I weeded my garden today. And in between clumps of grass that threatened to take over and copious amounts of bright green leaves, I found them.
Despite the difficulties of gardening here, the thorns, the lack of water, the wind and the ants, fruit is coming.
These last few weeks have been ones of transition. Kenneth has spent countless hours in discipleship and prayer and is beginning to see, finally, the fruit. New churches are being started. Ones in which his name is not known and his face is never seen. Sick people are being prayed for by their own church members, not just by the "mzungu". Warriors are finding new life in Christ and their friends are seeing the change and desiring it in their own lives. Another baptism is being planned, and leaders, Karimojong leaders, are taking over the shepherding of their own people. Change is coming. New life is peeking through.
Last night was the first screening of the Jesus film in the Ngakarimojong language. It was standing room only in a friend's little yard, people packed closely enough to fall asleep standing up and not fall down. Exclamations were heard all over the yard, "Wow! Jesus is speaking our language!" For many of the 200+ people there last night it was the first time they have heard the gospel story. And I have no doubt that change will come to their lives as well. Because God is moving here.
In this land of thorns and dust and wind, God's Spirit is moving, calling His people to repentance, calling them to new life in Him.
"Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert." Is. 43:19
What about you? How is God moving in the places you live and work? We'd love to hear about it and pray for you. Send us an email!
Rikot spent a week in the village with her (first) family last week.
Now that she has been with us for almost three years we have moved past the adjustment phase and are working through the heartache and grief that goes hand and hand with adoption. It is a constant struggle for her and for us.
She has been missing them terribly.
She misses life in the village as well. Or at least what she remembers life to be like. I spent the week in fear and anxiety, honestly. She has struggled throughout her time with us with wanting to be back there. I don't blame her. It's not as if she has a bad family, just one that can't manage her disease. But they do love her, hence, the difficulty of it all.
We spent the week in prayer for wisdom in knowing what to do with her. Should she go back or should she stay? We were torn.
Adopting has changed our perspective on adoption. We always saw it as a beautiful thing, something holy almost, ordained by God. We were rescuing children from a life as "just a village girl" or "just a shepherd'. We used to see our adopted children as "made for us", and their adoption as "God's plan".
But it just isn't like that. Not that God doesn't use it, but to say that it's His plan for them to be with us is pushing it, I think, and very self-centered. God is always about the work of restoration, and that's what adoption is, restoration of something that was broken. But He put her with her first family because that's where He wanted her, with them, not us.
They were God's plan for her.
Enter sin...and enter death...and enter sickness...and enter...us. Not the original plan, but the back-up anyway. We are God's back-up plan for her.
And this is why we were torn. If it's possible for her to thrive with them, His first choice for her, then shouldn't she be with them?
It was a long week.
We picked her up on Monday, and I could see right away that she was sick. Bloodshot eyes, raspy voice, itchy rash covering her body. She had lost enough weight in a week for me to count her ribs. She let me heat her bath water and put cream on her itchy rash. She hugged me for five minutes without stopping. She was so sad. Sad to leave her first family, and sad because she knew, finally, for herself, that she could not thrive there.
Today, almost a week later, she danced through her morning, and I overheard her singing to herself, "I am so loved..."
Her rash is fading, and she is eating seconds at every meal. She is full of joy and energy and life. She is bonding well and letting herself be loved. Readjustment is going well. Not to say that she doesn't miss them still, but God is restoring the hurting places in her, just as He does in us.
This story, her story, has taught me so much about God's heart for us. Adoption was never His original plan for us. We were always meant to dwell with Him in perfect communion, to walk hand in hand in the garden He created for us. Enter sin...and enter His back-up plan, adoption through His son, Jesus Christ.
What a beautiful back-up plan that turned out to be. Not that our stories are free of heartache and grief, but He is always about the business of healing our broken places and creating beauty from ashes.
I am so grateful that He continues to restore our relationship with Him and look forward to the day when we again walk hand in hand in His garden.
The many colors and styles of Akiru. All photos courtesy of Lynnette Hunter @ tenaciouslace.blogspot.com (check out her etsy store as well!)
I know what you're thinking.
I feel the same way every time I hold one of these handmade journals in my hands.
It just makes me want to write!
Can I get an amen?
In an effort to really get this project off and running, we are going to be giving away a FREE journal to anyone who will share on their blog about our project! You are free to do whatever you want with the journal, maybe give it away on your blog, save it for a Christmas present, or just keep it for yourself!
