Thursday, July 31, 2014

More life...

Since my last post, more life has happened. Namely, Akello, the girls' new half-sister. Their mother Alice gave birth about two weeks ago to a healthy (as far as we know) little girl. The girls' are delighted by their new baby sister and want to visit Alice every possible chance. Thankfully, we have a good relationship with Alice and mutual respect for one another. I have a feeling that we'll be seeing more of this little girl in the future. 
 This is Alice's house near Kaabong town.

We haven't taken a photo of our house in a while, so I decided to post one. We're quite comfortable for a family of four and whenever we leave Timu...we usually look forward to returning. That's a good thing!
 For most of July, it's been pouring rain in Timu. This is the sky on a normal day. It's kind of fun being at a higher elevation (on a ridge) and being able to see rain 360 degrees around us.
 Go ahead and laugh at what I'm going to tell you next. We know it's ridiculous. There is absolutely nothing happening in Timu on most days...so when a new vehicle drives up...everyone stops what they're doing to watch the vehicle move and to speculate on who it is and what good things they are bringing. Well, Saturday afternoon we heard a large vehicle moving along the road for hours. By 6pm (and with nothing to do for the evening), we decided to hop in our vehicle and go see what was happening on the road. As it turns out, two large road works machines were fixing and widening an old road that was near-by. So what do people do who've lived in the wilderness for 9 weeks with very little exposure to the outside world? They stop near the machinery and gawk for endless minutes. Actually, to be precise, we followed the machinery in our vehicle and watched them bulldoze trees and push dirt around. Country fun! It was actually a bit of reverse culture shock for those who were driving the machines. It's usually the Ugandans who stare down the foreigners, not the other way around.
Grassy path before road work.
Our Saturday night activity.
Watching from the roof-rack of the Patrol.
One fun activity I've done with the girls this week was to make slime. It was a science lesson to talk about solids and liquids. The recipe called for cornstarch and water. Now, I've used cornstarch a lot to thicken soups and sauces, but I never realized how cool it really is. We mixed 1 cup of cornstarch with 1/4-1/3 cup of water. What it creates is a weird combination. It's both a liquid and a solid. You pick up a solid in your hand and it immediately melts into a liquid. Try it...you'll be amazed. 
 I also had to include at least one photo of our Kaabong friends in this blog...for it is their friendship and hospitality which keep us sane during the long weeks in Timu. Every other weekend, we drive to Kaabong to hang out with these friends and experience a sense of community. They've now been around for 2.5 years and I can't emphasize enough how huge it is to have friends near-by. Thanks to Jeremy & Susan (and all of the Echelon team) for following God's leading to Kaabong and for all you do to support other missionaries here.
How am I on the blog again? We're in Kaabong and preparing to travel to Kampala tomorrow morning.  Praise God with us that we made it through a very difficult summer in Timu. Lots of death and hardship. Yet, without hardship, how can we carry our cross with Christ or be transformed by him? God never promised us a problem-free, comfortable life. In fact, should that even be our greatest heart's desire? Then why do we strive so hard to get rid of our problems and live as comfortably as possible? It just feels natural and intuitive, doesn't it? Yet when I have few problems, that is when I find myself turning my back on Father God the most and trying to be self-sufficient in life. So what I've found is...I need hardship. And one of my personal goals is to learn to turn to Father God in good times and bad.

2 Cor. 4:8-12 says "We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you."

Paul makes it sound like we should expect hardship...and the twist is...he even makes it sound appealing. For if we are given over to hardship (death)...then the life of Christ will also be revealed. And is there any greater calling in the Christian life than this? My searching heart has not found one. So my prayer is that...the death of the past few months would also lead to new life. I probably won't even see that new life emerging, but I can trust that God is at work through my trials.

