Sunday, December 29, 2013

Blessings, Compassion, and Justice....and a little update too

I just feel really blessed, folks.  That is what I have been overwhelmed with for quite some time now…..blessing.  I am just surrounded by so many good people in my life…’s truly incredible.  I find it hard to keep up with everyone because I just have so much support.  So let me first start off by apologizing if you are reading this and I have either not gotten back to your email or have not reached out to you to email in the first place.  I am truly sorry.  Please be patient with me.  It is not because I am ignoring you….it is simply because I have very little time to sit down and type.  You are in my thoughts and prayers though.  So thanks for your patience and your love.  You have no idea what an impact it has made in my life and this journey. 

Speaking of good people in my life, have you all met the people I get to share this experience with?  I hope so.  They are awesome.  These girls are really some of the best out there.  I love them so much, and I don’t know what I would do without them.   They bless me so often with little things and just love me so well.  They have become so much more than teammates.  I count them as friends and sisters.  So thank you Bri, Nicky, and Latte.  I love you so much. 

Random things that I love about my team:

-          They all admit to saying “yo” and “also” and “dangit” because of me.  I am especially proud of the “yo” that I have incorporated into their language :] The dangit….not so much. 

-          I am also making them fat……:D (I eat chocolate a lot and then they follow in my wise footsteps.)

-          The truth is…….we are a bunch of goofs.  Some of us have taken longer to show the goofiness inside of us, but its there.  And I love it. 

-          Nicky is the master of terrible puns.  Actually, to be honest, she makes up some really good ones at times, but mostly, they are terrible. 

-          Briana is a crocheting wizard.  And she is going to teach me to become one as well…..I hope.  But seriously.  The girl is amazing with a hook and yarn.  And she reads while her hands are flying all around!  I don’t know how she does it.  Also, she randomly falls off the bed.  Haha too funny. 

-          Latte is always surprising me with her random bursts of spontaneity.  Yeah….random bursts of spontaneity.  Lol go figure.  But seriously.  She will random do the weirdest things… eat a whole clove of garlic because someone dared her to.  Lol Cracks me up. 

-          They push me to think and challenge me more than they realize.  Their hearts are so strong for the Lord.  I love hearing their different perspectives and what God is doing in their lives.  It is a good growing experience for myself. 

And there is another woman that I have just been blown away by with all the love I receive from her.  Although our taste in things doesn’t always agree, she knows me SO well.  Anytime I wear anything cute that gets me a compliment, my team knows that I am going to tell them that she has picked it out for me and bought it.  She is the woman that knows how I am going to react in practically every situation.  And she loves me even though we argue about little things.  She sacrifices so much time for me.  She really is just the best.  So Mom, I’m sorry that I say stupid things at times that hurt you.  You really do mean the world to me.  I don’t know what I would do without you.  Thanks for putting up with me and all my ridiculousness.  Your patience with me is incredible.  And just so the whole world knows, it is not my mother’s fault that I cooked my first egg at the age of 21.  That would be my stubborn hate of the kitchen that got me in that predicament.  I love you, Mom.  So much. 

Now, there are plenty more people that love me well, but these are the ones that just stick out to me right now.  And I just felt like these declarations of love needed to be shared :]

So this week was Christmas.  And you know… really didn’t feel much like it.  And you know what else?  I am glad that it didn’t.  For one, having it not really seem like Christmas made it easier to not be as homesick.  Christmas is a time spent with family.  It is a time of tradition, and if you know me, you know I am a big fan of traditions.  I love the fact that you can count on traditions and that they are loaded with memories.  So by not having this Christmasy feel all around, it was easier to not take part in those traditions and be around family.  Another reason that I am glad that it didn’t feel like Christmas is because it gave me an opportunity to step back and evaluate what I have made of Christmas in my life.  Actually, it was Tasha that brought this thought into my head.  She asked, “Does Christmas only feel like Christmas if we are surrounded by our traditions and family?  Have we made Christmas more about being together and having a good time than remembering that this is the day we celebrate the Savior of the world’s birth as a human?”  And it really made me think.  Do we really take in the significance of what Jesus did for us?  I don’t know.  It was just really good this Christmas to take a step back and really let that thought sink deep into me.  The humility of our Savior is beyond compare.  And His compassion for and us is ridiculous.  If we could all just embrace a sliver of His compassion, the world would be a completely different place.  In Matthew 14, it talks about how Jesus had just found out about his cousin John’s death.  I imagine from their relationship that Him and John were pretty good friends as well.  So He finds out that his good friend just got his head chopped off in a very unjust way, and He tries to go be by Himself, which makes perfect sense.  If I found out that my cousin’s head just got chopped off by a hateful woman, I would want to be alone for a very long time.  But then this crowd follows Him and gives Him no privacy.  And what does He do?  He has COMPASSION on them and starts healing their sick.  WHAT?!  I mean just put yourself in that situation for a second and ask yourself if that is how you would have reacted to a mob of people disturbing your mourning and alone time.  It just struck me very hard.  The Jman is ridiculously compassionate.   I want that for my own life. 

Also, another challenging thought that has been buzzing around in my head for the last couple of days.  Does my life lead justice to victory?  Is that what I am about?  In Matthew 12:20, it talks about Jesus leading justice to victory.  I love that!  That’s what I want to be about!  So does my life display that?  What are things that I can do to improve this?  Do I have compassion on the less fortunate?  Do I take time out of my day to listen to others and be there for the hurting?  Or do I spend my time thinking about things that I can do to be more comfortable?  What are the things that I spend money on?  Are they things for pleasure, or are they things to help better the lives of those around me?  Do I help break the chains of injustice for the poor and powerless?  Am I living as Isaiah 58 and 61 talk about, or do I live for the comforts of Kirsten?  Whew.  I feel like I could get up and preach a sermon right now.  I feel God tugging on my heart in this area especially, and it is making me very passionate about it.  I wanna live like He did.  I want to give of myself.  I don’t need as much as I think I do.  And I want to walk by faith on the path that leads justice to victory.  That has become my prayer….that I can lean on Him for my guidance as I seek to bring Hope and Justice in this world.  And I want to do it with uncontainable JOY!  Ok…..I’m stepping off of the soapbox for now. 

Wow.  I don’t really know how I got from the topic of Christmas to this rant on justice.  But I suppose that it is alright.  I will tell you guys a little bit about what our week looked like though.  It has been a pretty slow one since pretty much everything we have been doing up to this point has stopped due to the holidays.  But that is ok.  It has given us all time to get some things done and just enjoy each other’s company :]

On Monday the 23rd, we went to our friends Becca and Gaby’s house for breakfast.  They live in a little town outside of the city….very quaint.  It was delicious!  We had French toast and eggs and coffee.  YUM.  And, they had this cream cheese icing that I put on each of my pieces of French toast….oh my word.  Way too good.  And it was just really nice to talk to them and get to know them more.  Becca is from the states and Gaby is from Venezuela, and this was really the first time that we got to really interact with them.  Just very good.  Then later that night, we headed back up to the same area and helped our British friend Tonia play some games with her 3 students and then we went Christmas caroling to each of their families.  And we just had a really great night.  Because I am so good at winning at games, I ate a TON of chocolate (this was part of the game).  My team is a little bitter that I always seem to win at everything we play together, but they will get over it eventually.  (Just kidding.  But I really did win at this one.) And it was just a whole lot of fun.  I don’t know if I have talked about Tonia before, but she is the lady that puts on the intercambios that we go to.  So it was just a great day of seeing where she lives and hanging out with her for awhile. 

Christmas eve was a team day.  And it was wonderful.  Seriously, I love these girls so much, and together we had a fantastically chill day.  We slept in and then started the 2.5 hour process of making cinnamon rolls.  It took a little longer than we were anticipating.  Turns out that its really hard to make dough rise when it isn’t warm.  But it was all good.  They tasted really, really good with the icing especially.  They just weren’t as fluffy as normal.  And then we watched Elf, because it is the perfect movie to get you into the Christmas spirit :] and we made some homemade pizza for dinner.  Definitely my favorite thing that we have made so far.  We have decided that it will happen at least once a month.  MMMMMM.. And then we also watched The Rundown for some laughs and ended the night with exchanging gifts.  I got Oreos and milk, just like I did in Chile.  Pretty much the best gift ever.  And some more tokens of love from Nicky….she had my name.  It was just a lot of fun.  So thankful for them. 

And Christmas day was spent at Mr. P and Mrs. J’s house.  We were there for 13 hours, and it was just great.  Basically, we ate delicious food all day long……seriously.  We had little meat and cheese slices with olives and pomegranates for tapas.  Then Mrs. J had ham, cheesy scalloped potatoes, sweet potato casserole, salad, peas, and bread for us to dive into.  Then throughout the night there were cookies that we had made earlier to eat and chocolates.  Then at night we had grilled cheese and soup!  WAY too much food, but o so scrumptious.  We also had a time of worship……singing and prayer.  It was so good.  And we just talked and had a good time with them.  They got us each a scarf, and we gave them their gifts as well.  I just love them a whole lot.  Great people who have so much to teach each of us. 

That is the most interesting stuff.  As you can see, its been very laid back this last week.  On Thursday, we had nothing going on and I was in my zebra onesy (yup, you guessed it.  Its ONEderful :] (Nicky actually came up with that pun…)) until 3 in the afternoon, just reading Leviticus.  I can let you all know how to perform a burnt offering correctly.  And if you want to know if your weird skin rash is making you unclean, I can check that out too :]  Riveting stuff I tell you.  But actually a lot more interesting than I thought it would be.  And it showed me that I will NEVER be able to understand our God completely.  He is SO big and SO creative.  Blows my mind. 

