Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Canadian Furlough

As I type this, I am sitting in a lounge in the airport in Seattle, waiting to board a flight. My heart is filled with mixed emotions. Right this minute, I am sad at having to say goodbye once more, knowing that we will not see Canadian family and friends again for a long time. Yet I am also excited to get back to serving in Uganda. I know that once we arrive, the sadness will soon dissipate, though missing people will always be there.

We have really enjoyed our time on furlough. We have had some great family time and reunited with many friends. We have had the chance to rest and be refreshed, which was much needed after a hectic time of ministry at Word of Life. We have been able to meet many supporters, gain new ones, and let many know about what we do in Uganda. We have been working hard on raising funds for building a house on the Word of Life property. Its been a busy, but good time.

We wanted to be there in winter... and we sure had winter! I can't remember the last time we had so much snow! So off we go back to hot weather again! I know many of you would love that, and we do enjoy it, but it was nice to have furlough with some cool (ok... cold!) weather.

It has been so good to be back at our home church again. We have loved being back in the worship services. I was so glad to be able to participate in a weekly Bible study. I had really missed that. Being refreshed spiritually was a priority, and we have done that.

On the other hand, coming back after being away almost 3 years has also had some difficulties. We have missed out on milestones of events of people we love. Some of our friends have moved on... or maybe schedules were just too busy. Actually, that's probably what it was, because the pace of Canadian life definitely hasn't slowed down. Our hearts are heavy as we have gotten to know some struggles and hardships people are going through.

For the many of you that took time to see us, hear us, pray for us, support us, spend time with us, even say a hello to us, we thank you.  You have all blessed us in so many ways.

We thank God for the opportunity we had to be home in Canada. We look forward to the next chapter of ministry in Uganda.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Caught Between Two Worlds

Thursdays are my day off: a day to get errands done, laundry, housework, or just watch TV; a day for me. Last week I went to Kampala, about a 20 km drive from where we stay. I felt good because I got into town and to the Immigration office in about an hour (which is pretty good here, considering how traffic can be). I was the first in line at the desk to renew my children's student passes (so they can continue to be here in Uganda legally). All went well, without any issues, of which I am thankful. I even had a pleasant conversation with the immigration officer who was asking me if these applicants were my children, which led into a conversation about my Kenyan husband and how our first 2 children are twins. (In Uganda, I am called Nalongo, which means mother of twins.)

Because it was my day off, and I was near a part of town that has a mall that I had not been to in quite some time (as well as a good coffee shop), I decided to treat myself. I was sitting in a booth and couldn't help but overhear the people behind me. Sitting there was a group of about 6 women, all expatriates (what we call foreigners in Uganda), thinking to myself, I sure do miss that. I miss being able to meet up with friends over a cup of coffee, just chatting about life and family, in a context that we all mutually and culturally understand.

Don't get me wrong. I have made some very good friends. Ones that I really enjoy spending time with and talking with. Some that I have made very good connections with - people who I can say will always be my friends. And really, even though we come from different backgrounds and cultures, there is so much we have in common. It's amazing how being united in Christ breaks down barriers of so many kinds, and people really do become like family.

Yet, there are still these longings I have to meet up with people who have known me from long ago in a different place. It's normal. I miss my friends and family. And that isn't something that I should feel bad about. It's that place of being caught between two worlds.

Even the fact that I am sitting and enjoying a treat in a coffee shop is, in and of itself, uncommon in the area I currently live in. Living outside the city makes it difficult to go (as stated above, it took me an hour to get there), and most Ugandans don't have the means to "splurge" on a coffee treat. Many do, but not many from our neighborhood, and not many from our ministry. It's like a little taste of home, the familiar. And again the tension of being caught between two worlds.

Alas, I finish my coffee, alone. I do a few errands in the mall, And I head back out onto the road, where it feels quite normal to be driving on this highway, on the left-hand side, with taxis (mini-vans) and boda-bodas (motorcycles) cutting in and out of traffic.

This tension reminds me of the fact that we too, as believers, are caught between two worlds. We are here, temporarily, and look forward to eternal glory with Him. In the meantime, I pray that God will use me to His glory, in what He has me to do at this time, here in Uganda. Though it is good to long for the things I miss (and will, Lord willing, see soon), that I need to also focus on the present of where He has placed me to be used by Him. May this be my prayer every day. May this also be your prayer.