One tangible result of our trials this summer is that Terrill has just finished revising his 740 pg. grammar of the Ik language for his PhD program. It's been a long time in coming and I'm breathing a sigh of relief as this season is coming to a close. Because for some stupid reason...my flesh thinks that the next season of life will be more 'comfortable'. ;-) I'm almost scared to ask God, "What's next?" Maybe the key is not about the running to/from hardships, but about the attitude with which we face them.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Another week in Timu

Someone pinch me (gonna have to be Terrill) because I'm on the blog again. Don't know how this happened...but I won't look a gift horse in the mouth. And since I'm on the blog, I wanted to update with a few more photos from the month. It's been an extraordinarily topsy turvy few weeks for us. 

For one thing, we had a visit with the girls' mom, Alice. She is a sweet lady of about 28 yrs who is 8 1/2 months pregnant right now. Although she has a chronic disease, she is glowing with pregnancy, which was nice to see. We take the girls to visit Alice every other month. She is presently living in Kaabong to be near to the hospital for the delivery of her new baby. Lemu used to have a hard time seeing Alice because it would bring up old memories and make her weepy for days (understandably) but she is getting stronger and this visit was the best one yet. No tears. We're trying to help her appreciate every moment she has with Alice and not to cry over what she's lost, but be thankful for what she has (both visits with Alice and a new family). 
During this visit with Alice, we also met her younger sister, Amina. We've now met all three of Alice's sisters and the girls are familiar with their maternal aunties.
Mamas Amber & Alice
Enjoying bfast porridge on the swings...it's the little things in life.
I've been having trouble with bees lately. They swarm my avocado seeds that sit on the ledge near my sink, looking for a water source. It wouldn't be such a problem but they come in numbers and bother me while I work. Alas, the seeds had to be moved.
The girls and I planted flowers in a small garden in order to attract butterflies. It worked!
A snail Terrill found on a morning walk.
It started raining this week, but before then, this is how the ground looked in some places.
Produce I brought from Kaabong. Thank the good Lord for the fruits of the earth. Without them, we would be surviving on dry goods. 
An evening fireside chat with daddy.
 Doing preschool activities together. The girls are learning to recognize letters and sound them out.
Playing outside with friends near our firepit. What you don't realize is that they are 'playing church'. The boy on the bike is the pastor's son and he is directing the choir (Lemu in the dress and two other boys). I actually have a video of them singing church songs out there. Janet is the 'mother hen' in the audience who is caring for a baby (a child of our house helper).
 We visited our friend's house in Kaabong and they have a piano. The girls begged to play it, so we sat down and felt the keys. This is a first for them and both were very interested in pianos all weekend after that.
 A wonderful thing happened this week and a sad thing happened. I'll start out with the positive story. The Ik man who had been missing from a hospital (in Matany) where we sent him...has been found. He had abandoned his 10-yr old son at the hospital and was supposedly running away from the police (according to him). Somehow they had gotten a tip that he was a thief and they were investigating him. So he started walking north and got to Kotido (two and a half hours south of Timu). In Kotido he was captured by some Karamojongs and beaten for being an unknown person in their region. People in Karamoja are generally not trustworthy of people from other areas in Karamoja (there are 10 sub-tribes that live in the whole of Karamoja). After a few days, the men handed Teko (our friend) over to some soldiers who supposedly beat the man and kept him in their barracks for two weeks. Then they handed the man over to the police who released the man because nobody was bringing charges against him. So the man is still in Kotido after several weeks and tries to make his way north again. Except, early-onset dementia takes over and he walks east first, getting lost. He is lost like this for several more days before finally making his way to Timu, haggard and hungry. But praise God, the man is alive and home. He has not entered his village yet because the culture dictates that a goat must be sacrificed first. They had done burial rites over the man just last week and were 'forgetting him'. In order to remember him again, they must kill another goat and do more rituals. Until then, the man is staying with a relative not far from home. He has declared that he WILL NOT leave Timu again. And I've instructed the family that they need to watch this man (50-something) at all times because of his tendency to get lost.

