend came to a close, we stood amazed at all that God did.  He receives glory for each moment.  We couldn’t have asked for a better weekend than this. 

I will send one more update that will follow this one that will include Monday-Wednesday as we finish out our service project trip.   I do appreciate all of your taking the time to read.  It means the world to me that you have joined us on this incredible journey.

One more update to come!
mum kisakye! 

Friday, August 28, 2015

Chapter 20 - Update #18 - August 8, 2015

Welcome Table! 

Dedication Cakes! 

Raining Hope Choir - Sharon 

Raining Hope Choir - Hillary

Signing "Giants Fall" 

Praying for Peter 

Even Baby Hope has a Raining Hope onesie!

"Oh How He Loves" 

Godfrey & His family 

Cutting the cake

Mary & Martha

Jemimah, Mary, Martha, Doreen, Sean & Dan

Mary, Martha & Sean 

Raining Hope with Melanie

Raining Hope with the Team
Cutting the Cake

Planting the Tree 

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Andrew, Sean, Mary & Martha! 

Saturday  - 8/8 - Dedication Day & 20th Anniversary! 

This update is long.  It will be worth your reading it!  This is the main reason for this trip -  the Dedication of the new home to the Lord.  Grab a cup of coffee...or split this reading into two or three.  I just don’t want you to miss anything of what we experienced on this day.  I know it is not the same as being there...but God can work through the lines of these words and make it come alive for you!  Thanks for taking the time !  eydie 

This was the day we were all waiting for!  Dedication Day!  There was an air of excitement all around us!   We were thankful for Glory Be to God Church who let us borrow chairs and their sound system.  We also rented large tents from a neighbor who has a rental business so our guests could sit in the shade.  The children had decorated with balloons and ribbons all over the compound.  The hotel let us borrow the nice serving trays so we could keep the food hot . Godfrey picked me up after breakfast so we could go and pick up the cakes we ordered.  All the kids were busy at work at the home preparing for the arrival of guests.  In Ugandan culture, our team was to be among the honored guests.  So I didn’t bring them to the house too early because they would have wanted to jump in and help.  

I discovered something new that I didn’t know how to explain before about the Ugandan culture.  I have told teams before that when they are at the house, they are to let the kids serve them.  Teams have a hard time not clearing the table or doing other kinds of work around the house.  Something like this event, it was made clear to me by Godfrey that the team was not suppose to do any work because they were honored guests.   Godfrey said, “It will look like it is ok but when you go home, then I would get questions as to why I let the visitors do work.  It affects me after teams leave.”  As much as we want to serve, there is a fine line when it comes to cultural boundaries for visitors.  This was a difficult lesson for the team to follow.  But they did do a beautiful job in following those instructions and just being honored guests.  

Originally, Godfrey had planned for this event to last all day.  We would have started at 10 am and gone until 5 pm.  He thought since we were going to have parents here, we could have a parent’s workshop.  During the week I came early, we decided that it made the day too long and it was actually two separate events.  We postponed the parent’s workshop for my next trip.  The interesting thing was, Godfrey decided not to contact people to tell them that we changed the program time from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm.  He said, “This way, people will hopefully all be here by 2:00 pm ready for the start of the program.  If we let everyone know we changed it, they may not show up until 4:00 pm.”  He was right.  Even by 2:00 pm, there were people here but more showed up after the starting time.  Not very many were at the home at 10:00 am.  I brought the team over about 1 pm.  Even with that, there were only a handful of parents there.  I had prepared the team to help by welcoming guests and talking to them.  Little by little, guests all began arriving.  By the starting time of 2:00 pm, we did have a good number of people there because of Godfrey’s decision to not announce the change in start time!  

It also allowed us to start on time which is not as important for Ugandan culture as it was for American culture.  Two of our children, Sylvia & Fred were the MC’s for the afternoon.  The two of them did a phenomenal job!  Sylvia’s dream is to one day become a newscaster.  At one point she ran past me and said, “This is my first reporting job!  I am so excited!”  

