Friday, May 2, 2014

Sarah's Light

There are so many people we encounter in this journey of life. “Little” Sarah was one who was in mine for too brief a time and yet, I learned so much from her. Though she no longer resides on this earth, her light continues to shine brightly in my life and those she touched so joyously. Lessons we all can learn.

Be original.
Sarah was very un-assuming. And by that, I simply mean that she was okay with who she was and whose she was. She easily stood out from the crowd by not pressing her way in. She sought the gifts God gave her and was happy in her uniqueness.
Romans 12:6 “We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.”

Be fearless.
For a short time, we had a kitten. Most of the kids were not too keen (aka afraid) to play with him and didn’t quite understand why I would pick him up and pet him. One day, I found Sarah running in circles around the living room being pursued by the cat. In her hand was a string. She was just laughing and laughing. If the cat got too close to her, she’d drop the string and run away … but she came back and began the game all over again, leaving her fear behind.
1 John 4:17-18 (The Message) “God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us.  .... There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love.”

Be joyful.
Whether she was doing her task by herself or having fun with her sisters, she was usually smiling. Sometimes, when I greeted her, she would look over, raise her eyebrows and pretend not to greet me back (her way of teasing me!), but inevitably, that smile would break out and she could not contain the joy bubbling over. She’d just laugh!
Psalm 4:7 “You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.”

Live abandoned.
One of my favorite times in Uganda was worship time. Every evening at 6:30, the drums would begin, singing and dancing ensued and the whole house came together as one to worship. Many of those nights, I would simply watch as the kids raised their hands, bowed down, fell to their knees. It is truly a sight to behold. Sarah worships in abandon to her Lord. Eyes closed tight, one hand reaching toward Heaven, one hand covering her heart. She loves Him and He loves her.
Psalm 24:3-6 “Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully. He will receive blessing from the Lord and righteousness from the God of his salvation. Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob.”

Love God.
I know that many of my friends do not. Some don’t believe in God, or maybe believe in a “Higher Power”, but can’t understand why I serve God. A blog will not change your mind. But I pray that one day all will know how big and how great the love of God is and love Him in return. Sarah did. These are her words (taken from a letter she wrote before she died): “God loves you so much. God wants you to be his.”
Jeremiah 31:3 “… I [the Lord] have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.”

I know that she is free from any claim of this world, safe in the arms of Jesus, but my heart aches for her earthly loss. I will never again see her smiling face, hear her joyous laugh or have the pleasure of watching her grow into an amazing woman. These are the struggles we face. Those of us left on this earth. In our human sorrow, may we submit to the peace of God, who lovingly holds out His hand in comfort ... as Sarah dances and sings with the angels.

May her light shine bright as we remember her sweet spirit.

Photo Credit: Shannon Murphy.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Calling All Brides

I think this tiara totally goes!

As some of you may know, my friend Mama Sarah got engaged at the end of last year. It’s very exciting!! On Saturday, us “girls” journeyed to the showgrounds for the Bride & Groom Expo. Even Uncle George, Mama Sarah’s fiancĂ© came; though I joked with him all day about grooms being N.I.D. (not into details), to which he jokingly agreed! Haha!!

I’ve never been to a Bridal Fair before, never having been a bride myself, so it’s with an impish smile that I went to my first one here in Uganda! Booths with gowns, jewelry, centerpieces, photographers, music, etc. And our favorite ... cake tasting, of course!

Now I'm going to share with you prizes for best booths!

1st place winner: “Catch Him and Keep Him”, offering marital counseling to the woman who wants to keep her man, now that she’s caught him. Isn’t that hysterical?! The founder and CEO also gave a workshop, which we attended and it must be said that Mama Sarah and Aunt Ina (her sister) could not keep a straight face!!

2nd place winner: “The Wedding Crashers Band”. There was no one actually in the booth, so I can only assume they went to crash a wedding somewhere that day!

3rd place winner: Monaco Cosmetics. Legitimately, this store sells skin care products and make-up and they were offering a 20% discount. I couldn’t help myself and bought a set of MAC make-up brushes. I won’t make you jealous by telling you how much I paid!

4th place winner: Photo, Etc. The CEO was so amazing! And her work was great – all my photographer friends would love it! She had these little digital booklets, something I have never seen in the states before. She sells a package where the bride and groom get 8 of these small booklets. It’s such a great idea to give to parents and grandparents!!

And last but certainly not least was the fashion show! Bridal gowns, tuxes, even flower girls (with one heck of a catwalk strut) stepped out on the runway. It was really fun to see the different gowns by local fashion designers. That is until one of the runway lights sparked and the fire that ensued had me running from my seat. There was no way that I was going down in an electrical fire in Uganda! Thankfully, the fire stayed contained in the one can light and was then extinguished. No one was hurt.

So that was my day at the Bridal Fair. Happy wedding planning, Mama Sarah!!

Friday, July 27, 2012


I admit it. I’m a jealous person (apparently). I am sometimes sucked in by American materialism and “keeping up with the Jones.” But here in Uganda, it’s not about the stuff. It’s about the spirit. I have commented to a few friends how much easier it is to be close to God here. To really be in tune to His heart, to hear His voice, to call out to Him, to thank and praise Him. It’s a state of need and desire to be close to Him. And I see it so fervently in the believers here.

