Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Last Night in Africa

July 12, 2011—Last Night in Africa

Today began with an early breakfast in the Paraa Safari Lodge. We were loaded up and at the ferry by 7:00 a.m. During our trip across the Nile River we observed the sun rise over the silvery water. Hippos slept near the ferry dock and a female waterbuck and two young grazed placidly near by. What a glorious day to start our journey home! Here are some of the events and blessings we encountered today.

Our greatest blessing has been the cool African weather. It may be hot in the daytime, but in the shade of the beautiful trees is it cool with a little breeze. Mornings were cool and nights were much like those on the plains of Texas. We slept last night with the patio door open and under the netting and a fan; we were just fine.

Valerie was concerned about the inordinate number of bats that roosted in the eaves of the open halls. Her concern was that Marc could not hear them and Glenna could not see them. Together, Marc and I, make only a single person!

Our trip to Kampala included shopping at a local market and a special visit to 6 kids from Lulwanda who are studying at a local secondary school. They have grown so much and are becoming such ladies and gentlemen. Ida spoke tonight of the places they came from, so little and so forlorn. Lulwanda and its partners have done a great work of God and seen a true miracle of God with these students. We supplied them with books and school supplies. We visited a while under a great tree on the grounds. Bonita had the very special privilege of meeting face to face a child she sponsors.

Bonita was thrilled to finally be able to meet a beautiful young lady she sponsors at the St. Marks Secondary School in Kampala. What an awesome school it is and God is doing a wonderful work in those young lives.

Gay’s final word for the day is “It is well with my soul.”

Bouncing along today through Kampala in light to moderate rush hour traffic as only Kampala can have, made us appreciate the US interstate system.

Valerie said that she never dreamed of the squatty potties and the open showers, but she did find out that she really is a teacher.

Brodie told us of dreaming about the trip before. He said that he just knew he had seen and felt these places before.

Everyone wagged a shopping bag back to the vans after the market. Friends never let friends shop alone! BUT we need to definitely rethink our packing. We are carrying home an elephant.

Marc still has that crick. I am still waking up with a jerk, Bonita.

Charles and Kathy did grandbaby shopping.

Kathie H. also bought goodies for grandchildren.

Derrick tried to enroll Brodie in the St. Marks School as we visited there. Brodie finally thought that might not be a bad idea to stay at Lulwanda or Covenant, but it was too late to turn back and he needed more clothes anyway. (Mama Ida though said he could stay with her.)

J.W. challenged us last night to look to the mission field as one of involvement not just giving money for someone else to go. Thanks to him for his example.

Mike and Mary are just marvelous. Mike is a rock and at least for today, Mary is a falling star. She took a spill at the school but recovered as always. Their singular heart and spirit for the Lord’s work here with these children makes all of us marvel of the wonderful grace of Jesus. All of us must meet him in faith and Mike and Mary live the faith for the people of Uganda and for us every day. Thank you to them.

To our prayer warriors out there, to Ida and our fearless drivers, Jimmy and Moses, to the people of Uganda….Goodnight until next time.

God be with us till we meet again.

Monday, July 11, 2011

And God Created

July 11, 2011—“and God created….”

Traveling over the world all of us have always loved every type of landscape and seascape from Alaska to the Pacific Ocean, to Canada, to Europe, and all over the United States, but never have I personally seen any more beautiful creation of God than a trip across the Ugandan plains resplendent with animal life and with a trip down the Nile River. We have seen today crocodiles, hippos, elephants, giraffes, monkeys, countless numbers of antelope and deer, large and small birds, and three lionesses resting after a meal. What a mighty God who created the universe, the earth, and all we see. The Nile River wanders over the plain, silvery and bright with a smooth glassy surface. We were amazed at the number of hippos sleeping in the water. Small crocs lay sunning on the shore and later we encountered larger ones that slid into the water as we motored down the river.