Even with the delay in the starting time, some of our invited dignitaries were still not there.  We had to stretch the program out to wait on these guests.  The Raining Hope choir presented many of their songs.  But we also had a couple of local artists there who are known in that area.  Fred invited each one of the them to come and share their music as we waited.  The program just flowed flawlessly.  Guests continued to arrive and fill seats as we progressed.   

Something that just warmed my heart was when the children did solo’s in their songs, they came out into the audience to sing and dance.  One in particular, Hillary just amazed me.  He was dancing and singing and just smiling big.  I looked over at his mom and family and they were overjoyed!  They were smiling and laughing so big!  When I talked to them later they said, “We have never seen Hillary dance like that!  We didn’t know that he could do that!”  They were so proud of him.  

At one point, as Fred & Sylvia were trying to fill time, they wanted me to sign a song.  At the last minute, I asked our kids if we could sign, “Giants Fall.”  They had choreographed that song from my visit in April when we first moved into the house.  It turned out to be very appropriate for the Dedication Day too!  By time we finished that, all of our dignitaries had arrived and we were able to proceed with the presentations. 

One of our dignitaries was the LC Chairman (local council).  He is a very important person in our area as he is the one we report to an official capacity.  As an organization, we work with various officials whose approval we need if we want to continue operating.  This LC Chairman apparently is very involved and loves having us in the village.  When he got up to speak he said, “I am a man and not suppose to cry...but find myself having these emotions...”  Then he continued on with his welcoming speech.  By time he stood up to speak, he was overcome with emotions as to all that was happening.  Isn’t that just amazing?!  

Godfrey & I led in the part of the program that led to the dedication.  After introducing the team,  I had Pastor Doug share a few words during this time in thanksgiving to the Lord for all that He has done.  I then invited a surprise guest to come and share his testimony.    Peter had traveled all he way from Rwanda & surprised me the day before that he had come.  The reason it surprised me was his own mother had died less that a week before the dedication.  When I saw that on Facebook I didn’t think he would be able to travel to be with us.  But since she had passed, he was able to leave home and accept our invitation.  I am so glad that he did join us.  I had him give his testimony of what it meant for him to be a part of Raining Hope.  One day we will dedicate a time to share his whole story.  But what was important about his testimony was how God used Raining Hope to help his own dreams become a reality.  In December of this year, he will graduate with a 4 year law degree from a university in Rwanda!   He already has a job waiting for him in a law office.  We are so proud of Peter!  His story encouraged those that were there...including our own children who saw hope in his story.  Peter is the first one of our children to graduate from university and fulfill the dreams that God has placed in his heart.  I presented Peter with a graduation gift of a study Bible.   He told me later, “No gift can compare to the Word of God.”  Amen.   Peter then traveled all the way back to Rwanda the next day as he had to work on Monday.   He said, “Of course I came.  I had to be here.”  Peter was with us in the years that things were at its most difficult.  He was a huge source of encouragement to me during those trying times.  It meant the world to me that he came to celebrate God’s goodness !  

Two others who surprised me were two young men named David & Solomon.  They were also in the home the same time that Peter was.  They are both 23 years old now. Solomon is now in medical school!  I was amazed to hear that news!   They too were thankful for all that God has been doing in their lives and came to celebrate with us. 

I also shared a devotion that the team had read that morning.  We were going through a book called, “A Cup of Joy.”   That morning the devotion basically said this, “As you anticipate an exciting new chapter in your life remember,  the coming chapter, like every other, begins and ends with God and with His Son.   God will touch your heart and guide your steps - if you let Him.  So dedicate this day to God’s purpose and give thanks for His grace.  This is the day the Lord has created - give thanks to the One who created it, and use it to the glory of His Kingdom.”  Wow!  We stood amazed that this was the very word from God He had for us as we Dedicated this house to Him!  

I finished that time bringing out all of our children, dressed in their new Raining Hope t-shirts.  Because of all of those at home that bought t-shirts, we were able to use those proceeds to bring one t-shirt for each one of our kids!  It was a beautiful sight to see them all walk out in their shirts!   A song that has meant so much to us is “Oh How He Loves.”  The version that we listen to and sign to is sung by Anthony Evans.  The kids signed the whole song with me and it was powerful.  He truly does love us & we love Him.  

