Wednesday, December 31, 2014

What Caught My Eye

work-worn hands baking cake on a charcoal fire
As 2014 comes to an end here are a few of my favourite close-ups from a year spent experiencing life in Uganda.
chapatis rolled out at furious speed 
a shaker ready to blast my ears with joyous sound

a mat woven by the hands of a jajja

a juicy ant ready for consumption

sweet potatoes harvested in Dec from John's garden

a chameleon walking daintily across my path

a tiny hand of a treasured child

Wishing you a Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Ready for Christmas!

Excitement is bubbling up around us as we look forward to celebrating Christmas together tomorrow.

We've had lots of fun decorating cookies with our friends big and little and loved their descriptions of the cookie cutters.  Those festive ornaments did you know they're actually 'Christmas pots,' and those bells with fancy bows well those are 'Christmas dresses.'

 This morning we got a kick out of watching Oboi carrying the Christmas chicken on his crutches.  (Oboi is from our Kobwin site but is staying here at Kasana while he recovers from surgery on his leg).  Full of spunk he brings a smile to our faces every time we see him.  So even as we miss friends and family back home we are reminded of how blessed we are to have so many friends around us here rejoicing together at the birth of our Saviour.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Belt Anyone?

Anyone still looking for that last minute Christmas gift might want to consider a snake-skin belt.  We have a lovely one available.  As you can see from the pictures below we had an exciting day yesterday.

On our way to the office to send out our Christmas letter, we discovered our neighbours out waving sticks and peering somewhat gingerly down a culvert near our house.      

"It's a cobra," we were told. After hurrying back to find our own hoe handles, we returned to the scene.  David helped collect dry grass to throw into the culvert and then after dousing it with paraffin the grass was set alight.

Then the waiting game was on as we eyed the smoke waiting for the snake to emerge.  It finally did appear, head raised and obviously not in a friendly mood.

It was greeted with several blows to its head and body. The head was soon crushed but we were amazed how long the rest of the body still writhed.  Ugandans are trained from an early age to take snakes seriously.  We certainly were thankful yesterday that this early training paid off.  And that belt...well maybe six feet of imitation leather would work just as well.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

'Home' for Christmas

As the Christmas season approaches many of us
think of going home to visit family and friends. It is no different here. December is the time for 'moving' as staff and children at our centre leave to visit relatives.  Our ministry seeks to have the children maintain contact with family in a culture where family ties are so important. While many of the children approach this time with anticipation, there are others who are very apprehensive.  This past week as we said good-bye to some of them that sense of apprehension was palpable.  They venture into the unknown; some to relatives hostile to their faith, and others to situations where the reminders of all they have lost will be stirred up again.

Then there are our precious special needs children who we pray will be cared for as they should be.  At times my heart also breaks for those who desperately want to go but who have nowhere safe to go.  As with much that goes on in orphan care there are no easy answers.  What is 'best' is often far from clear and so we commit these lives into the hands of the One who knows all things, trusting that He knows what is best.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

20 Years!

Today we're celebrating 20 years of marriage.  Our kids created a slide show of pictures using Steven Curtis Chapman's song The Great Adventure and so the words have echoed in my head all day long.
 Jinja, Uganda

Saddle up your horses We've got a trail to blaze
Through the wild blue yonder
Of God's amazing grace
Let's follow our Leader
Into the glorious unknown
This is a life like no other
This is the great adventure
We'll travel over, over mountains so high
We'll go through valleys below
Still through it all, we'll find that
This is the greatest journey

That the human heart will ever see
The love of God will take us far
Beyond my wildest dreams, yeah
Oh, saddle up your horses
Come on, get ready to ride

There is no doubt that 20 years ago I never imagined I'd be living in Africa  serving with David.  The love of God has certainly taken us far and we have been so blessed by all of you who have been a part of our 'Great Adventure."