The quote of the day was from Brodie upon seeing elephants and giraffes, “This is way better than a zoo.” I would say this is definitely understated. There are no metal fences nor glass partitions between us and these animals. We stood up and peered out the windows of the van at three lions just feet away from us. They yawned, eyed us, and pretty much ignored us. We discovered later a kill remains that looked pretty fresh. Maybe that is why they ignored us.

Here is a rundown of the comments and events as we traveled…..

Kathie now has a picture count approaching several thousand.

Marc and Kathy are running her a close race. Charles and Kathy passed the camera

Marc also got very excited when he misunderstood the driver who said that he would have to pay a fine of 150.00 for not returning on time. Marc thought he said we had to pay or get out of the van. We were in the lion den at that time!

Brodie and Derrick want everyone to know that ALL IS PLUGGED and WELL.

J.W. spotted a drilling rig on the African horizon and wanted the driver to “STOP”, leave the animals, and go see the drilling rig. He was ready to abandon ship to go to the oil field.

Valerie said it was awesome.

Mike was the scout for his van acting as the lion lookout. He stood at the top window the whole time. It was a three-hour tour but luckily we did not get lost! The drivers did a great job getting us into position to get lots of great views and shots with the cameras.

Marc survived a whiplash incident. He got a massage to help see him through the trip home.
Gay is just glad she did not have to cook today.

Bonita wants to say she is just in awe of God’s majesty on this safari.

Beginning our long trek home starts tomorrow. We don’t look forward to the airplane ride but we do look forward to seeing you all soon.

Good Night.

God's Beauty

Sunday-July 10
God’s Beauty

The official blogger (Glenna) took the Sabbath off, so Mike is tonight’s blogger.

What a day we have had today. I have said every year, “there is nothing like having church in Uganda.” The Ugandan people know how to worship. Singing, dancing, praying, more singing and dancing, it is evident these people love the Lord. Lira church is different than any other Ugandan church I have attended in that it try’s to run on schedule. This is unheard of in most of Uganda. After singing and dancing for 45 minutes, the pastor divided the groups for Sunday School and said to be back for the sermon in 30 minutes. Sure enough, in 30 minutes he came out and said it was time to continue the service. The Sunday School time was great as always. Brodie lead the children in singing a Ugandan song he learned only 2 days ago. We continue to call him our child prodigy. Mary stepped in for the still ill Kathie Hartzog and had the children reenact Moses crossing the Red Sea with the children acting like Moses, the Hebrews and the Red Sea. It was wonderful. Valerie and Kathy I. took the other half and taught another story. Marc and J.W. taught the men while Glenna and Bonita taught the women. We then went back for more singing and Charles presenting the sermon. He did a wonderful job and the church was the quietest I had heard it in 2 days. (FBC Monahans will enjoy this tidbit: even in Uganda, J.W. still falls asleep during Charles’ sermon)

After a quick (in Ugandan time) lunch, we left and headed to Murchison Falls National Park where we will spend a day observing God’s magnificent beauty. We traveled from what reminded me of the Texas Hill Country into beautiful plains. Words cannot explain the beauty we saw on our drive today. Upon entering the park we immediately saw antelope, hartebeast, wart hogs, giraffes and elephants. We arrived at our hotel to observe some much needed rest. Tomorrow we will take a boat ride on the Nile river and a guided safari ride to see more animals. This is a special treat for our team after a long hard week of ministering.

We thank you for your prayers for Kathy H. She is feeling much better and will be back to normal tomorrow. Gay also suffered some heat exhaustion and stayed back from church. She also is recovering. Tonight we ask for special prayer for Brodie. Seems he has gotten a bug, but has begun antibiotics. I will embaress him if I say what the Ugandan’s call his bug, so I will leave it at that.

Thank you for all your prayers. Bonita said today, it is evident our churches are praying for us because you can sense the Holy Spirit protecting us.