We won't call you selfish :)
Because we know that if you
love our journals and our women, then you will be even more inclined to talk about our project and hopefully help us sell more journals and hire more women!
So get to bloggin'!
Just shoot me an email
with a link to your site with your story about Akiru and your address, and we will put it in the mail!
Thanks for supporting our women! (Feel free to use any content from the Akiru site, just be sure to tag Lynnette Hunter in all journal photos! Thanks again!)
It's almost time.
The days are running out. Literally.
We have been running around like chickens with their heads cut off trying to get all of our last minute things done. Things like spending hours lounging in the sun at the beach, staying up late listening to friends play the guitar, night swimming and hot tubbing, learning to surf, you know, only the important stuff.
I feel like I should have had plenty of time to finish all of these "important" things, but I know there are still a million and one things I would have loved to do during our 3 1/2 months stateside and people I haven't seen and places I haven't gone. It's been an amazing trip, full of good conversation, good connections, good refreshment, and good encouragement. I hope we have blessed others as much as we have been blessed, but part of me feels like that's impossible.
We have just been so incredibly blessed.
We go back to Karamoja feeling the weight of the prayers behind us. What a blessing it has been to be able to share stories of how God is moving in Uganda and to visibly see the way it moves people's hearts to pray for more.
We go back with difficulty as well. Leaving the friends and family that we love is never easy, even if it seems like we move from place to place so effortlessly. There are always tears at night from little ones (and big ones) who love their friends dearly and hate to leave them again.
But He is faithful.
We have so much to look forward to in the next year. Two new teammates will be coming to join us in Kaceri (hopefully three before the end of the year!) to help with the many projects and outreach activities we are involved in. We have team after team after team lined up, some, good friends coming to see where we live and work, others, almost-strangers that God has put in our paths who have a similar heart and vision to reach the Karimojong with the gospel. We are so excited to get back to our home and our people!
During our time here we lost a very special lady that we loved dearly in Karamoja. Her story is one that has shaped my understanding of God in ways I can't even express in words. You may have read her story here
. Losing her reminded me again that our next year needs to be intentional.
Not that we aren't, but it's so easy to let other good things push out time for the most important thing, sharing the good news and making disciples. I am so thankful that she heard the gospel, through words and actions, and believed in God's goodness and love for her. I pray that Jesus Himself welcomed her into paradise.
For those of you who are praying, please remember us in the next few weeks as we pack, fly, and resettle back into our home in Karamoja. Our kids are VERY excited about going back, but transition can also be tough on the little guys. Us big guys also tend to stress just a wee bit as it gets down to the last minute, and we need prayer for even tempers and stable moods :)
God has blessed us beyond words with the friends and family that we have. If you have helped to host our family or feed us or clothe us or just took the time to listen to our stories, we are so grateful for you. During this whole trip we have felt God's hand on our lives in a remarkable way through our community here in the US. Thank you for going out of your way to love on our family.
You have truly been to us the hands and feet of Christ.
I'll write again soon from Karamoja!
(If you are not on our newsletter list but would like to be, please fill out the contact form on this website. We are hoping to send out monthly newsletter updates from Uganda as well as updating this blog as often as possible, but internet is a bit slower in Karamoja land!)
Our Akiru ladies
(Excerpt from our Akiru website)She was just another woman at my gate, tired, thin, and hungry looking."Help me," she begged, handing me her medical records. "I'm hungry. My son is hungry." She motions to the child hiding behind her skirts, his belly protruding from his too-small shirt. "I've been sick and haven't had the strength to work for three days. Can you give me food?"I hesitate, my hand on the gate. Another woman, another decision. I look down at her worn medical book, the pages full of a history of illness. There it is again, those letters I see almost daily since moving here: Ayo, one of our journal makers
HIV+ And the child? Also positive.I glance up and our eyes meet. What can I do? A plan has been in the works for several weeks. A plan that we believe is God-orchestrated to help women just like this one. But it seems too soon...I don't feel prepared. Yet here she is. And she is hungry and sick
now. Prepared or not, she must be the first.I open the gate wide and usher her inside.
Her name is Adoc, and she continues to be the most obstinate and fiery of our Akiru women. Since that first day, Adoc has been a faithful and hard worker with Akiru. Throughout our many experiments and growing pains she has bloomed and flourished. What for me was a random encounter with a needy woman was, according to her, "God's plan".