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (ESV)

Monday, February 1, 2016

Special Visitors from Canada

Living in Uganda is not the first time I have lived abroad. And when people, especially family and friends, make the effort to come and visit, there is an excitement that is difficult to put into words. There is something so meaningful as to be able to show how life is for us living overseas - the reality rather than in pictures.

Only two days after returning from our trip to Kenya, we went to the airport to pick up two very special visitors - my parents. We had not seen them in 23 months and therefore were so excited that they made an effort to come.

Sitting, relaxing, visiting and catching up on the front porch was our regular hang out spot at the house. It didn't take long for Lobo (the dog) to enjoy their company too. The kids really enjoyed being around their grandparents again too. To not see children in two years seems like you miss a lot... they grow so much.

Every few days, we replenished the fruit supply. I knew that the fresh tropical fruits would be their regular snacking food.

We did go out a few times, and on one of those occasions, went to the town of Jinja. We hopped on a boat "cruise" and enjoyed the scenery on the River Nile and Lake Victoria.

We went to the Wildlife Education Centre in Entebbe. The place is similar to a zoo and it accommodates animals that are indigenous to Uganda, many of which were orphaned. We got a very close-up look at the rhinos... so close that we actually were able to touch him!

The group shot... as they get ready to head back home.

For my mom and dad, they can now understand and picture in their own minds what it's like when we say we are driving to town (Kampala), where we serve at Word of Life, the bumpy, dusty, dirt road we drive on a daily basis, the local supermarket where we buy groceries, just to mention a few.

We are so thankful.  It was time well spent.  One we will not forget.

And good-byes are still hard.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Christmas in Kenya

After a hectic term at school and a busy camp season at Word of Life, it was great to get some time away to visit with family and friends in Kenya.

Once we crossed the border into Kenya, our first place was to head to the town of Koru, where Welli's parents and a few other family members live.

First stop is Kisumu, the city that lies on the north-east corner of Lake Victoria.

Purchasing a few items in the town of Muhoroni, just outside of Koru.
Going for a walk in Koru.
Christmas Eve in the Oliech home.  No fancy Christmas decorations, but together reading the Christmas story and singing carols.
Christmas morning church service in Koru.

Christmas Day food and fellowship.

Babu and Dana (Grandpa and Grandma) with many of their grandchildren.  There are at least 15 more grandchildren who were not present during Christmas.

Scenery of Koru

On Boxing Day, we drove to Naivasha (which is on the way to Nairobi) to meet up with friends.

Some wildlife along the way...

Catching up with friends and playing football (soccer).  We have not seen some of these friends in over 10 years!  

Then off to Nairobi, where we were hosted by our dear friends, Bob & Patricia Nyanja, and their family.

Serene setting while sitting on their deck.

While in Nairobi, we visited the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, an elephant orphanage.  They rescue baby elephants whose parents have either died of natural causes or from poaching.  As you can see, there were a lot of visitors that day.  They only allow visitors to come for 1 hour every day while they babies are being fed and have some playtime.

Ringing in 2016 with friends around a campfire - singing and sharing what God has done in 2015.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Music and More

Well, I definitely don't post on here as often as I have wanted to or should... but here are a few events that have happened since.... September.  Yikes.  So, this is a 3-month update - in pictures.

On September 6, TFC (Talented For Christ), the grade 8 band that Nadine and Juma play in, were invited to a music festival at Namirembe Cathedral.  It is a beautiful cathedral on a Namirembe Hill in Kampala.  In 2019, this church will celebrate its 100th year.

In early September, the kids' Aunty Emily (Welli's sister) and her husband, Eddie, came for a visit.  It was great to see Emily again after a long time!

For Welli's birthday on October 15, we went out for the day and enjoyed the scenic location of Serena Hotel by Lake Victoria.

On October 31, students and parents of Word of Life International School participated in a 10km walk in Entebbe to raise funds for building projects at school.  A marching band went ahead of us and motivated us as we went along. We even had police escort along the way.

On November 14, TFC played once again at a Band Festival that was hosted by Word of Life.

On November 28, we celebrated (a day early because the Pope was in Uganda and the main highway was closed) with a birthday breakfast.  We did also celebrate on their birthday at home.

Once Juma and Nadine's birthday is finished, Christmas comes in full swing.  On December 4th, we finished the term at school with a candlelight service.

I took the opportunity to photograph the teachers and staff of the school (a few are missing, but this is most of the group).

Thanks for taking the time to peruse through this post.  We wish you all a joyous Christmas!