Until tomorrow, good night.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

New Ground

July 9, 2011—New Ground

(This update comes a day late due to no internet at our hotel in Lira)

Today we moved into a new area of Uganda to the northwest of Mbale. Lira is a city of several thousand. We made the four-hour trip across country, which was green with agriculture, forest, grassy pastures and tall trees. The country supports many small villages that have both huts and structures. Like a picture from a book, out-croppings of rock rise out of the fields like massive castles standing guard over the plains. The crops included casaba, sweet potato, maize (corn), banana groves, and groundnuts (peanuts) all staples of the diet. We bumped along for most of the trip as the highway system is either under construction, bumpy, not paved, or nonexistent.

We arrived at Lira about 2:00 and after a quick lunch we made the trip to the church to find several hundred people waiting, some for of the most of the day. We were immediately mobbed with many hugs and greetings, smiling mamas, loving bright eyed children, and servant hearted Godly men. We handed out dresses, shirts, tracks, and everything we brought even the empty bags were collected. Conditions were hot and crowded with people pushing each other aside to get the supplies. We also brought food, a most needed resource. Each family from the church got 2 cups of rice and 2 cups of beans that may not sound like a lot to us but these folks are very needy. We also had a time of greeting and fellowship. We arrived back at our lodgings hot, tired, and sweaty but so enriched by the love and warmth of the people we met.

On a serious note, please pray for our team. Tomorrow we will minister in the worship and Sunday school time at the Lira church. Please pray that we will be able to overcome the language barrier. Pray that we are an example of Jesus love. Pray that our words and our thoughts will be totally centered on him. Kathie Hartzog not only hurt her back on Monday but she is ill tonight with a bug. We pray that God will heal her for the services tomorrow. Please pray for her healing.

We close tonight humbled by the sights we have seen. The outpouring of God’s love moves us to tears as God continues to show us how much He loves us through these humble people who are waiting to hear the Good News.

Good Night.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Last Day At Lulwanda

July 8, 2011—Last Day at Lulwanda Children’s Home and Lulwanda Primary School

Our time has gone so fast and our blessings are multiplied beyond our wildest dreams. We are meeting tonight at the hotel for the final time here in Mbale. Here is a run-down of the very full day’s events.

Mike, Marc, JW, Derrick, and Brodie spent the morning moving the race track so that more students could see. All the boys had cars ready to go although some suffered wreckage just like at NASCAR. Wheels often came off and the cars came to a wobbly finish at the bottom of the track. The crowd control was a major concern that prompted the move to a more suitable location. A metal bookcase from the container acted as the starting line with a fifty five-gallon barrel supporting the middle of the track. Rough sawn boards supported the track that was made out of PVC that Mike ordered for the occasion.

The race took place as the last event of the day so it was warm. All the students observed but the boys were most involved. The race pitted 2 boys against each other with time and distance both recorded. Needless to say the competition was fierce and the winner was Sisto from P3. Congratulations to Sisto.

Gay continued to create the culinary delights making s’mores. As I stated last night cooking in the home’s kitchen is not like the standard well-equipped kitchens of America. She spent part of the day making a list for the kitchen shower we are planning. Nut grinders, wooden spoons, large utensils and pans not the size of washtubs are on the list along with cup towels, dishcloths, and scouring pads. There was a volcano of marshmallow cream oozing out of the jars and lots of sticky fingers. She left the home this afternoon with instructions that the kids were to eat the dessert tonight. Mission accomplished.

Kathie Hartzog made a million steps this week. She also made a million pictures. We hope to benefit from her expertise with that camera. I personally saw a picture she took of a beautiful African sunset that will be wonderful framed!

Kathy Inman and Bonita did a beautiful job of setting up the Teacher Appreciation Tea for the Lulwanda staff. The tables were covered with colorful cloths and had paper flower centerpieces. We presented gift bags with all the goodies that all teachers I have ever met like to have. Of all the items we brought, the staff and teachers were most appreciative of the Bibles that we included in the gift bag.

Charles completed the weeks Bible study and devotion with the staff and the students. We experienced such joy to see adults and children alike taking time in the day to stop and listen to the still small voice of God.

Valerie, Kathy, and Bonita also set up the library as a clothing store for both the boys and the girls. We gave out many dresses made by the wonderful seamstresses across the state of Texas and throughout the nation. The boys benefitted from the projects completed by the sewing lab of the Monahans High School. They completed over 150 dresses and shorts for the children at Lulwanda and Lira. They also sent a scrape book with pictures that we were able to show the children.