Godfrey then asked all of the visiting pastors as well as Mrs. Otile representing the hotel to join in praying for our children. Godfrey had charged each one to pray for a specific need.  Each one, offered up a beautiful prayer.   After this time of prayer and dedication, we presented Raining Hope with a plaque that read, 

This home is dedicated to the glory of God and the love of people.  May this place always stand as a beacon of hope to the people of Uganda and as a light to the nations.

“…As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”
~ Joshua 24:15 ~

“… Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
~Joshua 1:9 ~ 

August 8, 2015

The gift that was presented was a scrapbook that I had put together.  There have been about 50 people that have traveled to Raining Hope through our International Service Projects with California Baptist University or Raining Hope that wanted to be a part of this special day.  The only way that I knew to bring all of these people with me was to have their words of encouragement in a book that was given on this day of dedication!  I am thankful to all of you who took the time to send me your photos and your words of thanksgiving for what these kids have meant to you.  They LOVED the book.  

After this presentation, Godfrey had the team and I cut the Dedication cake!   Then Esther & Godfrey escorted me to an area where we would plant a tree of Dedication.  This would be a symbol of how God has provided and that we are built on the foundation of His Word & His Truth.  This house belongs to the Lord and as we watch the tree grow in the years to come it will continue to bring glory to Him alone.  They had already dug the hole and had the tree ready for me to lower into the ground.  Godfrey had wanted just me to plant the tree.  Esther was there with me which I believe was very symbolic to have one of the children assist me.  They are the future of this ministry and of the HOPE that He brings.  It was so appropriate to have her help me in the planting of this tree of HOPE.  

Then the celebrations continued with music and food!!!   Our family had provided a feast of delicious Ugandan food!  We had matoke, chicken, rice, beans, greens, potatoes, fresh fruits and more!   Everyone had more than enough to eat!  We encouraged the children to find their families and eat with them.  The team was able to meet parents and guardians after they finished their own meals.  I was able to meet some of their families for the first time.  This is the first time in the last nine years that we have attempted to do anything of this magnitude.  It was amazing.  All of these parents have walked through the ups and downs of the last nine years with me.  Today was just as important to them as it was to all of us.  

Little by little, parents & guardians gave their children hugs and found their way home.  All of our special guests gave us such encouraging words of support and thanksgiving. When it was just our family left, we still had more to do. 

This was the secret part that the kids didn’t want me to know about.  They wanted to celebrate the anniversary of my 20th trip to Uganda.  They had all of us come into the house.  They actually blindfolded me and told me not to worry.  They all then began singing, “Oh How He Loves,” as they began to walk me around the room.  I couldn’t tell what they were doing.  When they stopped me, they had all gathered around the table I was standing behind.  I knew that I had Annet holding me on one arm, and it turns out I had Irene on the other arm, waving a hand fan on me to keep me cool.   Then they said, “We love you so much, and as a special gift to honor this moment and for you to always know how much we love you, we give you this...”  As they took the blindfold off, I see Pastor Doug holding a painting with my portrait that Fred had painted!  It said, ”Congratulations on your 20th Anniversary...we love you!”  I was speechless!  They all erupted in praise!  They also had placed a third cake in front of me that they wanted me to cut in honor of the anniversary!   

This day couldn’t have been any more perfect.  I am so thankful for my family in Uganda.  I am privileged to be a mum to them.  I wish that all of you could have been there to experience what we did on that day.  

What is happening at Raining Hope can only be explained by God.  When children are asked, “What is going on at Raining Hope?”  Their answer is... “Jesus is Alive in our home!”  


I asked Pastor Doug to share his thoughts on what he experienced on the day of dedication...

“Within Judaism, there is a concept of something that is “Corban”.  It means, dedicated to God.  When something is Corban, it is not only set aside for God’s use, but it is also set aside for His glory. When Hannah dedicated her baby, Samuel, to the Lord, Samuel was called Corban.  He grew up to be a Prophet and a great man of God. When Solomon built the temple, they had a dedication ceremony, where the temple was set aside as Corban.  God met His people in amazing ways in that great temple.  His presence dwelled there in a unique way and it brought Him glory.  