Saturday, December 6, 2014


It's the end of the school year here and so this past week has been filled with end of the year celebrations.  Last week I attended a birthday party/going away party for one of the teachers.  Everyone will miss Aunt Sylvia's warm smile and infectious laugh.  One of the boys in our family group is in her class and so he and his friends came to my house to bake cakes for the party.  We used a few more eggs than we intended but the squeals of delight as they cracked them were worth it.  Parties here invariably involve a 'program' involving speeches of welcome for honoured guests and expressions of appreciation for those who helped make the event happen.  This birthday party was no exception as child after child spoke words of appreciation for the guests and their teacher.  Food is never served until the formalities are complete and then is consumed with great delight.

On Friday we attended the banquet for the S4 students.  This is the final year that our secondary school offers and these students have sat national exams to determine whether they can continue to finish secondary school.  It was especially nice to see our sponsor child's older brother and cousin receive their certificates and celebrate with their mother and grandmother.

I also attended the formal end of year party for the primary school.  Each class recited, acted or sang for their family members and the staff.  Again there were many speeches of appreciation for a year of hard work.  As I glanced around the audience I was most struck by the faces of the 'parents' of these children.  The majority are grandmothers, often widows, who have been left with children to raise.  My mind drifted away imagining what life must be like for these women.  The endless toil just to survive is beyond my understanding.  I was thankful that for a few hours they could sit, be entertained and fed.  The formality of this event seemed somehow fitting for the quiet dignity of these women.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Musings from Mom

Everyone tells you that children grow up so fast but from time to time the reality hits home.  There's no denying it when the oldest daughter heads off to do prison visitation and a medical outreach without Mom or Dad and the younger daughter travels with a group of people for a 22 hour round trip to south western Uganda to attend a burial.  The girls have shared more about these adventures on their blog pages but it was a pretty noteworthy week in this Mom's life.
Left at home to pray and wait for the stories to be told, I realized that this is what the future is going to look like more and more.  It is exciting to see their hearts for the people we are living among and their gifts and talents being developed but a little bittersweet that I'm not there to see it. And the youngest - well he just won the last two games of Settlers. When you can beat Dad and your sisters there's no doubt you're growing up!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Market Moments

Apologies again for being absent for so long.  I realised recently that I had written this a while ago but never got it posted so although it's quite out of date here it is.

It’s market day in Kiwoko and we’re in town restocking after our month back in Canada.  It’s always the part of the week when I feel I’m really in Africa.  No Superstore with it’s mind-boggling selection of goods, no credit card pin number to remember and no desperate search in the parking lot to find one’s vehicle.  As I dodge bicycles and bodas (motorcycles) I hear a cheery voice calling out.  “You were lost!” It is one of our favourite vegetable vendors her face lit up with a smile from ear to ear.  She speaks enough English for us to explain that we’d been away in Canada. We negotiate the price of a cabbage, sweet potatoes, and pineapples and receive her grateful thanks. 

As I wait for David to emerge from the depth of the ‘hardware’ shop I witness another classic market moment.  Coming towards me is a tall man dressed immaculately in a black suit with sweat pouring down his face.  He is not only wearing a suit but has about ten more suit jackets draped around his shoulders. The temperature must be over 30 degrees and I marvel at the determination of this travelling salesman.  It almost made me want to buy one to give this guy some relief.  A few minutes later the sky filled with dark clouds and the mad scramble to cover goods began.  As the rain began to fall I hoped the suit guy had found a place to shelter.  Maybe after the downpour someone might actually want a nice black suit.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Ode to Canadian Tire

Apologies again from this absentee blogger.   
Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine that I'd long for the day when I could spend Sat. afternoon in Home Depot or Canadian Tire wandering through the plumbing section.  Our experience of home renovations in Uganda has taught me that once again you never really appreciate what you have until you lose it.  We've 'shifted' once again to a different house; this time to one of the duplexes that was built by the ministry in the earlier days.  I love the word 'shifted' - so much less jarring than moved.  You know we just sort of changed position, turned over or something.  Perhaps it's the Ugandan way of mentally cushioning the inevitable upheaval that comes from reorganising ones belongings.  As we settle into our ninth house since coming to Uganda we're grateful that we have a roof over our heads, new neighbours to share life with AND a toilet that flushes - (I'll spare you the ode to Canadian Tire). 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Stamp