Also, as some of you know, in Chile we had a stove named Ben.  Seriously, we never referred to him as a stove; He was Ben, and he was terrible but we loved him.  Well now, the Spain team has Ralph.  They have these handy dandy heaters that they put under their tables with a long, thick table cloth hanging down to the floor.  You then lift up the said table cloth and drape it over your legs.  Then, you just let Ralph the Roaster do his thang.  He is wonderful.  We love when we have the opportunity to turn him on…….teehee.  And we have this magnificent little toaster oven thing.  Its just a small little guy, but he can make quite the fire inside.  His name is Melvin the Machine, and he has blessed us with some delicious treats recently, such as the previously mentioned cinnamon rolls and homemade pizza.  Just a note though: Do NOT place a laptop with the recipe you are trying to make on top of a working Melvin.  This is a terrible idea….

Ok.  This is again getting long.  But I have more thoughts.  I will post them next week, and take more time to write them out, versus furiously flying through my brain, trying to spit out all the thoughts in my head.  I would encourage you all to read the book Speaking Of Jesus by Carl Medearis though.  I am going to be talking about it in my next post.  It is SUCH a challenging book and filled with so much truth.  Points out a lot of things that Christians need to hear and take to heart.  I just thoroughly enjoyed it.  And I’d also like to share about where I feel that God is leading my heart, and what He has spoken to me throughout DTS.  I realized I never told you all about the really cool Angel story that I have from DTS, and it has been pretty significant in my life.  So I will start on that for next week, and leave you all with one last challenge.  Take this week and intentionally focus on walking in His compassion.  Keep your eyes peeled for opportunities and really pray about it.  And see what He does.  And when He comes through and you follow, you can tell me all about it via email :]

Thanks for reading and caring about my life.  Means a lot.  And thanks for all the emails and prayers.  We appreciate it so much.  Actually, I would really love if you would take some time to pray for Nicky’s dad, Nathan.  He has been in the hospital for the past two weeks, and it has been very serious and scary.  He had an infection in his bloodstream and brain and now he has fluid in his chest that is making it hard to breathe.  And the doctors can’t do a whole lot for him because his liver is basically failing.  So it’s just been really hard on all of us, but especially Nicky.  Pray for her and her family and for wisdom on our part in what to do and how to love and comfort best.  And you can continue to pray for our small acquaintances to grow into stronger friendships.  Thanks again and God bless!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Language, Insanity, and Wheely Bags

Hola amigos! I’m back again to tell you all of some of the things that we have done in the past week or so and to reflect on the things that the Jman has been showing me.  (I really enjoy referring to Jesus as the Jman for some reason, and all credit to this name goes to my girl Jeano.  Miss you, chica!  Tanto….)

So this week has been very good for us.  We have gotten into a bit of a routine I guess you could say….well… much as we can.  And we have just had some really neat time with people. 

We have started language classes, which is awesome!  Our classes started last Wednesday and are going until this Friday (the 20th) and go from 9-1030.  I am in a class with a very sweet Japanese girl named Lisa and our teacher’s name is Adela.  Adela is fantastic.  Basically, she has perfected the art of story-telling and is so funny.  We spend most of our class time listening to her stories about WHATEVER and EVERYTHING, and then we chime in and tell things about our own lives.  Then usually towards the end of the class time we do a little activity or exercise together to practice a verb tense or something.  I enjoy it a lot.  It’s very laid back, but I feel like I really am learning a lot since we talk a lot, which is what I need to be able to do with other people.  The other 3 girls are in a class by themselves with their teacher Ines.  It seems to be going well, from what I hear.  After Friday, Christmas vacation begins and goes until the 7th.  So our schedule is going to change a bit I believe.  But so far, so good. 

Also, as a team we have started going through Matthew.  Each week day, we read a chapter and one of us kind of leads a little discussion it.  I love it!  It is something we did as a team in Chile, and I was so pumped to do it again.  I love the different perspectives and points that come from each person as they share what really stood out to them from the chapter.  We are going to continue to do it through all of the Gospels.  I look forward to it each morning. 

Intercambios have begun!  On Wednesday nights (for the time being that is) we go to a bar (which are everywhere and is really just a small restaurant with a bar in it), and we pick something to drink.  We all really enjoy Mostos, which is just a white wine without the alcohol.  Then, with your drink, you are able to pick a tapa, which is like a snackish thing.  There are lots of options.  This week, all of us got Pinchitas (mini meet kabobs with bread and chips as sides).  Yummy.  So we pay like 2 Euros to get a drink that comes with a snack.  Why the United States hasn’t caught on to this brilliant idea is beyond me.  So anywho, we go and do this and just sit and talk with whoever shows up for the language exchange that night.  We mix English and Spanish and just learn about the people around us and help each other out with language.  It’s great, and last night’s was really great for me.  I met a very sweet woman named Paloma that was SO helpful with my Spanish.  I like her a lot and really hope we can continue to get to know each other.  She is a teacher at the University here, and all I can say is that she is definitely in the right field of work. 

Also, last Friday we went to our first youth group meeting.  It was awesome to put it plainly.  The group consists of Catholic youth and young married couples who just very evidently love Jesus.  I wish you could all come to it with us.  The worship was so heartfelt, and the people are so friendly.  We felt so welcomed.  I am very amped for the friendships that we are going to form there.  Please continue to keep us in your prayers with forming relationships and language learning. 

Just so many good things have happened this week.  Some random things that are not necessarily a part of our schedule (or are just random facts) that we got to enjoy this week were:

-          On Friday, we went to see The Hobbit in ENGLISH with some friends of ours.  So great!  (Opening weekend at a certain theatre here, movies show in their original language and then after that, they are ALL dubbed into Spanish).  We also ate some expensive, but yet DELICIOUS Ben and Jerry’s Peanut Butter ice cream.  WORTH IT. 

-          Saturday night we went to a production of the Messiah.  I have never been to an orchestra performance, and definitely never actually heard opera singing live before, but I must say I was very impressed.  The orchestra blew me away.  And they had choirs from all over the city come together and sing as a part of it.  It was incredible really.  I was blown away by the talent that God has granted some people and the hard work that they have put in over the years that I could enjoy.  Between the second and third parts, there was a “technical pause”, and I really had to go to the bathroom, so I went.  Turns out that after the performance has begun, you are not allowed to reenter.  That was a bit of a bummer, but I could hear the rest of it and got to take a few minutes looking over the city at night and thanking God for where He has brought me.  I am truly blessed.  And then I got to go back inside for the 10 minutes of clapping and the finale which was of course the Hallelujah chorus which was my favorite anyway :]

-          Monday night we got invited over to have merienda (tea time from like 5-8ish….sometime in there) at a couple from church’s house.  Their names are Oman and Patry and they were so sweet, and since this was our first invitation as just a team, it was an exceptionally special time.  I had apple cinnamon tea which is probably my all-time favorite kind, and they had sweets for us.  Then they asked each of us to tell them about ourselves and our testimonies, and we in turn got to hear theirs.  They are just a very cool couple who work with Campus Crusade here in Granada and have a huge heart for what the Jman is doing in the lives of young people. 

-          The lights that the city puts up for Christmas are so beautiful!  We walked around a couple of nights this week, and it was just so pretty.  That is really the only time it has actually felt like Christmas since we have been here.  Without the snow and cold, it just hasn’t really felt much like Christmastime.

-          We have also got to hang out with our landlord’s 19-year-old daughter a couple of times, and it has been really good.  She wants to learn English better, and she also helps us with Spanish.  Her name is Cristina as well, and she is so nice.  Her friendship is such a blessing, and we are all so thankful for it. 

-          Also, something random that I noticed this week was that pretty much all the kids here have rolley backpacks.  None of them actually wear the backpack…..they roll it like a suitcase.  Seriously, in the mornings it is so comical to see a mob of kids with their parents running to catch the bus with their wheely bags in tow.  I giggle to myself. 

-          Today is also the first day that it has rained since we have been here.  The sky has been SO blue pretty much every other day, but today is a sheet of white and a drizzle has been consistently falling all day. 

-          Embarrassing but slightly funny story.  So Briana and I have decided to do the workout Insanity while we are here.  We have been very serious about it, and as much as it sucks, I have been looking forward to doing it and feeling accomplished.  So Monday we started and did the fit test.  Then Tuesday was the beginning of the workouts.  If you don’t know what Insanity is, then just trust me when I say that it is insane.  I hate it and love it at the same time.  So anywho, the first workout is the Plyometric one, and it is TERRIBLE.  My least favorite.  It involves a ton of jumping and dumb stuff like that.  But we are doing it, and I am very determined to just crush this exercise.  We were sweating up a storm and yelling at Shawn T (the sort of host of the video) and it was great.  Suddenly, our doorbell rang, and immediately Briana said, “Oh boy.  I bet we are being too loud.” And all of the sudden, my heart dropped.  I hadn’t thought about it that we are on the 3rd floor and how obnoxious we must be to the people below us.  Sure enough, it was our downstairs neighbor asking us to stop making so much noise.  He was very nice about it, but it was obvious that he was annoyed.  OOPS.  I am going to apologize to him again, and then see if there isn’t a time when they are both at work and we can do the workouts.  Sometimes I just can’t believe how idiotic I can be though.  lol

So yeah.  Just some random information for you all.  Looking ahead, we plan to make cookies for some of our friends here on Saturday with Mrs. J.  Monday the 23rd we are going to go caroling with our British friend Tonia who is in charge of the intercambio we go to on Wednesday night.  Christmas Eve will be our team Christmas day doing fun festive things.  And then Christmas is going to be spent with Mr. P and Mrs. J for a nice dinner.  I am very excited. 