This year we also brought dresses for the wonderful house mamas, cooks, laundry ladies, and other staff members who are such a support for the children of the home. They were so excited that they broke into dance and tribal yells laughing and twirling around in the yard. What a joy that lies down in our hearts tonight for the joy that is in theirs, for the kisses and the expressions of “thank you” whispered close in our ears.

Tomorrow we leave for Lira secure in the knowledge that we have given a small portion back to the Lord who has given everything for us. Pray as we minister to the church there and to its members. Pray as we seek to do God’s will always.

If you would like to sponsor a child at the Lulwanda home, please go to the Grace International website at ugandaorphans.org to get information concerning this need. Each child needs about 4 sponsors in a year who contribute monthly to the daily upkeep of these precious children.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Teacher Conference Ending

July 7, 2011—Teacher Conference Ending

Today ended our three-day teacher conference. What a joy and blessing to have been a part of this effort to both facilitate the learning of teachers and to share the joy of the full cup of blessings provided to us by God. Our whole theme, A Cup of Cold Water, was to bring inspiration to the teachers. We tried to bring them a blessing of joy in teaching, power in their gifts to teach, and the realization that we all must come as babes to faith in Jesus Christ. Kathie Hartzog, Mary and I breathed a sigh of relief at the end but also hate that there was just not enough hours and minutes to cover more material. The teachers were so hungry for the ideas and material we shared.

Events of the day included a trial run of the derby cars that all the boys and men have worked on all week. It appears that the track was a little uneven and one lane favored winners while the other had an extra hump that slowed down the car on it. I cried foul and declared that the track was substandard. I was informed tonight that thee track had been re-engineered. We shall see tomorrow when the real race trials are run. I do not believe who was more into this, the boys or the men helping. We also came to know that if you do not show up at a van, you might have to ride into town with the headmaster who takes every pothole on the road.

Gay continues to create culinary feats of magic. Today it was peanut butter cookies and she baked 8 pans of cookies for 3 hours. Her word to us is that they rolled and rolled, and rolled cookies and cooked, and cooked, and cooked. Gay has decided that we need to have a kitchen shower for the home especially if she is going to continue to cook there. She is so brave that tomorrow she is going to make s’mores and Valerie will assist her. Stay tuned tomorrow for a report of this sticky little effort!

Valerie had a breakthrough with her girls group (P5 and 6). She let them take her and Bonita on a tour around the home grounds. They talked and talked eagerly while they showed her the pigs, the chickens, the cows and the goats. They were a little worried that the girls were going to open the gates and really visit in the pens. Kind of messy.

Brodie continues to be our “child prodigy” as he is being featured in video footage taken by Jerrod who works with the children at the home and makes super videos featuring the Lulwanda Home and the visitors who come here. He has been so good to help the kids and play for the daily devotional time. What a neat experience for a young man. Applause, applause!

Bonita is our laugh for the day winner. This morning I remarked that I had a little crick in my neck. She asked if I slept with a jerk. Marc was duly offended and those of us at breakfast had a great laugh. She and Valerie are quite a team and no one puts anything over on them. Val has taken JW’s salt consumption issue to heart and continually watches him at every meal.

Kathy Inman keeps reading those big books!!!

Home devotional time each day has been a great experience for both the home and the staff including our team who get attend.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader?

July 6, 2011—Happy Birthday, Marc Thomas Applewhite

Since I am the official blogger for this expedition, I get to say Happy Birthday to my precious grandson, Marc. He is one year old today and I hope he will understand why his MamaG and Big Marc missed this milestone in his life. We will be home soon.

This was a wonderful teaching and learning day. We are tired as we arrive for supper, but we are all encouraged by the positive response of the teachers at our conference and all of the students and staff who worked so hard today. It is such a pleasure to be able to share the heart of the Lord with teachers in a meeting. It is such a pleasure to hear the voices raised in praise to God. It is so glorious to read the scripture together. Praise God.