God has seen fit to give a new house to the children of Raining Hope.  As much as the children love & treasure this “palace” they are not keeping it themselves.   Instead, they have said that the house is corban.  They have dedicated the house and property for God’s use and God’s glory.  And what a time of celebration it was!

The children and staffed worked hard to prepare the house and grounds for their invited guests.  There were guests from the local community, including the chairman of the local community leadership board.  There were guests from around Jinja, including the owners and some of the staff of the Paradise Hotel.  There were people from local churches including several pastors from the area.  Our team from California won the prize for distance traveled, but we were not the only ones from outside of Uganda.  Peter (a former Raining Hope kid) came all the way from Rwanda for the event.  He is just finishing law school and stands as an example of what can happen in the lives of the Raining Hope children, as they are enabled to pursue God’s dreams for them.  He shared his testimony and said that Eydie and Raining Hope were absolutely instrumental in helping him to pursue His God-given dreams.  It was at Raining Hope that his character was shaped and he was taught to be strong and courageous (Joshua 1:9).  Today God is using him to change the world.  The other Raining Hope kids were so thrilled to see their brother and they were all inspired by his story.  

It was also wonderful to see some of the birth parents and families of the Raining Hope kids at the dedication event.  Not all of the children are orphans.  Some have families who for one reason or another cannot or should not be raising them in their homes.  It was a blessing to see these parents and siblings beam with pride as their children ministered to the crowd through song, dance, preaching and witnessing.  Some of the mothers hugged Eydie through tears and didn’t want to let go.  They were thanking her for her investment in the children.  But Eydie was quick to deflect of the glory to God, where it always belongs.

There was a huge feast, there was entertainment, there was singing and dancing.  It was a magnificent day!  After the crowd finally went home in the evening, the Raining Hope kids had more that was planned.  They wanted to bless their mother, Eydie (or as they now call her: “Mama Kisakye”.  It is her Ugandan name and it means, “Grace of God”).  This trip to Uganda marked the 20th time she has came to Uganda over the course of 9 years.  They sang to her and served her a cake and gave her a beautiful gift: a portrait of her, painted by Fred (one of the older young men in the Raining Hope family) who happens to be a great artist.  She was overwhelmed.  We all were!  And all of the glory went to God.  After all, when something is corban, it is all about Him! - Pastor Doug 

Thank you for those of you have took the time to read all the way through.  It is the only way I know how to help you visualize the events of the day.  This two verses sum up our day...

“Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”  Colossians 3:17 

“So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please Him.”  - 2 Corinthians 5:9

Jesus is Alive! 
mum kisakye! 

P.S.  More photos of the whole trip will be added once I finish all the updates so stay tuned!  Also...friend Raining Hope Inc on Facebook and you can see added videos! 

Mama Kisakye's 20th Anniversary! 

Anniversary cake! 

Chapter 20 - Update #17 - August 7, 2015

Mary, Eydie & Little Eydie 

Eydie & Eydie 

Rita & her family 

Little Eydie 

Mr & Mrs. Otile receiving plaque 

Godfrey, Eydie, Mr & Mrs Otile & Pastor Doug

Hotel Paradise 


Golden Day!

Eydie & Mrs. Otile! 

Friday  - 8/7 - Thanking the Hotel 

It was Kelly & Katie’s turn to share in the hotel’s devotion time this morning.  I was so proud of the two of them!  Kelly did an object lesson using a pencil!  She talked about how object lessons aren’t just good for teaching children, but adults can learn a lot about God and how He works from simple objects.  The pencil is a good one.  

Kelly shared that we learn...
1.  That we are only useful when in God’s hands. 
2.  That painful sharpening will occur to make us better and more useful, not to make us bitter, 
3.  That it is what is on the inside that matters
4.  That from time to time we need to use the eraser - confession of sins in order to put mistakes behind us, and 
5.  To have been truly useful in our lives we must leave a mark.  