One thing that the Father has been showing me just in the short time that we have been here is that this time in Spain is not for ME.  It’s not about me experiencing all sorts of things and having a great time here.  What this is about is Love.  Love came.  Love died.  Love rose.  And Love is coming back again.  And right now, Love needs to be spread to the people on this earth.  I am a tool that can make that happen.  I need to just stay connected to that Love, receive It, let It permeate throughout everything in me, and then erupt It from myself onto others.  It’s not about me being comfortable; it’s about me putting myself out there in relationships with people here, learning patience, seeking His leading, and pr-ying for Love to enter into each person’s life.  That is my mission.  That is why I am here.  And that is why you are here too.  Be Love. 

Now, I didn’t say all that to act like it is going to be easy.  Yes, it’s simple, but it is a very hard thing to actually do.  He is growing it in me slowly, but I have barely passed the starting line. 

Also, I am reading through the whole Bible while we are here, and it has been SO interesting to read through Genesis and some of Exodus in just a couple of days.  Before, when I have read through these books, it has taken me a lot longer than just 3 days, and I feel like I did not pick up on as much that went on back in those days.  It’s really neat because Latte and Nicky are doing the same thing basically, and while we are reading, we all share what interesting or weird things went on back in the day.  Our God is so creative.  Just think about a plague of flies for a minute.  What is there was a million flies swarming around you right now.  It would be torture!  Up your nose… your ears.  Gross.  It just hit me how horrible all those plagues would be.  How did God even come up with that?  He is just so huge.  Blows me away. 

I’m very sorry.  This is getting very long, and I feel like I still have so much more that I want to write.  Blogging is a way to help me process stuff, if you haven’t been able to tell.  It’s also a way for me to look back and remember the good, hard, and funny things that have happened here.  So bear with me as this is very jumbled and rambley.  I will continue with more stuff next week, and hopefully I will have less explanations of things that we are doing and be able to focus more on what God has been laying on my heart.  Until then, prayers for relationships with newfound friends here would be great.  And just a continued heart of servanthood and love.  Thank you all so much for your support.  Have a great Christmas and remember to thank Him for all the blessings in your life! Hasta luego!

Monday, December 9, 2013

And the adventure rolls on...

Hola a todos!  Hemos llegado!  Y estoy muy emocionada por que Dios va a hacer aqui con nosotros :]

If you are confused about why I am writing in Spanish, then you probably haven’t heard much about my life recently, which is actually probably my fault.  I have done a horrific job of keeping up this blog like I said I would, and now I am off on a new adventure and haven’t posted a single thing about it so far.  So now I will fill you in.  I’M IN SPAIN!! 

Yup.  Spain.  Turns out that God is a very creative guy and He worked out my life to bring me back to the REACH program to lead the Spain team.  Through many twists and turns, He has brought me here with three amazing young women alongside me.  These ladies go by the names of Briana, Latasha, and Nicole, who I like to affectionately call Bri, Latte, and Nicky, respectively. 

Obviously since we are in Spain already, we have completed DTS.  I really regret not blogging at all during that time because it was truly incredible.  If you are reading this, then you probably know about my previous round with REACH.  It was great, and I am SO glad I did it, and it’s crazy to see the ways that God has used that to bring me to where I am today, but I am amazed by just how different this time through has been for me.  I can’t say that either DTS was better; they were both so good for different reasons.  This time through has been such a blessing for me.  To look back and see where I have come from the last time I was living at the RIC is so encouraging…..and motivating.  I am just so thankful to have been able to go through this program again.  It really is such a blessing, and I highly recommend it.  The things learned and the relationships formed are invaluable; I wouldn’t trade them for anything. 

But now, we are in Spain.  As I type this I am sitting in our lovely flat.  Seriously, we have been so blessed with God’s provisions in just the short time we’ve been here.  Our first full day here, which would have been on the 5th, we had so many God encounters in meeting our coordinator’s friends randomly.  (Also, I will be referring to our coordinators as P and J.)  Not only that, but the story of how P and J got this flat for us also screams of God’s cool plan.  I am just in awe of His perfect timing and provision.  We have it very nice here.  Our flat is extremely well furnished and in a good spot in the city.  We’ve actually begun to get around fairly easy already, which is so good.  When we got here, we just drew names to see who would be in which room.  Nicky is in a cute little room to herself, just down the hall (5 steps) from the rest of us.  Bri and I share a room, which we quickly made our own by moving the furniture, and then Latte’s room connects to ours.  We have two bathrooms, a laundryish type room, a big living room which doubles as a dining room, and a well-stocked kitchen.  Heating homes is a bit different here in Spain (as in it doesn’t really happen :]), but God has blessed us with beautiful warm weather these first few days of being here.  So good! 

I love how everyone walks here.  It’s really hard to find a person who is overweight.  It’s such a healthy culture.  People go hiking and exercising together for fun.  And everyone walks everywhere; I LOVE IT.  Sure, I realize I am in the honeymoon stage of being here, and someday I will hate the fact that I need to walk to the grocery store in the cold rain, but right now I love it, so I am going to soak up the gushiness.  There are little shops and restaurants and bars all around.  Our flat is a 10 minute walk from P and J’s, and I just really enjoy our neighborhood so far.  It’s a nice place to go grocery shopping and isn’t very far from the church we will be attending while we are here. 

The first full day we were here, P and J showed us around the city to see the sights and told us a lot about Granada’s history.  We also got to eat our first churros con chocolate and shwarmas.  I decided then and there that I would be just fine living here for 6 months.  DELICIOUS.  The next day P took us on a 5 hour hike to a little quaint town and then to a little mountain which we climbed to view some of Granada.  I realized just how out of shape I really am from that experience.  It was ridiculously hard to breathe as I struggled to trudge up this mountain.  Talk about motivation to get in shape.  But we made it, and it was beautiful.  We will definitely be going back there.  And just today, P and J took us on another hike up behind the Ahlambra.  From there, we could see some familiar buildings as the whole city was spread out before our eyes.  It was truly awesome.  We took bocadillos (sandwiches) and some fruit up with us to eat and then had a time of prayer for the city and what we will be doing there.  Just a really great experience. 

One cool experience that I want to make sure to put in here is our first grocery buying experience.  Now, I hate grocery shopping anyways and being in a different country with a different language on a budget and not really knowing what a good price for things is just adds to all the stress of it, so I really wasn’t looking forward to it.  So we walk inside the one store that we had been told to shop at for probably the cheapest stuff, and there were people EVERYWHERE.  You see, it was a holiday weekend, as Friday and Monday are special days for something…..I kinda forget what.  But going shopping on this Saturday was a crazy idea on my part.  Just so many people and we had no idea what we were doing.  It started off that we left our house and when we got outside I remembered that I forgot the list upstairs.  Then when we made it to the store, which is really just 2 minutes down the street, we realized we had forgotten our big plastic bags to carry all the groceries back home in.  And we didn’t know where anything was in the store so we got in SO many people’s way as we tried to find what we had come for.  But FINALLY, we got most of what we needed there…..that is all but the fruits and vegetables.  Here, you take a number to be helped to get your produce from behind the counter.  It is that way for things like bread and meat too.  I was ABSOLUTELY DREADING this process of asking for what we needed and trying to figure out just how much we wanted of each thing, especially since the mass of people waiting was so long.  But it had to be done.  So Nicky and I walked up to the machine and took a number…..71.  They were serving number 51 at the moment.  I was like…..O great.  We stood there for maybe 15 seconds when an older gentleman out of the blue just came up and handed me his ticket.  He said he didn’t need it anymore.  It was number 53!! Talk about a radical God that we serve!  So about 15 more seconds went by after I thanked the man and our number was called.  I started off by apologizing for my bad Spanish, and the girl quickly realized that I didn’t really know how this all worked.  I figured she would be annoyed since there were so many people around me waiting and everyone else was yelling there orders very quickly to whoever was helping them, but she was so helpful!  She was very patient with me as I tried to figure out what I wanted and then how much, and she helped finish my sentences while I asked for something.  I was seriously just blown away by her kindness.  And pretty soon everything we needed was accounted for and we were out of there.  I made sure to thank her again right before we left and she just smiled.  I know that God placed her there to help me out, and I am so grateful.  When we got home, I looked at the receipt and I realized that her name was on the bottom as the attendant who had helped me.  It was Cristina, and that is the name that I am going by here, as my real name is too hard to pronounce for most Spanish speaking people.  Just another cool fact to add to all the others.  I really hope that Cristina works there often so that I can go back and maybe build a small relationship with her as I buy fruit and veggies for us :]

Yup. God is so good.  And I can’t wait to see what all He has in store for us here.  We will be starting language classes on Wednesday (2 days).  We are working out the details of what it is gonna look like and how long classes will be tomorrow, so I can fill you all in on that more later.  That is going to be a lot of what we do in December.  Most of the activities that we would like to try and get involved with will reconvene after the holidays (the second week in January).  As we begin getting involved with more things, I will explain them so that you guys kind of get a feel for what we are going to be doing. 