Our work with the students today was marked by a turn around from yesterday. As with all children, these are no different. They will try you, test you, and see just how far they can go but such is the world of children and their education. You just love and continue to work with them. Today they were much more settled and ready to listen. Just suffice it to say that the world is much smoother when the administration has an assembly to correct the issues.

Our Global Journey group left today for their next assignment. We pray that God will continue to bless their ministry. They are remarkable young people in this 2 month commitment to travel and become involved in their world as God leads them.

With the increased number of Lulwanda Primary School students, we are sometimes short-handed but we will make tomorrow work with the staff we have. We always are reminded that Jesus alone changed the world and He is with us all the time. He knows our needs before we know them, and He has gone before us preparing the way.

Today we presented the staff new Bibles from the First Baptist Church of Monahans by way of JW and Jennie Thrasher. What a blessing to be able to share the Word of God with these dedicated folks. We will also share Bibles with teachers. We never know how God will use this conference so that the Word will be spread across Uganda.

As we close tonight, we realize that God will work and continue to work both while we are here and when we leave. Like Paul and Silas, we come for a while, leave, and pray continually for the grace and peace of God to be share forever here.

Written by Mike:
Have you seen the show or commercial for the show “Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader?” Today, I learned I was not smarter than some of my 5th graders. While working on our cars (I have 5th and 6th graders) I was showing them how to attach the wheels. While I thought you were to hammer the nails (axles) into the wood, several of the boys figured out the correct, and easier, way to attach the wheels. I don’t know why I didn’t figure it out, but they saved us all a lot of time. I continue to be amazed by the ingenuity of these children.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Teacher Conference

July 5, 2011 Teacher Conference, First Day—New Day, New Challenges

Today we had a totally new experience at Lulwanda. The school hosted its first teacher’s conference. We enrolled over 50 teachers from Lulwanda and surrounding schools. We were amazed at the blessing of being able to have the chance to witness the goodness of God through the faces of these teachers. They arrived in the morning ready to listen and learn different and new ways of teaching. Kathie Hartzog taught the nursery school teachers. Mary Thrasher taught the P1 (first grade)-P3 (third grade) teachers. I taught P4-P7 teachers. The rest of the staff took the Lulwanda children to make crafts, to sew, to cook, and to make small race cars for a derby event later in the week. They also taught health classes and worked in the different classes.

What dedicated people (Marc, Kathy, Charles, Derrick, Brodie, Valerie, Bonita, Gay, Mike and J.W.) they are to have worked all day keeping the hundred sixty-nine kids busy. Here are some of the more comical events of the day. J.W. says he had 150 in his group alone. He had third grade (P-3). Charles was locked in his classroom but was rescued by Favor our wonderful librarian. Valerie made necklaces with about all the girls and house mamas there were in the whole school. Marc’s group had paint all over of the place with multiple colors on one brush done at the whim of the student painting. Mike had to apologize to the house mamas for the paint being over the uniforms. Gay intended to organize the cooking of rice treats and wound up feeding rice treats to every student as they crawled all over her like ants. Brodie and Derrick broke up a fight among the first graders.

Our challenges are with the new students and the new mass of the community children who are now with us at the school. We know that God has a plan for us to influence these children, present the Gospel, and reach out to those who stand outside the fence. I always have to return in my mind to the students we watched outside the fence last year. Marc talked to me after his first trip about these children. While we love having the resources to reach out, we also have the growing pains that the challenges with getting the village students into the family structure already established at the Lulwanda home. Our efforts to present the gospel to these students and to all of the Lulwanda staff are most apparent through the staff and student devotional time that went very well. Charles is presenting this time to the Lulwanda staff and students daily.

Gay reminded us tonight of the need to be of one mind and one body. We looked at Romans 12, Paul’s great theological work written to the church, and we also know in our hearts that we are called to here with one mind and in one spirit to rejoice to those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. While this place has much cause to weep, it rejoices so that all of us rejoice with it.