Enter into our reality for a moment and enjoy some photos from the Suubi Children's Center.
Dear Reader, As I type this we are waiting in Entebbe Airport for our long journey home. We had a fantastic fun day with our new friends from Suubi. Many of them had never been to the zoo nor had they eaten out. The joy on their faces was priceless to treat them to this! One teacher from Suubi had his first hamburger!!!
This trip has been amazing. To see the hope that Suubi is giving to the children is simply God's hand at work.
Your loved ones, friends, brothers and sisters are coming home with hearts full of gratitude and love.
Today we had a chance as a team to process a few things. One thing we have learned is the in Africa time waits. We have been off schedule for everything! This can be so frustrating for us teachers but through the power of Christ we made it. It became our joke at the end of the trip here and we fondly would tease Ronnie, "Ronnie, are these African times or American times?" His response as always, "Friends, friends, no, look see this is what we believe in Africa..." Just ask anyone and I am sure we'll have a story to share.
Today we also got to celebrate Steve's birthday here in Uganda! I think he would tell you it was a truly special day and what an unique way to celebrate!
Here is a fun fact: Did you know in Uganda marijuana grows naturally? It does and we have had some experience smelling it burning. Ronnie and Ritah tell us that it is often used to feed chickens when they are ill. Can you even? In America that would be the fastest selling chicken!!! Instead of organic chicken we'd sell medicinal marijuana chicken! The jokes on this are endless.
We are all a little slap-happy because of being tired and emotionally processing our experience.
Pray for safe travels, flights on time and for no turbulence!
Kalle-Kalle (ok in Luganda and a favorite of our hosts and bus driver Fred; who is in the photo on top) Thank you for your prayers and support! They have been felt. We look forward to be back in our own environment and to share our time and stories with you.
😊🇺🇬 Team Uganda
Monday began our teaching training and as I write this we are on our last day of teacher training and we are overwhelmed with mercy and love.
Our days have been filled with questions, excitement over learning a new skill, and laughter. These teachers have been so wonderful and we are learning more and more about their world of teaching. It's difficult to leave because the need is great. There are simple things that we take for granted like the ability, to teach math while a doing reading lesson, the ability to make copies for students, to have designated play/reading areas in our classrooms, the availability of special teachers to assist struggling children and the knowledge that children can learn through physical education, art, and music. All these and more are new concepts for the teachers BUT here's the thing; what they are currently doing and using is working and in some instances it is better. It is a paradox that only God fully knows and understands. It is too much for our human minds. As a team it is our prayer that we have laid a foundation for the Suubi teachers to build and grow upon in their own environment. We also pray that these teachers have felt our love for them and this will carry them in their teaching.
Because so many good things have happened in the three days we will try to highlight a few...
Jonelle's devotion of HOPE was a great way to begin our training.Each teacher wrote down in their notes H-hope O-open your bible, P-pray E-encourage one another. The teacher's smiles as we sang silly songs like Hickety-Pickety and using silly words like ooga-booga to teach a new skill were better than an A+ on a paper! The joy and expression on their faces as they read stories and modeled good read-aloud practices.The joy they expressed when they learned all books were staying at Suubi. Recorders!!We were able to bring over 50 recorders to Suubi. The lesson that the teachers learned in playing recorders was priceless and many were excited to have this new way to teach. American stereotypes were broken.The teachers at Suubi thought we were all rich, all married, and all have 'perfect' students.We shared with them our personal struggles with money, relationships and even our profession of teaching is difficult for us too.The teachers also learned that we have pain and trauma in our classrooms and in the lives of our students. We see the strength and resilience of the women.The women are hard workers and often times value the education of their child over the men.
On Monday four of the team members were part of a parent panel. There were about 30 parents of Suubi or the church in attendance. It is an overwhelming thought to think that we can offer any advise on parenting or marriage when we are culturally very different. However, God is big and provided a way for us to share our story of marriage and parenting to these African parents. One thing we noted during this time is the power of imbalance in men and women. The women are angry at the men for having many wives (polygamy is legal in Uganda) or not working. The men are angry at the women for speaking ill of them in front of their children or feel like they are always being yelled at. The concerns they have regarding parenting are the same as ours. They are worried about health, nutrition, being able to learn, keep their sons and daughters pure in heart, having their daughters dress modestly and the list goes on. Our panel was compassionate towards these brothers and sisters and we shared from our hearts gracefully that we don't parent or do marriage perfectly...only God does that for us. As the conversations and questions were continuing our time was running shorter and shorter. Those in attendance wanted us to come back to share more! A definite need is here among the church and school community to build strong parents and marriages. Our panel received some gifts of mango and sugar cane as a thank you. Oh. My. Humbled.