That is a big oversight of our week so far.  It has been so cool to see the ways that God is already orchestrating everything over here.  Continued prayers for wisdom would be greatly appreciated.  We desire to follow where the Spirit is leading.  Pray for open doors and a heart of love on our part.  And thank you so much for reading this and following along with my journey here.  It means a lot, and I hope you all have a blessed day.  Love Jesus.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Africa and all its Awesome: Part 2- Stories

This post is going to be full of random stories and situations that I want to remember from my trip.  Some may be interesting and others just weird.  And it is all going to be very sporadic and in no particular order.  Here we go....

So one of the funniest little memories I have at the orphanage was on the first full day we were there.  We were cleaning out the first room to start painting it.  The walls were absolutely filthy; I don't really even know how to describe what color they were.  And there were plenty of creepy, crawly things all around.  I actually just got used to it by the end of the trip and didn't even think about it anymore.  But since this was our first day, I was pretty shocked at the size of their spiders in particular.  They were really flat but very big.  Like a meaty sort of spider, if you know what I mean.  We aren't talking daddy longlegs here.  These guys are thick.  So we are cleaning the walls as best as we can and I look up near the top of the wall and there was a huge one of these guys.  So of course, I had to get Kaley and Kristyn's attention to look at it as well.  All the kids giggled at us gawking over this massive bug.  The wall that it was one was open at the top.  In other words, it didn't touch the ceiling, it just cut the room in half.  Before I even knew what was going on, I saw a little head peaking over the wall from the other side.  Faibe, who I didn't know at the time, had climbed up onto the bunk bed in the other room and was now leaning over the wall, grinning at me.  And then, out of nowhere.....WHACK!  She just smacked the spider with her hand, the whole time just looking at me with the biggest smile.  Then she scampered down the other side, and all I could do was stare at the bloodied spot on the wall from the now VERY flat spider.  As she came into the room, still smiling, I was like, "That was awesome!" and gave her a huge high five.  It's funny for me to think that at the time I hardly knew the kid.  She is the most outgoing and brave girl I know.  At ten years old, she is much tougher and stronger than I am.  She is beautiful and carefree and the true definition of fearless.  I love her so much and miss her random hugs and gorgeous smile.  I'll always remember our first real encounter together....the day she saved me from the monstrous spider.

One of the most heartbreaking things I saw in Uganda was when we visited a rock quarry in Kampala.  It's hard to describe the scene and all its horribleness, but basically, its an area where huge chunks of rock are exploded out of the ground and cliffs and slowly but surely broken down into smaller boulders.  This process alone is VERY dangerous.  Many people die from being trapped under the falling rock.  It's horrible to listen to the stories.  Then, from these smaller rocks, gravel must be made.  And this is the part we witnessed all around.  Sitting on the top of sharp rock pieces about the size of fist (maybe a little smaller), women and children spend their entire day whacking away with their little hammers, turning these pieces into 4 or 5 smaller ones.  My description is just ruining this.  You just have to see it to understand.  Unfortunately I didn't take many pictures there.  Not only was it hard for me to see this, I didn't know if it was appropriate to pull out my snazzy camera and capture the suffering right in front of them.  You know what I mean?  I didn't want to appear unfeeling to their position.  But now I really wish I had taken more pictures to explain this better and open eyes.  Just take my word for it though.  It is awful.  All day long these women pound on these rocks, which is horrible for their arms and is terribly difficult.  The breath in the rock dust and it tears up their lungs.  And they do it all for not even $2 a day.  How is this even possible?  It just makes my heart ache.  Grace helps these women.  She gives them an alternative to their current position and situation.  And with the help of Greater Living Ministries, these women and girls are given a hope and future!  One girl we met is being sponsored and studying to become a doctor.  PRAISE JESUS!

My first experience in doing laundry was not very good.  We had to do it in our tiny bathroom at our hotel, and there was only one basin in the room.  I hadn't seen anyone do laundry up to this point so I had no idea what I was doing.  And of course, the pink skirt that I was washing bled like crazy.  How I didn't catch that the water was pink is beyond me.  Apparently I was just so tired that nothing was comprehending in my brain.  But I so smoothly placed the wet pink skirt on top of Kaley's nice white skirt.  After finishing up the other clothes and going to hang them on the handy dandy makeshift line I made (Jeano, you would be so proud!), I realized that Kaley's white skirt now had a distinct patch of pink on it.  Real cool, Kirsten.  Real cool.  So then in an attempt to make it still wearable, I set about to tie dye the entire skirt.  And although it didn't turn out quite as good as I had hoped, it worked.  It became the skirt we used for painting.  No big deal, except for the fact that it prolonged the laundry process that night by like 30 minutes.  Just super annoying.

The first day we were with the kids, they all got together and started singing and dancing for us.  I was so jealous of them.  They were all so good and had rhythm....yet each move was sort of unique for them.  Anywho.  Pastor Enook, who is 10 years old and wants to be a pastor when he grows up and therefore wants to be called "Pastor Enook", is one of Paul's sons.  Paul's sons are crazy.  So there is Nekesa, his daughter, who is 20.  Sarah, who is 18.  Moses, who is like 15.  Enook is around 10.  Abraham is like 8.  Daniel is 6.  Joshua is 4ish.  Joseph is 3.  And Leroy is just over 1.  Yeah.  LOTS OF BOYS.  So anyway, from Enook down, the boys are just kinda crazy and love the attention.  I have countless images in my head of funny things these boys did together.  So the kids are singing and dancing, and Enook and Daniel have this hip hop swag thing going on in their dancing.  It's so entertaining to watch.  And then, they got tired of it and just took a break beside me.  Out of nowhere, Pastor Enook tells me that Daniel is a man of God and that he has a word for me and wants to pray for me.  Daniel is just shyly smiling at me.  When he doesn't do anything, Enook tells Mama Janet, who is sitting beside me, what he was telling me in their language.  Then she smiled and urged Daniel to do it.  So he walks up to me, with that little shy smile (the kid is hardly ever shy at all), places his hand on my head, and just starts praying over me.  I loved it.  He is 6!  I love that God is just bursting from his seams at such a young age even.  I can't wait til I can lay my hand on his little head and pray for him someday.

So.  Blue hair.  Have ya had it before?  Well, I have.  And let me tell ya.  It's quite the adventure :]  And not at all what I had in mind.  Here's the explanation on all that....
At the orphanage, they don't have running water.  So this makes washing hair quite the challenge.  Most people there don't have hair really.  And a lot of them have braids weaved into their hair.  So I thought, YEAH!  Let's get our hair braided!  It'll make life so much easier.  And when I first told my plan to Nekesa, who knows how to do hair, she just laughed at me.  And Kaley.  And then she told other people in her language what we wanted to do, and they laughed at us too!  I don't know why it was so funny to them.  I think just because they can't really grow hair, they didn't understand why we would want to cover ours up.  But, in my head, no hair was going to be covered up.  But when they finally realized that we were in fact serious, she told us that we would need to get "extensions" because our hair was too soft and wouldn't hold the braids, which made sense to me.  So I thought I knew what she meant and what it was going to look like.  Anywho, we walked to the hair salon place, where I thought that Nekesa was going to go get the extensions for us to use, and then she would do our hair at the orphanage.  Oh, no no no.  Not at all what happened.  What we did end up doing was staying at the hair salon place (10 minute walk from the orphanage) where the head lady explained a little bit of her life to us, and then proceeded to basically just start doing my hair.  So, originally, I thought that I wanted to get purple strands braided into my hair, cuz that would just look sweet!  Like, nice blonde cornrows with a little bit of purple mixed in to spice it up.  Perfect, right?  Well, not really.  The hair salon place only had blue, blonde, and black extensions.  So, Kaley and I decided that I would get the blue and she would get the blonde, that way we both got a little bit of a different color in our lives.  So the head lady started on my hair without really even asking.  And pretty soon, she had two braids done, at which point I decided to take a peek at her work.  And boy oh boy, did my heart die a little when I looked at it.  You see.....the braids she had finished were blue.  Like.....all the way blue.  She decided to cover up all my normal hair with the fake blue hair. And this blue was like.....royal blue.  Like....I'm talking a very bright, easy-to-spot blue.  My first thought was, "OH MY WORD.  I look like an ALIEN!" And I started panicking inside a little.  But at this point, it was too late to go back.  Kaley tried to console me, but I wasn't fooled by her lies.  But I wasn't the only one they surprised with crazy hair.  The lady that started doing hers decided that she was going to start all the braids from the left side of her head and go across the whole thing.  She basically looked a little bit like she had an Egyptian helmet on or something.  But, I definitely took home the prize for most ridiculous head that week.  Fortunately, I did get them to give me strips of blonde amidst the blue, which is a common thing to do over there.....mixing two colors in your weave.  So, although it was very interesting, and I definitely didn't love it, it did get a little better.  Also, this process took 4 HOURS TO COMPLETE!  Craziness!!  So of course, in the middle of having our hair braided, it was time for lunch.  So, we had to walk the 10 minutes back to the orphanage to eat with half done hair.  As if we didn't get enough attention from Africans for being white, now we had ridiculous hair!  I feel like even blind people were staring at us the whole way, we stuck out so much.  And then, by the time it was finally finished, we both had a serious headache from having our head yanked for 4 hours, and our heads felt like they weighed 10 extra pounds with all that fake hair woven in.  The funny thing is that I am pretty sure they actually thought it looked cool.  I mean, they told us repeatedly that we looked "SO SMART!!" which means pretty over there, but I feel like they would tell us that regardless.  I do think that they really appreciated/respected the fact that we were getting into their culture.  .....A stranger passing by me did call me an Oompa Loompa though once.  That was a sad day.  It's never happened before.