"God led me to your gate that day, no one told me where to go. God used you to give me work and to help me take care of my son. Now I know that God loves me and cares for me."Akiru
exists because we believe that God loves the hurting. He is a "stronghold for the oppressed" (Psalm 8:9), a "helper of the fatherless" (Psalm 11:14), and He "does not forget the cry of the afflicted" (Psalm 8:12).
This small business initiative is an effort to create income for the most vulnerable women in our community, including widows, those living with HIV, disabilities, and addictions. We know that no amount of money can fix our problems, and so the heart of Akiru
is to lead women into a deep relationship with Jesus. In doing so we hope to create among our women a subculture of love, self-sacrifice, honesty, loyalty, and hard work.
We believe that God is interested in all areas of our lives, and strive to model and teach life skills such as financial planning and household management as well as character development through Bible study.
Just as we who live in Karamoja, Uganda, pray for much needed Akiru
or rain for our crops, we pray for God's spirit to be poured out like rain on the women we live and work among.
Life in Karamoja is just plain tough on women. They work almost from the time they can walk until they are laid in the ground to finally rest in peace. Their husbands often leave them, either by death or desertion, and they are left to care for their families alone. Even if a husband exists he is not always helpful or hard working. It is common to find women working and men sleeping under the trees. Dancing after our weekly meeting
They don't complain much, it's just their lot in life.
It's a little different than we Americans are used to, and I struggle with the injustice of it all. My heart is moved with compassion for these women. It aches with them as they bury their babies and struggle through malaria and typhoid. I long to be able to bring lasting change to their difficult lives.
But I believe that slowly, day by day, change is coming.
It will take time and prayer and long hours and lots of wisdom, but it's coming.
Please join with us in bringing this change. Go to our Akiru site to see our handmade journals and learn more, or go straight to our etsy story and buy one today!All profits go to paying our women's salaries and buying supplies. If you are interested in selling Akiru journals in your store, business, or your church, please contact me!
For those of you who can handle the length, here is a link to the message Kenneth shared at Williams Boulevard Baptist Church in New Orleans, LA. This story never fails to move me as I hear it, even though I was there. Please take the time to listen!
Greetings from America! I am writing this in an air conditioned room in a comfortable chair listening to the sounds of basketball on TV. I ate fish, couscous, and corn on the cob for dinner and made blueberry muffins for breakfast yesterday. Yum.
Life is good.
America has truly been a land of opportunity for my kids so far as well, and they are taking full advantage of all it has to offer. They are amazed by the simplest things:
- ice, everywhere and in everything
- free (and safe) drinking water
- fountains everywhere! America seems full of water to a family from the parched regions of Uganda.
- strawberries, grapes, and peaches
- squirrels! Believe it or not, this has been one of their favorite things to see. They chase them almost every time they see one!
- different kinds of dogs. Vaeh actually chased a lady down in order to pet her poodle! That girl is born to be a vet :)
- air conditioning. Ok, this one is NOT a favorite of any of them. They prefer open windows all the time and can't understand why people are always inside!
- seat belts. No more climbing around the car while we drive. Another non-favorite.
- "the thing that makes things hot" aka the microwave :)
Most of our days so far have been full and fun. Trips to the museum, dinner and playtime with friends, trail running through the woods, visiting various churches, playgrounds, yard and garage work, bar-b-ques and tractor rides, and the local "castle", aka arcade, have balanced out our school hours.
We have also started a new school curriculum
and are slowly changing the way we "do" school. This has been a challenge, but I am hoping we will get the hang of it by the time we go back to Uganda. This last year of teaching has been tough on me (and probably them!) so I am excited for the change. Hopefully it will breathe new life into my teaching and their learning.
All of the kids have done really well with the transition to America. Selah is making friends everywhere she goes while Acuka tries, in his own way, to get his point across. He has fully entered the terrible twos, but at least he's so cute that you just have to forgive him :)
My kids are continuing to do daily chores, some of them a bit different than they're used to, but they continue to be helpful and obedient.
For some reason I thought America would ruin them.
They are so innocent and sweet in so many ways. They spend their days in Karamoja climbing trees and mountains, playing football and jump rope, and practicing with their slingshots or bows and arrows. Such a simple, lovely life.
I view America as the insidious evil (to steal a phrase from Andy) that can rob them of their innocence. And maybe that's true in some ways.
I had forgotten a lot of things about America. Things that make us all wince and turn our thoughts back to our friends struggling right now in Karamoja.
Things like the way we live to eat instead of eating to live.
