It is that season of the year again... Christmas! While the Christmas season here in Bundibugyo is much different than it is at home, we celebrate the same Baby who came to be Emmanuel, Prince of Peace, and Saviour to all. Each Christmas season I spend time outside of North America, the awareness of this wonderful gift which is for ALL continues to grow. I hear the Christmas songs and story in a different, but richer way. For some reason when I heard "Joy to the World" previously I unconsciously thought "joy to MY world" but Jesus came for the whole world, bringing them joy through the gift of Himself.
This year the shepherds have particularly stuck out to me. Two weeks ago, I had a Christmas party for the young neighbourhood children. It was a joyous time and they thoroughly enjoyed the popcorn, treats, and Christmas gifts they received. We read the Christmas story in Lubwisi and then watched the nativity story.
As I sat off to the side as the little ones watched the movie with eyes filled with delight, my heart ached and prayed that each of them would come to know The One who loves them perfectly and completely. I thought how much they were like the shepherds in the Christmas story, out in the middle of nowhere far out of reach of high society and yet God came for them. He wanted to make sure that even those who were outcasts and "unimportant" knew that they were deeply loved. In fact, God didn't send a choir of angels to announce His birth to anyone else except the shepherds who were "outsiders", considered unimportant in their time and society. Pray with me that each child would grow in their knowledge of Jesus and that He would draw their hearts to Him. We gave each child a tea mug, toothbrush, paste, a balloon, & stickers and they couldn't have been happier!
I am so thankful for the little group of young people that gather on Saturday with me to read the Lubwisi New Testament. We are averaging about a dozen now, sometimes more. Part of this group is a young boy who has been continuing in His hunger to grow in the knowledge of Jesus, despite his family's opposing religion. Recently he finished memorizing the beatitudes in Lubwisi-I was SO proud of him! (You can see a video of him reciting them on my facebook profile!) This same young boy came to me with a deep sadness last week after his parents suddenly told him that he was actually an orphan and they were not his parents. His Dad had died in the war and his Mom hadn't been seen in years as she had resorted to selling her body to make a living. He was disturbed and understandably so sad, yet it was a special opportunity to tell him of the deep love of His heavenly Father the King of Kings. I also taught Him the song Jesus Loves Me which he embraced and returned the next day to get me to write down the words so he could learn them well. This boy loves music (as you all know I do!) Pray that God would continue to draw Him close to Jesus.
Last week we finished our third-term of the year at Christ School. I'm thankful for the potential in the students and teachers. I have just finished my work writing a strategic long-term plan for the school. Pray that God would guide our mission leadership as they review our proposed plans and as we move forward in the New year. Pray as well that God would guide our hearts regarding my role at Christ School. In November we launched a brand-new website for the school! If you would like to learn more about the work, staff, students and ways to be involved (including short-term team opportunities for churches!) check it out HERE
A special joy was having the teachers from Christ School to my home a few weekends ago for Christmas treats and Carols. Especially encouraging to me were their words of appreciation for my friendship and investment in their lives. At times you don't really know if you are breaking through or not, but I realized that small things like celebrating their birthdays, asking questions about their lives and being at the school with them had meant much to them. They told me for days how meaningful it was to have been invited into my home. I'm thankful that God doesn't need big things to use us, just our simple "loaves and fishes" (an availability to share what we have) and He makes them big things through the power of His Spirit.
AND, speaking of homes...I'm at last settled into my home! It was almost 11 months after my arrival (six months later than expected) but at last I have unpacked my boxes that have been in transition for almost 3 years! In the beginning of November I was able to begin the much needed construction and repairs on my home. It was one of the oldest homes on the mission and lets just say, things wear quickly in jungle humidity! It was a mess and a pile of work, replacing rotten wood ceilings and windows and such. But, nothing short of a complete miracle the different contractors and tradesmen I had working with me completed their work on time!!! I'm so thankful for God's sustaining grace to get the place fixed up in a hurry. (And for those of you who are curious, I put some before and after photos at the bottom of this letter) I'm especially grateful for the way that He brought in the funds for the project including some through so many of you making unexpected and unprompted financial gifts! Honestly, it's very easy in this culture to feel like an "orphan" but God used your unexpected gifts to encourage me and remind me He is taking care of me. Thank you for being sensitive to the Holy Spirit's leading!
In the last month and a half, I've been so thankful for God bringing much needed friendship and fellowship into my life in unexpected ways. I'm thankful for my growing friendships with the missionary mom's on our team, Ugandan friends, as well as the special blessing and encouragement God has given me through visiting parents of other team members, a short-term team and other visitors. My heart is full and thankful for the fellowship of brothers and sisters in Christ. I know many of you have been praying for me specifically in this regard so thank you--keep praying!
Finally, I would appreciate your continued prayers for my Mom as she has had some rough months with her health, we think due to complications on her spine from a car accident a few years back. She has given us quite a few scares in and out of the emergency room numerous times as well as a stint in ICU. These last few weeks she has been doing better, but pray that God would continue to give the Dr's wisdom as they try to help her. It's hard to be miles away, but I'm thankful for prayer & for family members that have been there for her when I was not able to be.
Speaking of home, I decided to use some of my savings from while I was working last year and fly back to Canada to enjoy the Christmas season with my family and also attend a friend's wedding!!! It will be a quick trip, but I am looking forward to it so much. Right now in Canada there are snow squalls and record breaking amounts of snow... pray that these come to an end and my plane can safely arrive!
I will be back in Northern Ontario, December 20-Jan 3
Ottawa, January 5-7;
and back to Uganda, January 8th.
I would love to see as many of you as possible!
I wish you and your family a very merry Christmas season filled with joy and celebration! With much love and continued thankfulness for each of you,
Home-Bathroom & Kitchen Before and After Pics! So happy to have a place of my own again to use to love and minister to people.