So after getting our hair all did and stuff, we worked our updos for like.....a week.  It got SO itchy for me.  And I was CONVINCED I had lice.  GROSS.  So I asked Nekesa to show me how to take it out.  For some reason, I had in my head that it would take like 15 minutes and life would be back to normal again.  Who knows why I had this in my head since it did take 4 hours to put them in.  So taking them out took 1 hour itself.  CRAZY.  And that was with at least 2 people working on it at one time.  Kaley had 4 people working to take her braids out at one point.  But not only did it take longer than I was expecting, but I also was shocked at the amount of hair that I lost.  Seriously, it was shocking to me.  And most of you won't want to know or think about this pointless information but I'm going to post it anyway.  I literally would run my hand through my gross mane and pull out clumps of hair.  I was pretty distressed about it at the time.  But yeah.  It was just funny to me that even taking out my blueness was an experience.  Would I change anything looking back though?  No, I don't think so.  Will I ever let someone give me a blue head again?  No.  But the memories I have now are priceless.

Even though this post is way late and its been months since we left there.....3 months actually.......I still REALLY miss Uganda.  I mean, a lot.  Not just the people, but obviously especially the people.  I really love that country though.  I can't explain it.  You just have to experience it for yourself to understand I think.  I miss red dirt and jackfruit.  I miss the language and boda bodas.  I miss storytime and even broken paint rollers.  I miss it all.  Can't wait to do it again, hopefully for longer the next time though :]

Another part of Uganda was the many visits we took to the hospitals.  For some reason, Paul really thought we should go to the as much as possible.  It was so sad.  Seriously, we are so blessed here in America.  It drives me crazy.  They have NOTHING over there.  Their hospitals wouldn't even be worthy to treat animals here.  And I'm being so serious right now.  I know I am an exaggerator, but this time its true.  And if you want, I have pictures to prove it.  It is just so overwhelming.  The things I saw in those doors were.....I guess the only way I can describe it is that I will never know forget the people we saw in there.  Horrifying sights.  Malnutrition.  Despair.  Sickness.  Just everywhere.  After these trips, I just wanted to be alone.  That's how I deal with things.....I think.  And to think, I need to be alone.

There has never been a time when I needed to be alone like the time that I witnessed Eunice get operated on.  One morning, Eunice woke up in a lot of pain, and somehow, she developed a tumor in her armpit the size of a golfball.  I've never seen anything like it.  It just appeared overnight.  And it put her in a lot of pain.  She couldn't raise her arm at all without wincing.  And if you know anything about the mentality of Africans, its that pain is in your mind.  They are the people that deal and get by with grace.  They find a way.  And they take so much pain and suffering.  All of that to say, that her wincing means that it was big time pain she was dealing with.  So, as always, the first place they took her was the little shack down the street that they call a clinic.  As the "doctor" examined her, he couldn't even give her a shot in her arm because he couldn't find her vein.  He tried to make it pop up by tying a used powdered glove around her wrist.  I'm telling you, these people just don't have the resources.  Anywho, he gave her this shot to make the size of the tumor to go down so that removing it would be easier.  Supposedly, with like 4 shots, the tumor was supposed to shrink.  Yeah.  That didn't happen at all.  It was just very painful for her and nothing was happening.  So they decided they were going to operate on a Sunday.  I'm pretty sure the tumor appeared on Thursday morning.  So Sunday came and the madness began after church.

I've never been more horrified in all of my life.  First of all, it started out with Eunice screaming and crying to not have to go in today.  Mama Janet didn't really pay any attention to her and actually just kept ripping her arm up to show people the tumor.  Eunice would literally yelp out in pain.  And then she actually started running down the street in the opposite direction of the clinic and the boys had to go drag her back.  Mama Janet and the kids actually laughed at her.  Their culture just doesn't know mercy and compassion the way we do.  Pain is just a way of life and you buck up and deal.  And to them, Eunice was just being a baby, even though she had great reason to not want to go through what was about to happen.  When we had finally reached the clinic with a wailing, crying Eunice in tow, I was already at the point of extreme irritation and helplessness.  And it had just begun.

What happened next will never leave my brain.  I hate it.  I hate that there is so much injustice in the world.  And I don't even wanna go into too many details.  I'm never going to forget it, so basically recounting it is just so that other people can understand a wee bit of just how in need that place is.  Basically, without any numbing or pain medication or anesthetics, they proceeded to lay Eunice on the floor on a bamboo mat in a dirty back room with no lighting, had Mama Janet and Sanyu hold her arm up, and then, the doctor took a knife and sliced off her "tumor".  It was absolutely HORRIFYING.  The screams I heard can never be forgotten.  What I saw can never be erased.  And the worst part was, no one else seemed to be affected at all.  The other kids actually laughed and mocked her screams, and Mama Janet just seemed to be annoyed with all of her "unnecessary" commotion.  Now, I love them all to death, but I was just so angry at this point.  I was hurting for Eunice.  I wanted to be alone.  I was angry at America for having so much and doing so little for those in need.  I was confused with God for allowing this to happen.  And I was just a mess.  I don't know.  I still go through these emotions when I think about it too much.  I hate it.  I feel very helpless and hopeless.  But, all I know is that God is in control.  There is no doubt of that.  I just can't understand Him at times.  He may not be safe, but He is definitely good, and that is all I need to know.

Now, I know the last bit was pretty depressing.  The great news is that Eunice is excellent now!  It took a couple of days, but by the time we were ready to leave, she was herself again.  And for this, I am so grateful.  If you want to see strength, go to Africa.  The people there will show you what it is all about.  They are beasts.  And I miss them so much.

My memories from Uganda are many.  My facebook status that I posted when we were leaving pretty much sums it up.

"Love. It's a distinct dirt handprint on the back of a white tshirt from a "just because" hug from an amazing kiddo. It's laying under the stars, talking n learning the local language with beautiful girls. It's in all their singing n dancing. It's having my hair ripped out as 5 kids try braiding it at one time. It's what my heart oozes of for this wonderful country. N it's the exact reason I will be returning in the future. Uganda, you've turned my dream into a goal. See you again soon."

Yup.  That is what I still feel and believe to this day.  All I can do is trust that God's timing is perfect and He knows best.  He has my best interest in mind.  How can I argue with the Creator of the universe?  He orchestrates everything, and its perfect.  It's my job to be available to His leading and do the things He has placed in front of me at this moment.  Living in the moment and watching for where He is working and joining Him in that.....that's what I am trying to do right now.  And I plan to start sharing about what exactly I am doing right now very soon.  That might start next week....I hope.  But until then, I hope that you all are seeking out where the Spirit is working around you and joining Him in that work.  He is so good.  

I'm so thankful for my time in Uganda.  I wouldn't trade it for anything.  So, if you are reading this and are considering going somewhere far away, I highly recommend you look into it.  You will be blessed by it, I can promise you that.  Thanks for reading and God bless!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Africa and all its Awesome: Part 1- Schedule

Over a month.  That's how long it has been since I....well, we, meaning my sister Kaley and I.....left Uganda.  And I don't even know where to begin.  I haven't really been able to process the trip at all.  But I know there is just so much bundled up inside of me.  And as more things keep being added to the inside of me, the tension and stress builds.  And I just wanna remember my amazing trek to the land of my dreams and remind myself of all the things I learned there. goes.

I think I'll just start by kinda going over the whole journey.  This is mostly for me, so I can always look back and remember the general stuff too about the trip.  So yeah.  The schedule, although I do have a tendency to be long winded  :]

Travelling was pretty intense.  We flew out Thursday night from DC, which meant that on Wednesday morning, Kaley and I drove to Virginia and stayed at Leroy's house with my friend from REACH, Kristyn, who also happens to be Leroy's niece.  God's creativity astounds me.  Then, on Thursday, the dreadful waiting for our flight that evening began.  As a sidenote, I'd much rather leave a place in the morning.  If you leave at night, the whole day is wasted by either just wishing you had left already or dreading departing from the place you are leaving.  But, we finally left, and after around 30 hours of traveling time with very little sleep during and being up for much longer, WE MADE IT.  Sure, we only had 2 of our 8 suitcases when we landed, but after figuring out how to get the rest back later, we left the airport with Paul and John, two of the pastors under Greater Living Ministries (the ministry started by Leroy to which he is the President) that would be by our sides throughout the entire journey.  They are amazing men of faith and obedience.  Their lives are not only inspiring, they are downright compelling.  More on them later.  So we made our way to our hotel in Kampala and were on our way to sleep a little before 2 am.  Actually, I think the only reason I got any sleep that night was due to pure exhaustion.  Apparently on the weekends, Kampala likes to party in the streets until 4 or 5 am, and when the people party, they do it LOUD.  Blaring music pounded its way into our ears both days we stayed at this hotel.  Not the best sleep I have ever gotten, but not the worst either.  That was to come :] Anywho.  So many details.

The next day was a great one.  Just being in Africa made it great, honestly.  It has been the biggest dream of my life so far, so I was pretty ecstatic.  But that day, which would be Saturday, we got to meet Grace, aka a real life superwoman.  Her ministry, which is helped by Greater Living Ministries, is one that reaches out to widows and single moms.  Through her hard work and creativity, she thinks up and starts programs that provide skill sets for the women.  Whether it be through sewing things, growing and selling mushrooms, or making jewelry, these women are finding hope and a purpose for life.  And that purpose's name is Jesus.  With these new ways to provide for their families, the struggle each day grows weaker.  And Grace is a beast.  She is constantly thinking and planning, always with the other women in mind.  Her selfless love and passion for her work are so real.  Her faithfulness to the King is precious.  She is truly a warrior for the Kingdom.