July 18th:
 David began the process to acquire a Ugandan driving permit some weeks ago.  Common to all government bureaucracies the process is anything but straightforward.  The run around from one office to another was torturous.  "I'm sorry ssebo (sir) but you need the stamp from that office before coming to this office."  "I'm sorry, you need a photocopy of this form before coming here." (Interestingly the photocopy shop is housed right beside to take advantage no doubt of all the business).  "I'm sorry you need the stamp from a health clinic to certify your health before coming to this office."  A 'kind' man will conduct you to a clinic for your 'check-up' for a fee of course. The long lines at each of these offices combined with all the security checks at each place adds up to lots and lots of time.  You can of course pay to have someone spend several days undergoing this torturous process on your behalf.  However, there's enough determination and penny pinching Scot mentality in David to endure several days of this adventure and he finally acquired his temporary driving permit. Oh he'll have to go in two weeks to pick up the real thing.  Wonder what stamp you need for that?

Postscript:  Aug 13th
David picked up his permit last Fri. and now has an official Ugandan driving license!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014


Every year New Hope has a thanksgiving Sunday to remember all our many blessings.  We gather in our family groups and then parade around the big circle singing and shouting and waving branches.  A bit like Jesus entry to Jerusalem and David returning with the ark all rolled into one. 

The highlight is always the singing in various tribal languages and exuberant dancing in which our Iteso brethren jump twice their height (it's a full body workout!).

Uncle Jonnes summed up the reason for thankfulness as he closed our time in prayer.  "Today where twenty-five years ago I saw rows of skulls and skeletons I now see the faces of children singing praise to You."

Monday, July 14, 2014



It's a word that conjures up images for all of us and the last few weeks that word has floated to the surface of a few conversations.  Before I left Uganda for three weeks in Canada, many people told me to greet "'those ones at your home place for me."   Indeed as I sped along smooth roads, embraced family and friends (including one who whisked me to London for my lay-over), savoured the taste of rhubarb crisp and Alberta beef, I did feel that I'd come home.  By the way you know you've been away for a long time when a trip to Value Village is a big treat.  Thank you to all my western Canadian hosts who housed me, fed me and brought me along to events like the Scottish society BBQ. How good to share in worship and fellowship with my church family in Calgary and realise again how much we owe to those who are praying and supporting us in Uganda.

Then it was off to Ontario to see elderly ones who told me "you look just like your mother."  One forgets how much those connections mean and how they speak to the "home" of long ago. 

Catching up on lives of nephews and nieces all grown up and sharing cups of tea and conversation with my siblings were all a part of coming "home."

Cap it all off with a weekend in Muskoka, swimming in the lake and a surprise meeting with a former Pioneer Camp director and I can truly say I've been "home."

As my flight landed in Entebbe though I felt excitement mounting.  "Home" for me has also come to mean bumpy dirt roads, beans and posho and countless faces dear to my heart.  "Welcome home" the immigration official said as I passed all those visitors in the visa line and flashed my 'dependent pass.'  I smiled to myself as I waited for David and the kids to pick me up (African time you know!).  It's good to be "home."


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

On Being Content

Apologies once again from this absentee blogger.  Life has been busy and moments of reflection rare. So in no particular order hear are a few ramblings from the last month(!) of life.

May brought first term school holidays for the children who attend our schools. Most afternoons I tutored children from our family group.  As well as working on reading and math, we baked, made bracelets and talked.

One topic that often surfaces is life in 'America.'  Despite our valiant attempts to maintain our national identity most still think of us as Americans.  The fascination with life in America often saddens me.  The images they see in the media translate in their minds to wealth and happiness and blind them to the richness of community that they 'possess' here.  My own kids chimed in during these conversations explaining that life is not 'freer' or 'better' somewhere else.  The human propensity to see greener grass on the other side of the fence is best challenged by jumping over the fence.  I'm thankful that we've had that opportunity and seen that true contentment comes not from our possessions or locality but from knowing the One who works all things for our good.