Things like throwing away food. Any food. Period.
Things like disposable plates, cups, forks and spoons.
Things like "processed foods".
We can't see the people begging for food and so we get all we can, can all we get, and sit on the rest.
We can't see kids like little Nacuk pick up a potato I dropped in the sand and brush it off and pop it in her mouth, not willing to waste even a bite.
We can't see the children that climb through my "trash pit" looking for treasures I might have thrown out. Sometimes they even scour my compost heap, claiming rotten potatoes and onion tops for their family's dinner.
We can't see these things and so we forget to be careful with what we've been given. And we've been given a lot. I have been here for two weeks and am already forgetting.
It's so easy to forget.
We are blessed.
We are blessed with an abundance of food.
We are blessed with riches, more "stuff" than we know what to do with.
We are blessed with comfortable homes, cars, beds, even chairs.
We are blessed with good, free education.
We are blessed with knowledge of the world at our fingertips.
The list goes on and on...
We are so blessed to live in this country. And yet we live such divided lives.
In the whole week we stayed in Texas we were the only family outside. My mom's yard was littered with toys, and I was always missing at least one kid who had gone bike riding or exploring in the creek. And although you might worry about that, my missing children, there is no need because we never saw any people. Now and then you would see someone coming home from work, or there's that one neighbor who likes to sit for hours on end on his front porch, shirtless, but otherwise, no one.
Not a soul.
And although I am happy for the break and enjoying visiting people, this place, no matter how comfortable, can be awfully lonely. (Is it just me or do you all feel the same way??)
So thank you
to those of you who have made us feel at home in this home away from home (and even in south Uganda as we finished paperwork for leaving). You have blessed us more than you know.
Thank you for inviting us over for dinner, picking us up from the airport, fixing us delicious meals, giving us a place to stay, letting us do laundry at your house, jumping on the trampoline with us, running with us, sleeping on the couch so that we could have your bed, hosting bar-b-ques in our honor, babysitting for us, allowing us to speak to your churches and Sunday School classes, giving us money and food, and reminding us that we are not alone.
Thank you for reminding me of the best thing about America, the people.
And because you are such good people I know you will try, as I do, to remember how much we've been given. To show your thankfulness by making economical decisions regarding food, money, and time. To try your best to be a friend to the lonely and hurting around you. To invite them into your homes and your families and love them as you've loved us.
Thank you for being the hands and feet of Christ to us. We are so grateful and so blessed to call you friends.
I hope to see many more of you in the months to come!
(A special THANK YOU to Hackers for Charity
in Jinja, Uganda, for the free housing during our adoption process! You guys were a huge blessing to our family!)
Tomorrow we leave Uganda for the first time in three years.
I looked through my pictures for something with our house or yard, but almost every recent one is from Kampala of all places. Shows how much time we've spent at home lately.
It's been a full and sometimes crazy last few months. We've been back and forth and back and forth again to Kampala, trying to finish paperwork, get passports and apply for visas. My emotions have ranged from bored (from waiting) to anxious to busy to exhausted (is that an emotion?) to excited to sad. Everything is bittersweet. I keep reminding my children that we are coming back, this is just a visit, but it's still hard to leave. My journal entry sums up the pull Africa has on a person,
"I feel like a milk bush that has been uprooted and stuffed down deep into the soil of Africa. Nothing to hold me but somehow I grow until I am firmly rooted, tied to this land and thriving."
This place gets in your blood.
I asked Zion the other day if he thought he would move back to America someday.
"No, Mama, Karamoja is my home!" with firm conviction in his voice.
"Well, do you think you will marry a Karimojong girl then and stay here forever?" I ask him, very amused.
"No, I'm going to marry a Chinese girl! They are the prettiest," he says with a big smile, "and then we'll move back to Karamoja!"
Well, I'm glad to know he has a plan :)
Despite our reluctance to leave our home here, we are VERY excited to be coming for a visit and hope to see many of you, our friends and family. We will also be sharing about what God is doing in Karamoja at churches around the country. If you are interested in hearing our stories or meeting up with us send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for praying for us over the last few months. God has been faithful to answer ALL of our prayers in bigger ways than we ever thought possible.
We are so blessed.
I am in my bedroom when the screaming starts.
It is raining again, big drops that drum against the tin roof, drowning out everything but her crying. She had been running to put our new baby goat in her pen, hurrying to shield her from the rain when she slipped.
“Mama!! Mama!!” she screams, sobbing.