Later on this day, we visited a rock quarry.  In my next post, I will be posting stories from the trip, which will better explain this place.  Just know that NO ONE should have to suffer the way these workers do.  To sum it up quickly, women (generally) pound rocks down into gravel using tiny hammers all day long.  And they do it all for less than $2 a day.  The sight makes me wish I could take back any complaint I have ever voiced before.  We are so blessed here.

After, we returned to the hotel, and Leroy, Kaley, and I payed $8 to get a full body massage.  Yup.  $8.  And it was WONDERFUL.  Money well spent if ya ask me.  Then, it was another horribleish night of trying to sleep with the music flooding through the walls.  Exhaustion helped.

We were originally only going to stay at the hotel in Kampala for one night, but due to the fact that our bags were missing, we stayed an extra night, after being told that they would arrive Sunday morning at 10.  Well, Sunday morning at 10 came and went and bags.  So, we went to church, which was our first experience with African worship.  There's just something about it....I'm convinced that if you are born in Africa, you are automatically gifted with rhythm.  EVERYONE there can dance and clap and drum all crazy to different beats.  It's insane, and I love it.  Also, African worship services are LONG.  Like, 4 hours is an average church service.  And they get so into the singing and dancing part of the service, and then its really hot and stuffy in the church, so generally you have a bunch of people falling asleep in the middle of it.  And sometimes, a lady with a stick comes around and pokes you until you wake up.  I found this to be extremely comical :]

So, after this church service, we waited for the bags until like 2 o'clock I think.  And we drove into town and picked them up on the sidewalk outside of the post office type thing.  This was exciting, except for the fact that we only got two of the suitcases.  And of course, they were Leroy and Kristyn's OTHER suitcases.  For some reason, Kaley's and mine took a trip to Dubai.  Why?  No idea.  But, that's what they did.  So, we headed off to Busia with 4 of the 8 suitcases.  It was a 5 hour drive from Kampala to Busia. which really isn't bad at all.  We hired a driver for the entire week to taxi us all around to the different locations and churches that Leroy would be preaching at throughout the week.  And the van was nice.  The backseat was basically a couch with thick, padded seats and the windows had curtains over them.  The back of the van even had two small ceiling windows that popped open.  At first I thought this was very cool.  Then I quickly realized that they were the exact opposite.  They were actually VERY hot.  The sun just beat down through them and the popping up of the windows did nothing for air circulation.  So, after a little while, I shut and covered them for us.  Not 30 seconds later, the driver glances back at us, realizes the windows are closed, and uses his fancy button in the front to open up the windows and pop em back open.  We laughed pretty hard at this, and he was absolutely clueless.  I shut them one more time and sure enough, he opened them again!  So finally, we got Leroy to explain to him that he was slowly killing us with the sun, and he agreed to stop opening them.  It was such a hot ride without the sun shining down on us anyway.  At one point I almost went crazy because we were getting no air flow.  But we survived.

So we get to the hotel that Leroy books every time he goes to Uganda, and wouldn't you know that since we were late, they gave our rooms away.  AWESOME.  We then started the hunt for another hotel, which proved to be way harder than I anticipated.  It took us about another hour to find one with two available rooms, and now looking back, it doesn't surprise me at all that this one had so many available rooms.  It was.....interesting.  There was a big bed in each room, so Leroy took one and us girls had the other.  That was an adventure.....three grown girls all in one bed.  I was lucky enough to score the middle of the bed......also awesome.  And the doors to our hotel rooms were very strange.  They were just metal sliding barn door types.  Weird, although they were painted orange which I liked.  But with them being metal, they basically magnified every sound that bounced off of them.  It was on this night that I got the worst night of sleep that I think I have ever gotten.  It was so loud with people talking and the TV down the hallway blaring.  I couldn't fall asleep for a long time, and when I finally did, I would wake up to some random louder noise or from being SOOOO hot in that bed.  Good times :]

The next morning went much better though.  We finally made it to the place I came for....the orphanage.  And although we could only be there for 20 minutes that day, it was AWESOME.  The kids ran beside our vehicle, laughing and yelling until we parked.  And when we opened the door, they crowded right up to it.  I couldn't even get out at first.  So many kids just trying to grab and touch me.  And all of them were saying "HOW ARE YOU?!!"  There are only so many times that I can say I am good or fine in a row (In Africa, the common response to "how are you" is "I am fine").  So we got a very short tour of the orphanage grounds that day while getting the privilege of being escorted by tons of incredible kids.  Immediately, I was right at home with them.  And the only explanation for it is God Himself.  He is so awesome.

We only stayed for a short time because we went to visit Pastor John's church for the first time.  I don't know how we managed to get our big ol' van down the footpath that led to his church, but we did somehow.  It was very eye opening.  Being way back in the fields, the houses and buildings were all made out of mud.  The kids were singing and dancing for us when we got there, and we were shown to our places of honor.  It felt weird to me.  I don't like being treated as if we deserve better than the people we came to see, but its just what they do.  It was a lot of fun though.  After Leroy spoke, they were so happy that they gave us a chicken to take home with us.  We, of course, gave it to Paul to have.  The funniest thing was watching Kaley freak out the whole way home because she is terrified of chickens.

That night, at the hotel, I tried to do some laundry since we still didn't have our suitcases.  Thinking it would only take me a few minutes since it was just a few items to wash, I was expecting to be in bed soon after I started, since I was exhausted.  No, no, no.  It took me FOREVER.  In a story that will come in the next post, I was just very stupid, but finally, I was able to sleep.

Tuesday morning I had devotions for us, basically talking about the importance of getting into the Word.  It was mainly a good reminder topic for myself.  Paul and John were supposed to pick us up at 9, and since we were done with breakfast at 8, we all got our books and started reading out in the yard while we waited.  9 o'clock came and went, which wasn't very shocking.  It was Africa and time doesn't mean a whole lot there.  But when 11 o'clock came and we still hadn't heard from them, annoyance and worry settled in.  Finally, Leroy got a phone call from Pastor John.  He told us that he was really sorry but that he and Paul had spent the night in jail and that they could only be released if we paid for them to get out.  Long story short, basically the police chief of Busia is a money hungry, Muslim lady who somehow found out that they had white people staying with them.  So for made up reasons, they hauled John and Paul into jail so that we would have to "bless the police department" like we were blessing Paul and John.  Money.  The lady was on a power trip.  I was sooo angry with her.  Our whole day was spent trying to get them out of jail.  We ended up only having to wrongfully pay $80 or so to have them released, since she realized she was not going to get any more out of us.  And we had to ALL go down to the station to hear here rant about our safety.  I did not have a good attitude and really did have to ask God for forgiveness over my anger towards her.

Once they were finally released, we brought them and Paul's wife Janet back to our hotel and gave them a meal to eat.  Then the men went to take Leroy to get a shot, and Janet stayed back with us.  We quickly realized that she knew hardly any English.  The awkwardness of sitting there and not really being able to say anything became too much for me, and so I began a local language vocab learning game.  And boy did she teach me words.  She went SO fast and taught me SO many words that I could hardly remember most of them.  And I couldn't get the point across for her to go back over a small amount of words so that I could actually learn them, so she kept adding new words for me to remember.  It was a hilarious time and actually really fun.  We laughed a whole lot at not being able to communicate and my horrible pronunciation of the words.  But I did learn quite a few body parts that night.  And then, when the guys got back, they surprised us with our SUITCASES!!  It was exactly the perfect ending to that crazy draining day.

Wednesday us girls went back to the orphanage while the men went to different churches for Leroy to speak at.  We started painting the girls' dorm rooms.  They hauled everything out of the rooms which were very small, especially with the amount of girls sleeping in each of them.  The rooms were filthy.  I didn't really know how to describe the original color of the rooms, because it was supposed to be white, but it was so filthy that it was more of a brown.  And there were so many kids in the room with us trying to help that it just got chaotic.  Also, Paul's 15 year-old son Moses was appointed to help us paint.  He was super shy with us though and didn't understand much English either.  And his painting skills were CRAZY.  And I'm not talking about crazy good either.  It adventure.  Soon, it was time for lunch, and all the kids helped wash me off at the pump.  All of us girls had at least two kids scrubbing our arms and legs for us.  It made me laugh.

Lunch was prepared for us, and this became the first of many times eating alone.  No matter how hard we tried to communicate that we wanted to eat with the kids, they would stick us in the living room all by ourselves and give us a feast.  No joke.  A feast.  It was delicious, but I felt so bad.  All that they ever eat is posho, which is like tasteless cornmeal mush stuff and beans.  And everyday they would serve us rice, noodles, boiled bananas, regular bananas, pineapple (the most delicious I have ever tasted in my entire life), meat, cabbage, and stuff like that with a few variations depending on the day.  But like I said.  We tried countless times to communicate the fact that we just wanted to eat posho and beans with the kids.  It happened on the very last day, but I will get to that later.