On Tuesday four team members visited the homes of students that are sponsored through Suubi. We were welcomed into these humble homes like royalty. Floors made of dirt and cow dung were swept and the best furniture was brought out for us to sit and they took the floor. This act in and of itself is very humbling. Other children and adults gathered just to see what the Muzungu's (Africa's word for white people) were up to. At one home they were shocked to know a Muzungu was in their home! These visits are not only important to the community but also to Suubi so that others see they care about them. Once again we were given gifts of eggs, bananas, woven baskets, and sugar cane. Our hearts are full already and to have these care givers give out of their own food source...well there are no words.
On Wednesday we had a celebration in the afternoon for the teachers. We acknowledged the teachers with a certificate of completion for our three day training. This is a B-I-G deal to them as they don't get training often and to do so is expensive. We also had the privilege to commission the first classroom in the new building! 50 Suubi students showed up in uniform and walked into their new space for the first time; with big smiles! It was wonderful to pray over them in their new space.
So many thoughts, so many stories, so many pictures but very few words to tell you the love and growth in our hearts and minds. One of many favorite prayers and take-aways was from a Ugandan teacher. She simply prayed..."Lord, if they didn't know you and your love they wouldn't come." She was speaking about us. Our team is the 'they.' We leave Suubi with full hearts, minds that are still processing, and pray over them Philippians 3:12.
Thanks to you dear reader for your support and prayers.
🇺🇬☺️ Team Uganda
Man alive, Africa can worship! I don't even know even know if there are enough adjectives to describe today's worship. It was one of those experiences where having been there paints the better picture. Think of moving and not just swaying your hips but m-o-v-i-n-g; like in Zumba class. Think of praising the Lord with shouts of thanksgiving; not shouts of anger but shouts of true joy. Clapping, oh, the clapping and noises that I can't even make all made to glorify the Lord. Joyful, yes. Soulful, yes. Beautiful, you bet.
Brother Billy and Brother Steve found the words to share and they brought them. AMEN! In all seriousness Marsha and Jen your men rocked!!! Thank you for your prayers.
We got to witness the dedication of their new worship space. Amazing. Ronnie had all people pray over the space to God in their language. It was loud, it was intense, and it was powerful. And what an encouragement to see this new space full!!!
Later we had each grade, from 1st -4th, sing a song for us. We were laughing at the sweetness of their voices but also shared tears at the preciousness in their lyrics. These children of Suubi are truly gifts and with the hope that Suubi provides there is a hope in each of their eyes, their voices and the shaking of their hips!!! As a team we felt so loved to have the teachers and students put forth much time and effort into a fantastic performance.
At last, we had what we called "Sunday Fun Day". Behind Suubi there is a large field where children can play. We gathered all the children along with their parents and it would seem other members of the community. We separated into 3 groups: parachute and balls, relay, and action songs. The children then rotated into each group. Candy was the highlight of the Sunday Fun Day. The overwhelming want for a sweet became so great that at one point we kind of felt like the Pied Piper! It was another experience where smiles and laughter broken down barriers to these 'white' people coming into their community. In the end we all gathered around the children to pray over them. Keep in mind the community, who was still gathered and watching, were there and many of the come from a Muslim faith. God is so good!
Our hearts are full.
The day ended at Kalagala Falls, a breath taking sight. The sound of the mighty waters put us at rest.
Thank you for your prayers. Keep praying as our teaching seminars begins. We need God's wisdom and strength.
🇺🇬☺️ Team Uganda
...if you now have Baha Men in your head and are singing a deep and loud 'whoof-whoof' you are experiencing the dog effect here that is causing many of us not to sleep peacefully through the night. Your prayers would be appreciated for a restful night of sleep.