The nature of true contentment was also brought home to me last Friday as Aunt Ketty, our staff member who was undergoing cancer treatment in Nairobi, retuned to New Hope.   Her course of radiation and chemotherapy has gone well and she will take a few weeks break before resuming treatment .  On Friday staff, school children and her husband and seven children stood at the gate to welcome her home.  As the car drove up we burst into cheers and our eyes filled with tears as we watched her three year old son being passed through the window to her open arms.  Watching this families' journey has taught us all so much.

Added to the month of May have been teacher training sessions, a foreign staff retreat, care for a missionary family who are dealing with serious health issues, and the list goes on.  We pray each day for wisdom to choose the right priorities and strength to press on.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Croc Lessons

As my kids study the concept of environmental footprints, we often compare our lives in Canada to our lives in Uganda.  Yesterday the truth about western consumption hit home through the lesson of the Croc.  The girls brought Crocs to Uganda as a practical, washable kind of footwear and we have indeed got what we considered our moneys-worth out of them.  A couple of weeks ago first one Croc and then another was ripped and left to sit on the shoe rack awaiting disposal.  After all they weren't really much use right?  Enter our ever enthusiastic laundry lady who asked me "Aunt do you want me to take to get fixed?"  "Really," was my surprised response.  "How much would that cost?"  "1000//=" (the equivalent of 40 cents).  And so yesterday the Crocs came back stitched up with sturdy thread ready for more footsteps on Ugandan soil.  Necessity has taught my friends well.  It's a lesson western environmentalists might take to heart.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

When Oranges aren't Orange

The house we're currently living in has an abundance of citrus trees in the garden.  The trees are now laden with fruit and we're enjoying the freshly squeezed juice.  These fruit are also an endless source of confusion to us.  You see in Uganda oranges aren't orange and lemons aren't yellow.  If you leave them long enough they do turn somewhat orange and yellow but then they're past their best. Not being botanists we find this all quite baffling but then as our Ugandan friends know we're easily confused. The longer we're here the more we realise how much we have to learn and how much we need the wisdom of the One who knows why in Uganda oranges aren't orange.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Not Alone

Her voice is quiet and the words broken but I make out the word - cancer.  Last month a dear lady, mother of seven and teacher at our primary school was diagnosed with esophageal cancer.  As David and I went to pick her up from our local hospital we felt the pain of this devastating news.  I first got to know this mother of seven on our short term trips and admired her drive and determination as a mother and a teacher.  I snapped this photo of her and her twins in 2011. The challenges of cancer treatment in Africa are immense.  She spent the last week in Kampala waiting for the ONE AND ONLY radiation machine in the country to be repaired.  With the machine not working and the cancer needing to be addressed it has been decided that she will head to Nairobi, Kenya for treatment.  People in our community and supporters abroad are providing support to facilitate treatment. Yesterday she stood before the church and testified to the peace that undergirds her faith and so we continue to pray that she and her family will be upheld during this difficult journey.  

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Future Wildlife Photographer

Here are a few of John's photos from his safari trip with his Canadian friends.  If you'd like to see more check out the link to his blog. 

'Life on the Line'

 One of the nice things about having guests is the opportunity to visit places we wouldn't ordinarily go.  Such was the case on the last day of our Canadian guests' visit.  We've often mentioned in our presentations that Uganda is on the equator and decided we'd prove it.  Standing with one foot in the northern hemisphere and one in the southern hemisphere was perhaps not our most thrilling moment ever but at least we can say we've done it. 

On our way through Kampala I captured another of those classic road scenes which always leave us shaking our heads.  Talk about 'life on the line.'  No wonder we ask that you pray for safety on the roads.

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Joy of Pangas

On Saturday we had the opportunity to take our Canadian guests on an outreach project in the community.  Our childcare staff, many of whom live in the villages surrounding New Hope, often become aware of people who are in desperate need of housing or assistance of other kinds.  In conjunction with our schools work parties are organised to help in gardens or build houses.  This past week we joined in clearing bush so that a house can be constructed for a mother and her four children.  Two of the children attend our primary school. 
Clearing bush is no small feat as vegetation is thick and frequently thorny.  Our group pitched in learning how to use pangas (our local machetes) and hauling brush away. 
Sweat and scratches were a small price to pay to see the shy smile on the face of the mother who thanked us for our work.