After lunch, we didn't get back to painting.  All we had done was primed the first small room out of the four we were going to do.  Instead, we watched the kids sing and dance together.  Honestly, I don't know how they do it but EVERYONE there has rhythm and can dance.  It's crazy.  I'm so jealous.  And it was so fun watching them.  I couldn't stop smiling.  The kids that weren't doing the group dance were squeezed up beside all of us.  So much joy.  After they had pretty much performed every single song they knew for us, we went outside to play.  The pulled out the jump ropes and frisbees they had and tried to get us to play everything with them.  They are pretty impressive at jumprope acutally.  They tied all of them together to make one long rope and then played games inside of the jump rope.  Most of the girls especially were very good at running in and out of the rope as it was swinging.  After playing with them for awhile, I sat down by some kids and soon had 5 kids braiding my hair at once.  It was nutso, but one of my favorite memories for sure.  They were all laughing and touching my hair.  They think its cool that it is so soft.  And pretty soon, I had 5 interesting braids all over my head.  I am convinced that that is what love looks like.

That night was one of the dirtiest that I felt all trip long.  I was covered in paint splatters and dirt and sweat.  I was downright gross.  I was exhausted mentally and physically, yet I have never felt so satisfied.  If I could live a day like that everyday for the rest of my life, I would be ecstatic.  I feel as though it is what I was created for, and that, my friends, is an indescribable feeling.

Also, that night before bed, we called home, and I was informed of a prayer meeting that my church had for us.  With all the crazy things that had been going on, we felt like we were under attack from the devil.  And when I was told that not only was there a prayer message that went around to everyone, but that they had actually gathered together to pray, I can hardly describe the feeling it gave me.  Love.  I was overwhelmed with gratitude and just so proud of my church family.  That is what the body of Christ is supposed to look like.  It was one of the greatest feelings of blessing that I have ever experienced.  So I just want to say thank you to all of you who were praying for us.  Your prayers were felt and heard and made a huge impact on all of us.  When I told Paul and John that churches in America were praying for them, they were blown away and so honored.  So thank you so much.  I can't express it enough.

Thursday was a fabulous day.  We got to the orphanage and set to work on painting, this time with a much more thought out plan for the day.  We were able to clean and prime the second room connected to the first room we had already primed and then finish the gray on top and purple on the bottom of both rooms!  Taping a straight line on the walls proved to be the most difficult challenge since we didn't have a level and there were many opinions flying around, but we got into a groove and got it done.

Also, it rained that day.  And it was the only day that it rained the entire time we were there.  I'm so glad I got to experience the random African rain at least once.  So strong and refreshing.  Sure, it created a muddy mess everywhere, and of course I was soaked, but it was so worth it.  I raced the kids after the rain had stopped through the mud, and we just laughed and laughed.  Also, it was a hysterical sight to see first one naked kid running around in the rain and then right after seeing four more naked kids following him.  A bunch of the girls crowded into one of the tiny rooms we had just finished painting, and we saw this happen from a distance.  We all erupted in laughter.  It was like a movie or something.  Too funny.

One more memorable thing from that day was that it was the first time I participated in dancing with the kids.  If I could pick any talent in the world, I would pick dance.  I LOVE dance.  I am inspired and moved by it.  I wish so badly that I was good at it.  But, alas, I am actually horrible.  But it was still so fun to imitate their moves and sing along with them in as much rhythm as I could muster.  They also loved it and roared with laughter at one move in particular that I murdered.

Friday, we decided to go with Leroy to the village he was going to speak to.  And boy, did we go.  It was the bumpiest ride I have ever experienced in my life.  And it was the furthest destination that Leroy was going to speak at.  Add the heat to the mix and you have for yourself a ride of misery.  Looking back, it cracks me up.  The road we traveled on was HORRIBLE.  But that is life for them.  They don't think anything of it.  And I am glad I got to experience it.  When we reached the destination and sat through the abnormally long service they held, in which they introduce practically the entire congregation there, my bladder was on the verge of explosion.  Finally, we were able to inform Pastor John that we really must get to a bathroom ASAP.  And so, we were escorted to a very far away squattie potty.  It was my first time experiencing one.....Kaley's too I believe.  Very interesting, but something I grew very accustomed to.  Fun stuff.

After another HUGE meal provided to us by the pastor and his wife (the fish and pineapple were out of this world...), we drove to Lake Victoria.  It was beautiful.  Houses on a lake like that in America would be EXTREMELY expensive.  The Lake is huge and we could basically see glimpses of it from every city we had been at in Uganda, but it was very cool to see it right in front of us.  Then, we started back to Busia.  With the heat even more intense and the bumps not getting any smaller, the ride back was maybe even a little worse than the way there.  And Kaley wasn't feeling good, so she was actually miserable by the time we got back.  Again, though, we survived.

Saturday, Kaley stayed behind, we she was still not feeling well.  So Kristyn and I spent the morning/afternoon passing out all the supplies we had brought with us for the kids at the orphanage.  It was quite a process, but well worth it.  We took photos of each of the kids so that Kristyn, who is stepping in as the new Director of Orphan Sponsorship for Greater Living Ministries, could update the website with them.  The kids LOVED all the supplies we brought for the school and the notebooks/health kits that were given to them personally.  They spent the afternoon and evening writing thank you notes to those that had made them a health kit or provided the notebook.  It was so sweet.  And that pretty much sums up that day.

Sunday was church day.  So in other words, it was a very long day.  Church there lasts 4 hours at least.  There is a lot of singing and praying.  By cramming so many people into that tiny church and having hardly any openings for ventilation, it got real hot real quick.  Kaley almost passed out, which isn't surprising, but still.  After church, Leroy decided that we would just go back to the hotel.  We all really needed the rest, especially him, but he spent the rest of the day preaching at two more events.  They kept him busy the entire time, but three sermons in one day is quite the load.

Monday came and we visited Pastor Egessa's church, the man who oversees Alijah Joy, the pregnancy crisis center under Greater Living Ministries.  It was interesting to see all the projects they had for the kids to get involved with.  Also, an interesting part of this trip was the fact that they had 2 different bathrooms.  One for "short and long".  I finally was able to understand what the lady was trying to get me to understand.....

Also that day, back at the hotel, we were given the privilege of meeting the guest that was staying in our room with us.....Marvin the Gecko.  He ate all the bugs for us, but Kaley just couldn't shake the image of that scene in The Parent Trap where the woman has half of a lizard sticking in her mouth.  Yum!  Then, that night for dinner, we told the waitress that we wanted chippati (thick tortilla like thing) and fruit for dinner.  After waiting an hour, we were surprised with receiving spaghetti and avocado instead.  Oh, the joys of language and cultural barriers.

Tuesday was a day full of packing up, as Leroy and Kristyn were leaving, meaning that Kaley and I were moving in to the orphanage.  Leroy and Kristyn left around 9 that morning, which was a sad time, but in the same way good.  They needed to get back, and I am so thankful for the opportunity we had of staying at the orphanage full time.  It was the best and most rewarding experience I have ever had.  The majority of that day was spent getting our hair done.... a 4.5 hour long process.  And, as many of you know, it didn't go the way we had in mind.  The full story on that will come in the next post.  Lemme tell ya....its a treat :]

"Bathing" happened later that night.  What a process.  Using a basin of water that we placed in our squatty stall, I was very unsure of how I was to go about getting clean.  To give you a bit of the scene, the hole of the squatty was probably at most 4 feet away away from the basin of water we were using to clean ourselves.  So the aroma was pretty wonderful, and since it was dark at this point, tons of bats were flying around the outside of the stall.  It was in this moment that the African culture really hit me.  It was definitely something to get used to, but we really did.  We had the art of bathing mastered by the time we left Uganda, although after our first attempt, I don't really think I was any cleaner coming out than I went in.

Wednesday, Kaley and I started painting the last two rooms.  We quickly realized how much faster it was with three people versus two.  It made a huge difference.  It was a very slow and dirty process.  We still had a long way to go by the time we quit that day.  This time the bathing went much better, and I actually felt clean afterwards.  We spent some time painting nails with the nail polish I brought from home.  Unfortunately, none of the girls in school are allowed to have any one or else they will be "caned" aka beaten with a stick.  Not cool.  So Nekesa, Paul's 20 year old daughter who was our closest friend there, and Sarah, his 18 year old daughter, and Mama Janet all had their nails done.  Nail polish was such a treat for them.  Sarah especially loved it.  They used about every color we had and layered up each fingernail.  It was a pleasure to be able to leave all the nail polish there for them to have and use.  Sarah was so happy :]

That night we visited a hospital for the first time with Nekesa.  This is another thing I will share about in my next blog post.  So so sad though.

Thursday, we finished the painting! I don't think I have ever been more excited to be done with a project.  The good roller broke, it took so long, the tape kept being crooked, and we had to do the touching up with our fingers, but we finished.  WOOHOO!  Also, that morning we had a breakfast burrito type of thing, with chippati, egg, and tomato.  It was SO GOOD!  We ended up having it many more times which was awesome.  In the afternoon, I learned SOOOOOOOOOO many words from the kids.  It was so much fun.  They loved that I remembered some from before, and were just so impressed that I cared enough to try.  I still remember those words.  I have them written down as well so that when I go back I can start from where I left off.  I am so excited. I love language learning!

It was also on this day that I went with Paul and Eunice, a 13 year old girl, to the clinic right down the road to look at a tumor that had appeared overnight in her armpit.  It was maybe just a bit bigger than golf ball and made it extremely painful for her to raise her arm at all.  The doctor looked at it and gave her two injections to help shrink it.  This story continues over the next 2 days, but I will write about it in my next blog as well.  It is the most horrifying thing I have ever had to witness in my life.  Makes me so sad.  We are so blessed here in America.