All humor aside today was a somewhat emotional day. We began at the Source of Nile. Gorgeous. God's handiwork in vegetation, unique animals big and small, and the mass amount of water that bubbles under the surface to begin the Nile. All God and all good. (Hoping to post more photos of the Nile later)
After our tour we ate lunch and had a delightful guest, Dr. Jonathan, join us. Dr. Jonathan serves the Suubi Children's Center by caring for the students and their mothers. He travels once a week, 200 miles to Suubi and sees about 50-70 patients on his Saturday only visit. His time is completely volunteered and he loves the vision that Ronnie and Ritah have for Suubi and the Bukeka community. His commitment and love are awe inspiring. Dr. Jonathan shared with us that the number one illness of the students is malaria. Approximately 50% of deaths of children under 5 are because of malaria. While I think most of the team knew this; to hear it was staggering. The illness is because most families in and around Bukeka can not afford preventative care like medicines and mosquito nets. The statistic should move all of us because a treated mosquito net is about $20 but treating the chronic cases of malaria cost Suubi a good portion of their current medical budget. Dr. Jonathan and Ronnie are working on a way to get funding for preventative care and mosquito nets. If this moves you please go to Global Hands of Hope and donate to this cause. Suubi will have a medical team coming the first week of August this year. How fantastic would it be to provide mosquito nets to families?!
After our time with Dr. Jonathan we headed to the Jinja Market for culture and small gifts of Africa.
Tonight during our team devotions we shared ways we feel God moving and challenging our hearts. It's a frightfully vulnerable place and yet there is a peace. Psalm 63 was read over and over as a team to remind us of the God who sees us and securely holds us.
Tomorrow is worship. Please pray for Steve and Oz as they have been asked to share a word with the congregation. What type of word? That is a really good question and it has them nervous. If you read the last post it's Africa, baby 😉 Pray also for sleep and some stomach issues some of the team is experinceing.
Words do not express how much we can feel your prayers, love and support while we are here. Thank you and keep that love coming on the blog and Facebook. You are the best!
😉🇺🇬 Team Uganda
We were told, in preparing, for this missions trip that there were things that were going to happen that were, well, unexplainable. And the only explanation was, "It's Africa, Baby!" Let me assure you we have experienced the unexplainable and yet we are seeing God in it all. It makes for a crazy, beautiful, mess.
We don't have very good internet here and posts may be infrequent because of this. I will try to brief you in the happenings of the last few days, July 7th and 8th.
We visited Global Hands of Hope and heard the story and vision that Suubi Children's Center began in the heart of Ronnie when he was asked a simple question from Walt. Walt, a veterinarian who was serving on a missions himself, asked Ronnie 'what do you want to do?' Ronnie was moved because no one had ever asked him that. It was then that Ronnie sensed God asking him to do something big for Uganda. After years of working for the Ugandan government as a social workers Ronnie and Ritah began to see that their culture was becoming dependent on others for survival and this made them question what was really being done for Uganda. With a leap of faith, lots of prayer, and a meeting under the mango tree, Suubi began.
Our team was grateful and moved to hear his story. It was even more powerful for us when we actually went to Suubi.
At Suubi the students greeted us in line, singing you are welcome here. Of course, tears were shed. It was beautiful. We met the students and staff briefly before Ronnie showed us the new construction of teacher housing and a new wing of the school. It is impressive to see the work God is doing in such a short amount of time and how well it is being received in the community of Bukeka. Truly, Africa Baby!
Ronnie has vision and it is big. It is encouraging to hear him talk of the hopes for Suubi and Bukeka; even more powerful we he follows it with 'we serve a big God, He can do this.'
Today, July 8th, we observed and spent time with the students and staff at Suubi. We were so very encouraged by what we saw. These teachers are doing wonderful things here!
The children here are amazed at our white skin, fat that jiggles makes them giggle or if it's firm they looked concerned. Africa Baby! We played in the dirt with them, served snack and lunch for them, kicked a soccer ball with them, sang and danced with them. It was lovely and made our heart full to see the joy they have in such simple things.
We are anxious for Sunday when we will get to play and see their smiling faces again.
The team is doing well. We are feeling well this far. (Praise God) We have had to change hotels last minute due to a plumbing issue at the hotel we has planned to stay at. Africa Baby! They were truly flexible and it has all worked out.
Not only are we learning 'Africa Baby' but the team has said... ..."I feel loved here" ..."I feel welcomed here" ..."God is showing me how BIG he is." ..."The teachers can teach us a thing or two."