Katie then tagged onto what Kelly shared and gave her personal testimony.  She shared about the door-to-door evangelism and how it impacted her life.  The two of them worked beautifully together.  They gave out pencils for people to take with them to remind us of this simple object lesson and to share it with others! 

My tailor friend, Mary came by this morning to drop off the dresses that she made for me.  A couple of our girls also had bought material so she could make a few more dresses.  

We then went into town for our first day of shopping!  We went to visit all of our favorite friends.  Rita was so happy to see the team again!  Little Eydie & Mary were both there waiting for us!  Every time I see the kids I am always amazed at how much they grow in between my visits! For those new to the updates, Mary was a little girl I met on one of my first trips.  They were walking past me in front of the Source Cafe.  Turns out that their mom, Rita had a shop just down the block.  We became instant friends.  A couple of years ago, Mary and her husband honored me by naming their baby after me.  Each team that I bring has fallen in love with Rita and her family!  

I like to bring my teams to specific friends who we like to support.  Faith is another friend as well as Irene at the Source Cafe.   This year we met a new friend.  While we were at the hospital, Godfrey introduced me to Tina, the administrator who he mainly deals with concerning billing.  She too owns a shop in town.  We arranged to meet her on her day off from the hospital.  The hospital has been so good to us.  We wanted to at least help in some small way by supporting her in her shop.  She was so incredibly happy that we took the time to come by.  So many of these friends of mine will tell me later that the support the team members give by buying items makes it possible for them to have food on the table that night.  Our buying souvenirs to bring home actually help to support a family to provide food, shelter and medical needs.  Our ministry is not only to the children of Raining Hope but extends to those in the community.  

This idea of supporting & loving those in the community was the basis for the main activity for the afternoon.  For the last nine years, I have stayed at the same hotel in Jinja.  I actually stay in the same room each time as well.  Out of 20 trips, I have only stayed in another room twice.  The hotel now calls my room 35 my home!  

Something that I have been wanting to do for years finally came a reality on this trip.  With the planning of the Dedication service on Saturday, everything also came together to thank the hotel in a special way.  With the recent purchase of the house, it was important for me to thank those who have stood by me all these years.  I had written to the Otile family at the hotel to let them know that I wanted to say thank you for their support, not only personally but recognizing that Raining Hope is just one organization of many who they minister to.  Typical of the Ugandan culture, they were not sure how to receive that.  It took until I arrived the week before to finally convince them that they should just let our team bless them!  

We agreed on just a couple of hours on Friday afternoon.  They actually have another hotel fellowship every Friday afternoon at 3 pm where they come together for a time of praise, prayer and devotion.  They also fast on Fridays and they break the fast at the end of the fellowship time.  They decided to turn that time over to our team and allow us to bless them. 

The idea behind the afternoon was anyone that works at the hotel could come by.  We just wanted to say thank you.  I encouraged the team to welcome people as they came in and have conversations about which departments they worked in.  The hotel had gotten the word out about what we were doing.  Yet, some may not have realized that the program had changed.  Little by little, the conference room that they gave us to use began to fill up.  

We began the time with praise and worship as people filtered in.  When the program started, I explained what this time was all about.  We simply wanted to say thank you.  We went around the room and introduced ourselves.  As each of the hotel workers introduced themselves they also told us which department they worked in.  When it came to Mr. & Mrs. Otile, they were so gracious and humbled by this gesture of our wanting to thank them.  Mr. Otile spoke up and said that things are a little turned around.  We are staying in their hotel, and they should be the ones who are offering the hospitality.  It was difficult for them to receive when they believed they should be the ones taking care of us.  

That was the beauty of this moment.   The sign above the entrance of the hotel says, “Hotel Paradise - LEGENDARY HOSPITALITY.”  I used that in explaining what the hotel means to me.  LEGENDARY sums it all up.  I explained that years ago I too used to work in a hotel.  I worked at the San Francisco Airport Marriott and know what it is like to work in the hospitality industry.  When I began to identify with them as a co-hotel worker, I watched heads nod up and down with acknowledgement.  They knew I understood how hard it can be at times to work in an industry such as this.  Taking care of guests...especially those who are a challenge can be difficult.  Yet, the hotel as always shown this legendary hospitality no matter when the circumstances.  