I look out the window at my little girl, not so little anymore, sitting in the mud. Tears mix with the rain and run down her face. Blood seeps from a scrape on her knee. She is calling me
“Are you ok, honey? Come inside and let me look at your knee. Can you walk?” I console through the window, trying to gauge if I really need to join her in the rain and mud.
“I can walk,” she sniffles, and slowly gets to her feet, favoring her injured leg.
I open my medical “tackle box” and sift through the contents, looking for large band-aids and ointment. She joins me on the floor, stretching out her leg and wincing at the pain. I know I should wear gloves, but something inside me struggles with the idea of needing to protect myself from my own child. And I wonder how it makes her feel, my cautiousness with her blood. I decide against them this time, again, and choose instead to be careful and hope my husband doesn't see. He is very adamant about gloves.
The scrape is not large, and in two minutes we are done. I hug her and tell her I am sorry she got hurt, and she limps off to play again with bandages covering her knee.
This moment, for me, is a miracle.
For so long this child-turned-daughter has run away from me in her pain. An injury, hurt feelings, even a small correction would send her into a tailspin, a downward spiral that nothing could save her from. Her “fight or flight” response was automatic and frequent. She was a runner. Her first months with us were full of it. The language barrier was as formidable as the Berlin Wall with our family trapped on opposite sides. Even as understanding came she contiued to run or hide, to pull inside herself at the slightest sign of anything uncomfortable. Karimojong people show little emotion on average, and children seem especially stoic when compared to my often boisterous, whiny, and loud
kids. She was typical for her culture and a-typical for mine.
As time passed and emotions began to surface she was powerless to know what to do with them. How could she? She had never been taught how to express anger, joy or loneliness appropriately before. And so she ran. Sometimes physically, sometimes mentally, but always there was flight, always the pulling away and dealing with it alone. She set herself apart.
And so we followed, consoled, hugged and loved her. We taught her how to deal with her emotions. We modeled how to respond appropriately in different situations. Sometimes we worried and often we were frustrated, but we kept pursuing her. And we prayed desperately for a breakthrough.We fought for her heart
And today, for the first time, she turned to me
. My daughter, my strong, stubborn, beautiful daughter, found me to be a safe place and did not run away. It was a miracle.
As I watch her hobble away I think to myself, where would I be if He had not fought for my
Would I still be caught in my own tailspin of emotions? Overwhelmed and lied to by my feelings? Full of the desire to run from the One who loved me more than anything? I think so.
Folks, we can't give up the fight for our childrens' hearts, ever
. This is our biggest job as parents. They desperately need us to keep pursuing them, to keep believing that they are worth fighting for. We need to fight for them the way He fought for us and never give up until He has their hearts.
It will happen, if we are faithful. Miracles are possible. She is proof of that.
“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”
His head nestles against my shoulder as if we were once one body, now separate. His little arms, too short to wrap around, cling to my neck.
I rest my cheek against his warm head and breathe in the scent of boy. Strawberry jam, sweat and mango juice currently. He jabbers incessantly as he grips me about things I can't understand, words that aren't quite ready to be formed, whole in his mind but jumbled in his mouth. He is all boy. Joy and wonder pour forth at the sight of cars and cows, one of his few words, “wow”, at monkeys and rain. He is full of desire for adventure and change, a child that brings me his shoes in the morning and doesn't take them off until he flops onto his pillow at night. He is constant motion, eyes wide with discovery.
Yet still he nestles and clings, his need for security still overruling his need to run. I squeeze his now two-year old body and remember the nights I nursed him, his eyes wide even then. He was only a handful of a baby, weightless and solemn. Never very hungry, never very active, just alive, and for that much we were grateful. I fed him as my own from day one and he took it as his due, never hesitating to latch on to this strange white woman, mother or not. His was a bond born of necessity, mine of choice. I wanted to know what it was to love a child who was not my own, as my own.
We look in the mirror together now, his little hands mashing his brown face against my pale one, and make faces. His squeals of delight hurt my ears, and I wonder again when he will realize that we are not one, he and I. Too many others see it, and I feel like a broken record telling them, “A mother is the one who loves and raises a child, not only the one who birthed him.” But color is too obvious and immediate a barrier to their untrained eyes. They see only skin deep and that is not deep enough.
Our reflected images are beautiful to me, mother and son, black and white. I live in constant amazement at the wonder of it, of us. A bond born of necessity and choice has become fixed, unbreakable, whole. A child who was not my own has become my own, my son.