Again continue to pray for us. Especially Monday-Wednesday as we begin the teaching seminars. That our plans are God's and we would not be bound by our expectations but let God's Spirit be our light.
🇺🇬☺️ Team Uganda
Jambo family and friends!
The team has safely landed in Uganda. Our flights were uneventful, security was great, and mostly on time. Praise God!
The flight into Uganda got a bit rough at one point in the trip. So rough that many people on the plane were taking advantage of the special 'bag' including one of our teammates. As of this morning (Thursday July 7) she looks much better and feels much better! Again, praise God! Most of us slept well, some not so well, so please pray for strength and a good nights sleep for us.
Today we are headed to see the Global Hands of Hope Office here in Kampala. We will also get to experience the Kampala market before we head to Bukeka and meet the students and staff at Suubi Children's Center.
Your prayers mean the world to us so please continue to lift up this team and our teaching seminars to the glory of God.
Until tomorrow...Tutaonan (Goodbye in Kiswahili)
☺️🇺🇬 Team Uganda
On Sunday, June 26, the team gathered to pack up all of our books, blocks, stickers, and other teaching supplies we will be bringing to Uganda with us.
The theme of the day, “It’s gettin’ real. This is really happening!”
Be in prayer for us, our families, our Ugandan brothers, sisters & hosts as we prepare to leave in 8 days. EIGHT DAYS!!!
As our team prepares physically and spiritually for our upcoming trip, we'd like to ask you to stand with us in prayer for the following items (and more as the Spirit leads you!):
- One of our teammates is suffering an eye issue. Please pray for eye health and that it would clear up - especially the fuzzy vision.
- Overall team health - in preparation to leave, while in country, and upon return. Specifically, please pray for protection from disease carrying insects and bugs and the medication that we will take to avoid some of those sicknesses would work and not make us sick. (i.e. malaria medication, vaccines, etc.)
- Please pray for wisdom and discernment in planning - that the team would use what God wants them to use!
- That the team would not lose sight of being an encouragement to the Ugandan teachers
- To be as prepared as possible, but also have incredible flexibility & be able to release 'our plans' to be able to better follow His plans.
Thanks for engaging in this trip through prayer!
We are so grateful that you are curious about this mission trip - a group of teachers traveling to Uganda to help further train, support, and encourage Ugandan teachers.
Below you will meet our team. Please be in prayer for us as we prepare, go, and return & process this grand adventure.
Important people in my life…parents, siblings, nieces, church family, teaching colleagues and students
Believes in…the strength of the interconnected body of Christ
Fan of… playing, stories, building/creating/refining
Not a Fan of…writing; endings.
Top Played Songs on my device
- Rachmaninoff: Alleluia
- Offenbach: Flower Duet
- Smetana: Die Moldau
In Uganda I hope to…Connect with and encourage the teachers and families of the Suubi Family Center. Help equip them for motivating and educating children.
Teacher of...young students! I currently teaching reading to struggling readers, but I have also taught kindergarten and first graders for 15 years.
Important people in my life…Lane, my husband and confidant, and my ever-growing (always-hungry, sons) Eli (13) and Owen (11).
Believes in…helping others, continuously learning, and looking forward.
Fan of… getting “lost” in a good book and spending days on the water with my family and friends.
Not a Fan of…Winter (especially Winter in April) and people who tear down others.
Top Played Songs on my device
- Humble and Kind by Tim McGraw
- Lord, I Need You by Matt Maher
- Chicken Fried by Zac Brown Band
In Uganda I hope to…allow God to use the spiritual gifts He has given me to support the Global Hands of Hope foundation in their vision as well as the children and teachers of the Suubi Children’s Center.
Teacher of.... current third year student at UWSP with an elementary education major
Important people in my life.... my family!
Believes in.... living for Christ only, not this world
Fan of.... FOOD! Dark chocolate, dessert with coffee, ketchup on everything and soggy food (haha... soggy fries, soggy cereal, etc.)