Then the most interesting thing happened.  One of my dear friends, Apophia who works in the business center stood up.  She began sharing a story that touched my heart.  One of the things that I am known for is leaving “notes under the door.”  Every morning I leave notes under the doors of the team members, some from friends and family and one from me.  But I also leave thank you notes for my close friends at the hotel before I leave.  I also give little devotional books as a thank you gift.  Little did I know how God was using those gestures.  Apophia said that she began writing notes to her children.  She will write three cards, many with a Scripture verses on it.  She asks them to read them and then pass them onto other friends!  But then she talked about the little books I have given her.  She revealed how much she LOVES books.  She has always had a dream to one day open up a library.  Apophia said, “This is a dream of mine.  I will use these books for that and get even more.  I know that one day my dream will come true.” Apophia had never told me before about any of this.  So the Ugandan Dream extended not only to our Raining Hope kids but those whose lives we touch outside of the home! 

But what happened next was a moment that I will not soon forget.  One by one, others followed the lead of Apophia and began to share testimonies of thanksgiving.  As each one had a personal testimony, I became overwhelmed.  I truly felt like God just began to pour out over all of us words of encouragement and affirmation.  Because I had been here for nine years, the words directed to me were a huge encouragement.  I even turned to Pastor Doug and Godfrey and said, “What is happening?  How did they manage to turn the tables?”  But a moment that warmed my heart was when one of the staff, Denis, stood up and talked about how the object lesson that Kelly shared that morning meant so much to him.  He proceeded to shared each point he learned from that very lesson taken from a pencil!!!  He said it was something so simple but that he would apply it and share with others.  As I looked over at Kelly I know that it had to have encouraged her.  Then another friend, Sarah stood up and began to share a story about how Desiree’s testimony last year was such a blessing.  Last year, Desiree shared a personal testimony that was something that she had struggled with.  Little did she know, Sarah’s sister was struggling with the exact same issue.  Sarah said she was able to go to her own sister and share Desiree’s struggle and how she overcame it.  That testimony made a world of difference in the life of Sarah’s sister.  

For Desiree, I know that this encouragement came from the Lord.  Last year, standing in front of groups of people and sharing testimonies was not the favorite thing of most of the team.  Desiree became very emotional sharing her story.  One year later, she was able to hear the fruits of her stepping out in faith and doing what she was not comfortable with.  It was a powerful moment for all of us.  

After this time of mutual encouragement, I turned to Mr. Otile and said, “Well, LEGENDARY hospitality seemed to have turned this around.  This day was suppose to be to honor you and the hotel!  You somehow managed to turn it back on us!”    We then presented Mrs. Otile with one of our “Golden Day” leis!  The hotel knows what Golden Day is for my teams.  She was so excited and just beaming with joy!  She exclaimed, “Oh, this is very unexpected!”  Everyone began to shout, “Golden Day! Golden Day!”  

I also signed a song, and I can’t even remember now what it was.  I think that it was “Oh How He Loves” as just a tribute to how much God loves us all.  We then presented the hotel with a plaque that said, 

            With love and appreciation from the Raining Hope Family to the Otile family 
                            and the staff of the Paradise On The Nile Hotel.  
                Your ministry to travelers is changing the world for the glory of God.

                “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have 
                        entertained angels without knowing it.”  ~ Hebrews 13:2 ~

Then we had a time of refreshments and fellowship.  Andrew said that they call this time “swallowship!” (swallow food! Ha!)  We had planned to pay for all of the food.  But again, LEGENDARY hospitality would not allow us to do that.  We paid for samosa’s (like a fried won ton with vegetable filling) & little queen cakes (muffins).  The hotel provided not only the room, but banana’s and the drinks.  It was encouraging to talk to people thanking them for their contribution to the hotel.  Our biggest encouragement was to pass on what they learned today about taking time to say a kind word to one another.  Many said that they would do that more often.  I think that we had a total of about 75 people that came in and out that afternoon.  

That day I was suppose to have a scrapbook ready to present with the plaque.  Because of all of the other things on my plate, I couldn’t get it done in time.  I showed them the front of the scrapbook and said I would be giving it to them before we leave. 