This post is so long, and I apologize.  But really, I guess you don't need to be reading it.  So week to go :]

Friday, I stepped in baby poop.  Yup.  Human feces.  It was gross.  Another kid wiped it off my foot with a stick.  Haha.  Life in Africa.  That is also the day that we started teaching some kids how to use the typing program that Leroy had gotten them through Greater Living Ministries last year.  The programs are great and easy to use.  We were just there to make sure that the kids knew what they were doing and that they weren't cheating by looking at their hands.  I really hope that they have continued typing now that we are gone and are doing it correctly.  Knowing how to type right would help them tremendously in getting a job, as most people do not have the opportunity to learn how to type correctly.  We started out with about 8 kids split up on 3 computers which was really nice.  After one lesson, the kids would rotate.  But by the end of our stay, we had over 20 kids to rotate between the three computers.  It got a little crazy, but I loved it.

That night was also the first night that we experienced Evening Prayers with everyone.  I guess they had stopped since we moved in.  Why, I don't know.  Also, they never had Morning Prayer time while we were there, although the kids said they usually do.  I don't understand that.  But anywho.  Evening Prayers became one of my favorite times with everyone.  We all gathered around the front part of the yard in front of the kitchen, and someone would start singing a song.  Then, using water jugs and sticks, a few kids would begin giving the beat.  Pretty soon everyone was singing and dancing at the top of their lungs.  There was so much joy all around.  After a few different songs, everyone would just disperse into praying.  Most people walked around, praying out loud as they roamed; I usually chose to sit.  It was an awesome sight to behold.  And it was during these times that the Lord just reassured me that His timing was perfect, even if it didn't make any sense to me at all.  He is in control, and He knows best.  The peace that I felt was incredible.

Saturday, we slept in until 730.  Then we had more typing class with the kids.  Like I mentioned, there were a lot more as the days went by, and I was in charge of running two of the three computers, since Kaley's program was a little more advanced.  This also meant that I got all the beginner typers.  It was quite challenging and bit overwhelming at times to keep everything smooth, but at the same time, it made me SO excited when a kid passed his lesson.

Later in the afternoon, Nekesa took Kaley and I to a little market a ways down the street.  It was interesting to see everything.  It was kinda like a huge garage sale put on by a bunch of different people.  There were some cheap trinkets to buy and some fruits, veggies, fish, and baked goods to buy as well.  This is also the spot that a man asked if he could marry Kaley and I.  Gross.

That night was probably the funnest night I had there.  We just really bonded with the older girls.  They came into our room and just started giggling and going crazy on the mattresses.  There was a lot of flipping going on, and Sarah.....not Paul's daughter but a different one.....did a really sweet headstand.  They taught us all sorts of hand clapping games, and we raced all over the yard.  That night I received SOO many hugs, and I loved each one of them.  They also made me play this trust fall game, and of course, there was dancing.  It was just so good to go deeper with them in our relationship, and I knew it would be so hard to leave.

Something I wrote in my journal that night was, "Success is having a distinct dirt hand print on the back of a white shirt from a hug from my girl, Faibe, and a dirt footprint on the front from being accidentally kicked while pushing Sylvia on the swing :]"

Sunday was the worst day.  Again, there was a four hour church service which was normal.  I also had to go up and say a little something to the church.  They love having guests.  But then, we took Eunice to get her tumor removed.  Next post will cover it, but it was horrible.  The rest of the night was just really, really hard for me.

Monday came, and there was laundry to do.  By this point, I was much better at it.  Every morning I helped Nekesa wash our clothes, though she rarely let me help her wash hers.  Also, this was the day that I took my blue hair out.  What a time of relief.  That morning, John came with his wife to take us back to his school for the day.  We got to ride a boda boda, which is a motorcycle taxi :D  It was so much fun!  The day at his school was a lot of fun.  There aren't nearly as many kids as there are at Paul's school, but still a good number of them.  They taught us many new games and loved hearing our English songs.  By the end of the afternoon, though, I was already missing all of Paul's kids.  And it had only been hours since I last saw them.  In 4 days it would be a year before I could see them again.  Leaving is so hard.  It was also at Busitema that I really missed my friends at Canaan Communities.  I've come to realize that those kids will forever be a part of my heart as well.  I'm so thankful for them and the work that my church is able to do there.

That night, there was more typing to be done, and then I spent the night hearing legends told by Eyan.  I love and miss that kid so much.  He has so much joy.  And he is also the best storyteller and vocab teacher.  He helped teach me many more words that night as well.  So good.

Tuesday, Paul and Janet took Kaley and I to Masafu to visit the government funded hospital.  It was much nicer than the other hospitals we had visited and was able to hold many more people.  Even with more space, there were still so many people waiting to get in.

Wednesday was our last day at the orphanage.  It was so sad.  The kids kept asking us to stay longer or wondered when we would be back.  It was so hard for me to have to say that I don't know when I can come back and that I couldn't stay longer right now.  It is still hard not knowing how much time will pass before I can get back to them.  I want them to remember me, and me them.

That day, we got to sit in on the school's weekly assembly, where all the grades come together in one room and do presentations.  Then we all had lunch together.  FINALLY we ate posho and beans, but it was still different because they set up every table from the whole property that they could find so that everyone could sit down together and we wouldn't have to sit on the ground.  We also got WAY more food than the kids did.  This wasn't too bad though, because then we just gave it away to the kids who were finished.  It was really awesome though.  I am so glad we got to do that.  The kids really enjoyed it as well.  The rest of the day was free for them, since it was their last moments with us.  The entire school was singing and dancing for us for over an hour, which was not planned at all.  And then they set up a race, in which even the teachers participated in.  After much begging, I ran one race for them and got my butt kicked.  These people are stinkin fast.  It was just a really fun, laid back day.  That night, I laid under the stars with some of my favorite girls and just laughed and talked and learned.  This is also one of my fondest memories from the trip.  It was so sweet.  And then, a very large number of kids picked me up and carried me back to the room.  It was a long way, but it was so much fun.  I couldn't stop laughing the entire time.  Then they made Kaley go to the spot that I started from, and they carried her too.  They are goofballs, and I miss them so, so much.

The next morning was hard.  We left a bunch of our clothes behind for them and packed up our stuff.  Saying goodbye is always sucky.  I hate it.  Some of the girls started crying.  Sometimes I wish I could just cry like normal people in public.  But I can't.  I wanted to show them how much I was hurting though, too.  They sang my favorite song for us as we left.  I can't wait to go back and hear it again.

We stopped in Jinja on our way out, which is a huge tourist area in Uganda....probably the biggest.  There were so many white people there that it was literally freaking me out.  We had been the only white people in our area for so long.  I don't really know why, but I just didn't like it.  We did get some cool stuff though to take home, and we ate at an Americanized restaurant that had brownies and cake even!  It was a nice treat.  When we arrived at the airport in Entebbe, it was 330 and our plane didn't leave until 1130.  We had to leave so early though so that Paul, John, and Egessa could get back to Busia that night still.  The airport is very small, so they have to have this weird rule of where you can wait.  You are not allowed in the terminal area until 3.5 hours before you are going to leave.  So we waited in the waiting area for 4 hours.  It was so long.  I felt like all we did that whole time was sit.  They did have wifi for us to use though so that was good.  I got a lot of reading and updating done.  FINALLY, we could head into the terminal which was quite a process.  Very slow, but eventually we made it.  Leroy had told us about the lounge that we could pay to use there.  It is made for the business class people to use, but for $30 each, we could use it for 3 hours.  And let me just say that it is probably the best $30 I have ever spent.  We got a HOT, water actually falling down from above, real shower.  We could have all the snacks and drinks that we wanted.  There was a TV and good wifi to use, and even pool to play if we wanted, which we didn't because we were so tired.  But it was just so good and refreshing after a long day of travelling and waiting.  We also knew that it would still be 30 hours or so before we reached Washington DC, so it was just nice to feel good before that all began.

Our plane left on time, and we arrived in Amsterdam a half an hour early, which just meant that we would be waiting there for 10.5 hours to board our plane home.  Hurray.  I didn't sleep at all on the plane to Amsterdam, due to a screeching 3 year old across the aisle, so I slept for a little over an hour during our layover.  We got some good chocolate to bring home, and ate some pizza, and after a long, long time later, we were finally on our way home.  The end of our flight into Washington DC was the scariest I have ever experienced.  The flight attendant had JUST announced to make sure fasten our seatbelts, as we would begin descending shortly, and 20 seconds later, we hit the biggest rough patch.  The guy in front of Kaley did not get around to fastening his belt quick enough, and he literally almost hit his shoulder on the overhead compartment as he flew across the aisle and almost landed on a lady.  We kept falling and then jerking back up for a good 5 minutes.  I was pretty terrified, along with the rest of the plane.  People were freaking out and people were throwing up.  It felt like a rollercoaster that really wasn't safe at all.  But then, we made it out of the cloud that we were in, and the last 10 minutes into Washington was a breeze.  Strangest thing.  So thankful we made it safely.

So yeah.  That's our trip in as much of a nutshell as I can put it.  Just want to thank Leroy and Rhonda yet again for picking us up and taking us into their home with so much grace.  Their hospitality was awesome.  It speaks volumes to what they are all about.  And thanks to everyone who supported our trip.  We had a phenomenal time.  Can't even put it into words.  Uganda, I'll be back.  Thanks for making me fall in love with you.  Stories to come in the next post hopefully.