Not a Fan of... writing essays
Top Played Songs on my device... None because I don't listen to music on anything but the radio! (rare but true)
In Uganda I hope to... grow in my relationship with Christ and gain experience/knowledge of teaching
Teacher of... currently kindergarten teacher. Past: preschool teacher, Day Care Director, Environmental Education Teacher, substitute teacher (all grades)
Important people in my life.... husband -Phil, daughter -Kendra, son & daughter-in-law -Justin & Tori (married 2015), Phil's siblings and their spouses, my brother and his wife, nieces and nephews
Believes in...Jesus Christ as my savior, encouraging others, importance of play in the lives of children (and adults)
Fan of...warm weather, sunshine, summer, a good book, dark chocolate, honesty, quiet, exploring new places, being outdoors
Not a Fan of...cold weather / winter
Top Played Songs on my device... all by Matthew West
- Grace Wins
- Day One
- Live Forever
In Uganda I hope to... Follows God's lead, use my teaching experience to help/support the teachers and staff, and to learn from the people we encounter.
Teacher of... currently high school special ed teacher. Past 16 years: special ed teacher for grades PK-12, homebound tutor, tutored at the jail, worked in a therapeutic day treatment school for 3 years; behavior specialist
Important people in my life.... Children: Victoria (25), Cassandra (22), and Brian (20). Grandson: Braeden (4). All children I come in contact with!
Believes in... Salvation, grace, and hope. Unconditional love, warmth of sunshine, God's faithfulness
Fan of...St. Louis Cardinals baseball, warm weather, sunshine, the smell of rain, smiles on people's faces, love in action, grace and forgiveness.
Not a Fan of...cold weather, unforgiveness, maltreatment of children
Top Played Songs on my device...
- Casting Crowns
- Big Daddy Weave
- Lauren Daigle
In Uganda I hope to...build up and encourage the teachers to help them know how valued they are at Suubi! Learn how God can use me in different ways for the present time as well as in the future. Learn to love and respect others' cultures and customs. Meet new people and share God's love and promises with them.
Teacher of... reading intervention
Important people in my life.... Robert (husband); Brian & Kristin (son/daughter-in-law); Josh (son); Evan (son); our Compassion children
Believes in... Hope. That God will never leave or forsake you as He has promised.
Fan of... starry nights and beautiful moons, mountains and waterfalls, hiking, dark chocolate!
Not a Fan of...super cold weather (snow is good, though)
Top Played Songs on my device... I don't use a device, but current favorites are:
- Through All of It by Colton Dixon
- Good, Good Father by Chris Tomlin
- If We're Honest by Francesca Battistelli
In Uganda I hope to... present reading workshops that perfectly match the needs of the teachers, which only God in His infinite wisdom can accomplish through us!! :). To experience a new culture. To love those we are serving. To meet a young boy who received one of my OCC boxes.
Oz (Billy oswald)
Teacher of...6th Grade English at Wisconsin Rapids Area Middle School and Varsity Basketball at Lincoln High School.
Important people in my life.... My wife Jen, my daughter Abbie, and my two sons Josiah and Max. Also, my friends, family, and coaching family.
Believes in...God. Jesus. The Holy Spirit. Straight up. They win in the end. Period. Amen and Hallelujah!
Fan of...he Wisconsin Rapids Red Raiders, Wisconsin Badgers, Boston Red Sox, and the Green Bay Packers.
Not a Fan of...the Minnesota Gophers, New York Yankees, the Chicago Bears, or loud chewing...for real.
Top Played Songs on my device...anything and everything 90s alternative rock/grunge.
In Uganda I hope...God opens my eyes to see where I am most needed and gives me the wisdom and strength to do all that I can with the time He gives me there. I am hoping to be vulnerable to the calling of God and rely less upon myself and more and more upon Him. Amen.
Teacher of...special education
Important in my life...my hubby Matt, my daughters Peyton and Maya, my life group and my family members
Believes in...faith and love
Fan of...good food, wonderful books, strong coffee
Not a fan of...frogs in my garden or mice in my house
Top played songs on my device...
- Great Are You Lord - Casting Crowns
- Relentless - Hillsong
- Smile - R5
In Uganda I hope to... demonstrate love in action to the teachers, parents, and children of Bukeka to let them see how great our God is and how much He loves us.
STEVE VAN ARK
Teacher of... the future generation!
Important in my life...my wife and kids
Believes in...faith, hope, and love
Fan of...coffee and pie!
Not a fan of...snow every day for a week in April - ugh!
Top played songs on my device...
- Tapestry - Carole King
- Toby Mac Pandora Station
- Something Broadway!
In Uganda I hope to... be used of God to accomplish HIS goals