The day we left, I was able to give the book to Mrs. Otile and Andrew.  We were standing at the front desk when I gave it to them.  As they looked through the pictures I had gathered of all my ISP & RHSP teams and memories of the hotel, they were so thrilled.  Mrs. Otile looked at Andrew and said, “This gives me ideas!  We should be putting together something like this for the hotel!”  She was very grateful for the memories of the past nine years...looking forward to many more in the future that are just waiting to be created!  

Later, as I went to pay the final bill, I was standing in that reception area waiting for my receipt.  I happened to look up and saw a picture of the King of Uganda.  Opposite of that picture was the familiar photo of President Musevini, President of Uganda.  But then my eyes focused on what was in between the two!  The plaque that we presented was right in the middle!  We are in good company!  

I asked Pastor Doug to give his account of what happened at this event...

“Hotel Paradise is not just a hotel.  They offer so much more than a safe place to stay with a comfortable bed and hot shower.  They do a great job of making guests feel welcome and meeting the basic needs of a traveler.  But that is not what makes this place so special.  It is all about the people!  

Eydie has been coming here for nine years and this is her 20th stay at the hotel.  The owners, management and staff have become like family to Eydie and their kindness extends beyond Eydie to the teams she brings to Jinja, Uganda.  The hotel is owned by Mr. & Mrs. Otile.  They are followers of Jesus and they have instilled in the staff a heart for the kind of hospitality that the Bible demands of Christians.  Many of the staff are also followers of Jesus.  They begin their days with staff worship and fellowship times and the love of Jesus permeates this wonderful place.

They are constantly serving us; so this time, we decided to turn the tables on them.  The Raining Hope Service Project team hosted a reception for the hotel owners and staff on Friday, August 7th.  We provided food, drinks, a relaxing atmosphere and lots of encouragement.  We also presented a plaque, commemorating the day and thanking them all for their part in spreading the gospel and supporting kingdom work in Uganda.  They host dozens of mission teams every year.  And they are supporting the life-changing work those teams are doing.

Of course, being hospitable Ugandans, they insisted on having some time to encourage us as well.  Their kind words were so touching.  One woman told us that when Desiree  shared her testimony during staff fellowship last year, it changed a woman's life.  Another talked bout the impact Kelly had made this year, when she shared a simple object lesson.  And many people told about how God had used Eydie to touch their lives over the years.  It was an amazing celebration.  One I will not quickly forget. ... Pastor Doug 

The team debriefed this later and we agreed that this one event may have a future impact that is deeper than what we see.  We were all so blown away by the magnitude of what a simple act of saying thank you can do.   I was personally affected by this for the rest of the trip.  It was miraculous.  I love my Hotel Paradise family.  

That evening we just seemed to float to the home!  Some of the team had more opportunity to play volleyball.  Other team members colored with the kids.  Godfrey and I went and did the final shopping for the Dedication.  We ended up taking not only Jonathan but Joan, Vivian & Sylvia.  We also had to shop for party items like balloons for the decorations.  I was also on the hunt for wrapping paper as I had two wedding gifts to wrap!  It is not like you can just stop into a Hallmark store.  I had never had to wrap a gift there before.  I realized that I had never seen any gift wrapping anywhere.  Turns out, it was very shiny paper that was rolled up into these small little tubes.  I realized that here at home all our wrapping paper is wrapped around a huge roll in the middle.  In Uganda, they have eliminated that inner cardboard roll.  Actually, that is brilliant as there is no paper waste!  

During the devotion time we used it to prepare the kid’s hearts for what the Dedication Day would mean.  Godfrey had already given each child a responsibility and they had their chores all lined out.  They were also doing some secret preparations that they didn’t want me to know about!  So after our devotions, the team ate supper and then headed out so the kids could continue their preparations for tomorrow.  

I can’t wait to share tomorrow’s update with you about all that God did on Dedication Day!!!!   Soak in this update first and take a deep breath...tomorrow’s update will be even more amazing! 

Filled with JOY! 
mama kisakye!