Now for my sad news. My very sweet, very dear grandma died. She was 80 yrs old with many health problems. It was a cancer in the stomach that eventually took her to an eternal home. Grandma Donna (in the pink on the right) went quickly after the cancer diagnosis. She was blessed to be surrounded by family before she left...and to die at peace, without pain, in the arms of my grandpa. I was blessed to speak with her on the phone three days before she passed. It was a precious time of saying good-bye and expressing our love. Oh, but the difficulty of losing a loved one while 8000 miles away. I couldn't give her one more hug...smell her sweetness...feel her wrinkly cheek...squeeze her hand...I just didn't have that physical closure. And although I know I'll meet her again on the other side of eternity, it's so hard to let them go on this side. My mom reminds me that each of us in the family carries pieces of grandma with us and she lives on through us. This is true and I want to cherish both the memories of her and the things she's given me. Please pray for my family as we mourn a beloved 'family stone'.

Monday, July 7, 2014

News long-overdue from Timu

Am I actually on the blog? Is this really happening? Believe me when I tell you it's taken me no less than five weeks to get on this blog and post. Chalk it up to especially terrible internet. Maybe this will encourage those of you who don't like waiting for online pages to load.

I've loaded a bunch of pictures because we haven't blogged in so long and I simply can't eliminate our 'happenings' from May.

Terrill's brother (Chad) and sister (Laura) came for a visit. It was a delightful, encouraging time. We picked them up and took them to Timu for a week, only to return south a week later in order to have our court hearing for the legal guardianship. The time together was full of chai and chatting. They glimpsed our life and we were updated on theirs. Below we are making a nightly visit to our neighbors. The girls were immediately enthralled by their new aunt and uncle and pleased for any/all attention.
Chewing grass with Uncle Chad
A sad day of farewells before they flew home.

Before we left Kampala, we took the girls swimming at one of our favorite playgrounds 'Freedom City'. I just had to include this photo because Lemu (tiny girl in pink) thought she could pull that big inner-tube to the rail. What she didn't realize was that the rope was tied to the rail and she was pulling on the rail instead of the inner-tube. Where is Janet? Inside the inner-tube. It looked like fun and my friend & I lamented that we didn't have these kind of playgrounds when we were growing up in the 80's. 
On the road-trip home. Our new tradition is to buy a pizza the night before a trip and eat it for lunch the next day on the dusty road. Those of you who have been through Karamoja know that there are no restaurants or cafes to dine in along the way. And my girls' favorite food is currently...pizza. 
A view of our house on the road to Timu (cream building in center).
One of Terrill's first chores was to put up a new rope swing for the girls. They love to climb, so he put knots into the rope that would allow them to climb up to the branch. They...and all their friends...love it.
Another chore was to cut Lemu's hair. She does not like for anyone to 'do' her hair, whether braiding or dreading. I can't blame her because I have a sensitive head myself. So, we keep cutting her hair short. This time, however, we decided to mix it up again and give her a Mu-Hawk.
The girls are both fascinated with grasshoppers. Janet is usually the brave one, but Lemu will not be outdone by her sister and decided to let a walking-stick crawl all over her head (it's by her ear in the pic).
 Back in Timu, the girls and I headed back to the kitchen. I'm amazed and thankful by their good palates, good sense of smell, and helpfulness when in the kitchen. I think they'll turn out to be good cooks one day. It's so surprising because they come from a culture of bland foods (think cornmeal mush and beans with no seasonings...salt at the most...twice a day...every day). Maybe that is why they appreciate spice and flavors. Below, Lemu is rolling out chapatis for me.
Being helpful by doing afternoon dishes. They enjoy any opportunity to get wet. 
One of our new cooking ventures is to make pita bread to go with our weekly hummus....the girls second favorite food next to pizza. I know it's unconventional to only eat hummus and pita for dinner...but hey...we live in Timu, which is unconventional in itself. 
Head-gear fun
Rough-housing with daddy
 Okay, the above picture is me removing a jigger from Janet's toe. What's a jigger? A sand flea that bores into the skin of your hands and feet. They eat away the flesh wherever they bore in and they start producing eggs, which they drop into the sand while still in your foot. The eggs hatch in the sand and become more fleas that reinfect and bore into more places in your feet. The scary thing for me...jiggers have come to our compound. We took precautions and made the sandbox off-limits for a number of days. Terrill sprayed. We wore shoes. And thankfully, we haven't found any more jiggers in our feet. But, our neighbors and friends still have tons of jiggers and keep coming to me for help. One day I worked on an elderly woman for four hours. I worked on three toes and removed around 100 jiggers (a white sack with a black body inside). She had seven more toes full of jiggers. After that, I decided the Ik would need to pull their jiggers out on their own time. Now I hand out safety pins and vaseline. The vaseline (when put on top of the jigger) is supposed to suffocate and kill the jigger. Then the person can pull the jigger out. It is said that some people in Kaabong district have died of jiggers. They got so many that their limbs eventually got gangrene and they died of a blood infection. I believe it's currently under control, but it's odd how such a tiny thing could cause havoc in people's lives. Pulling out jiggers below too.
 We've had a very sad month of June, which Terrill wrote about in our previous post. Several friends have died, two of which had AIDS. One man who died was young and educated. He knew he should take his medicine, which could extend his life by decades, but he was too ashamed to be seen at the HIV clinic. There is still a stigma here surrounding AIDS and people do treat you differently when they know you're infected. So out of shame, even the educated do not take life-saving medication. This really upsets me and I wasn't about to let it go. For one thing, I started talking about AIDS with anybody who would listen. I warned parents to talk with their teenagers (who are promiscuous). I warned teenagers to stay away from soldiers and prostitution. I warned men not to take women who had been with other men and were not yet tested for HIV. I asked the pastor if I could share in church with both the married couples and the youth. And I encouraged people to stop 'keeping quiet' about AIDS. I'm determined not to let it be a silent killer. Have my efforts paid off? There are glimpses of hope. Last Friday an old man showed up at my house asking to be taken to Kaabong for an HIV test for his wife who had left him for a number of months. I was encouraged. He was trying to prevent the spread of HIV. He was conscientious. One thing the Ik have asked of me is that I would carry the HIV tests myself. There are some really simple tests I can do and it would ensure a measure of privacy on their part. They would not have to be seen at the HIV clinic.

Below, Terrill stands beside the grave of our friend, Lopuwa Paul. He was one of Terrill's early language helpers.
This was another funeral we attended for Janet & Lemu's paternal auntie. She also died of AIDS. She & her husband had been unfaithful to each other at some point and both had contracted AIDS from different sources. There is something to be said of faithfulness to one's spouse. The wages of sin is death...
 At the funeral, the old women were cutting some hair off the head of the children (with a razor). Don't know what this ritual means, but it is performed....probably in protection of the child against evil spirits.
 A glimpse of the mourning hut (straight-ahead with someone going through the door). The widow of the deceased must stay in this make-shift hut for a week of mourning. Thankfully, she is usually attended to well by the family.
Speaking about HIV/AIDS at the church. Visual aids seem to help most with comprehension. 
 Below is our front yard. We keep waiting for rain but have only gotten sprinkles in the past few weeks. It looks green but it's been so dry lately and the crops are dying.
Our multi-racial family. Sometimes we feel like different flavors of ice cream...but put them all together...and you have a delicious mix (chocolate, caramel, vanilla).

We'll remain in Timu for the month of July. Life is mundane, but satisfying. Terrill is doing final revisions of the Ik grammar before submitting it to his advisor. I continue to see sick children and those with wounds. The girls are growing like weeds and eating more than I do. I would ask for your prayers as I fill out and apply for the girls' passports in the coming month. We pray the Lord would show us favor at the government offices. I would also ask your prayers for perseverance during this month as we're feeling the need for a break from the work, yet we cannot have that break yet. We need Almighty God to sustain us just a little longer.