I was reading a book recently (an excellent book called “When Helping Hurts”, that I highly recommend to EVERYONE!) and the author commented about the people he encountered in a tent church in a slum here in Uganda. The members were all praying aloud at the same time, as is customary in Uganda, and he heard praises and pleas such as “Lord, thank you for the food you provided yesterday, please provide it again today,” “Father God, be with my husband so that he doesn’t beat me today,” “Almighty God, I believe that you can provide school fees for my children.” And on and on the praises and prayers went. It’s out of a great need and desire to praise God for the work He is doing and will do in their lives. It’s a constant outpouring of thankfulness and approaching His throne for their daily needs. If everything is God’s and He lovingly gives it us, then this is how it’s supposed to be, right?

And I’m jealous. I see the dependence, the glistening tears of gratitude when He moves and the outstretched arms as believers fervently pray for their nation. When did I miss out on this? I know that it’s in America too, but sometimes I get so caught up in that good ole American materialism and the fact that our “needs” are not even in comparison to the “needs” of people in Uganda, that I forget. I forget that God has supplied all my needs, according to HIS riches and glory! I forget that what I have is already HIS and I should pour out blessings and praise to Him who has so generously given to me. I forget to seek his face for my daily bread.

So, I pray that I will not forget. That I will stand in the gap for our nation, for our children, for the impoverished of this world. That I will stand in awe of the cereal I have in the morning, because God provided it (okay, maybe that’s a little much, but I should be thankful, even for the little things!). And that I will remember my brothers and sisters in Uganda. Though they may be “materially poor” they are “spiritually rich” and we can all learn something from them.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Butterfly Effect

Our yard is filled with butterflies. All kinds. Small. Big. And lots of colors! I guess it figures since during this rainy season I have seen many a caterpillar mosey-ing along. Last Saturday, as we were all outside doing our weekly washing, one landed on Peter’s shoulder and stayed! I was amazed. He walked right up to me with it still sitting on his shoulder, saying “Look Auntie Leslie!”

I tell you all of this, in the midst of having our first short-term team here, for two reasons. Reasons that I needed to hear, understand, process and evaluate in my own life. Yes … this is one of Leslie’s philosophical moments. Ha ha!

Reason #1. The butterflies had been flying around our yard for at least a few days before I saw the one sitting on Peter’s shoulder. But it took him saying, “Look” for me to actually see. Sometimes that really bothers me about myself. It isn’t until someone points something out to me that an understanding, a dawning happens in my brain. As if my eyes were not comprehending the world around me prior to the aforementioned “Look!” And I guess the only word for that is self-centeredness. YIKES! Now that is something to sit down, reflect, take the time to process and understand and then take steps to change, isn’t it? Sometimes, I just need a small little reminder to stop. Look. I was just glad this time that reminder came in the form of butterflies.

Reason #2. Caterpillars are pretty cute if you look at them. They could happily stay that way forever, I’m sure. They have their needs met. They get plenty to eat. Of course, I’m guessing on this. I have not actually interviewed one, but I can only imagine that their simple little life is just fine with them. But then something happens. They start the cocoon. And suddenly are thrust into the world as a new creation! Not crawling, but flying. Not colorless, but colorful. Something brand new. I can only imagine what they are thinking in their little cocoons, but to be able to come out and see the world as only a butterfly can, it really must be something. It’s the greatest analogy to becoming a follower of Christ. We are all called to something greater when we enter this world. Life can be going along and then you hear it … Jesus is calling you. By name. To quit crawling in the muck and the mire and to fly! I’m ever more aware of this since being in Uganda. I see Jesus in these beautiful faces, soulful eyes and joyful smiles looking back at me. I see new creations, flying. They way they were created to fly. It’s a precious thing. One we should all remember!

As I write this from my “New Creation Family Home” (appropriately named, don’t you think?), I can only smile as I think of these kids and the new creations they have become. They were beautiful before they arrived, but now they can fly!

I have to examine myself, because sometimes, I go back to crawling. Breathing in the dirt and grime and forgetting that I was created, that I was called to something greater. That I too can fly because I’m a new creation. And I’m praying that the kids (and adults) we meet in these next 2 weeks will want to fly too. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

School Daze ... literally!

The feeling that freedom is not far away. The mornings where you can finally sleep late (if you want). The never-ending facts that you cram into your head are almost done!

Yes, it’s almost that time … when school will be out for the term. But before this longed for freedom, there is one little obstacle. Exams! Argh! Yes, end of term exams are here. My students have been reviewing and reviewing and reviewing their notes, their past quizzes and their math worksheets in preparation. Tomorrow is the big day. And we are all praying that they are ready!

And now you’re thinking, “Seriously! They are almost out of school. What?” Well, schooling in Uganda is done in 3 terms for each school year, starting at the end of January, with some holiday time in between each term. A rough calendar would look like this:

Term 1: Jan – Mid-April
Term 2: Mid-May – Aug
Term 3: Sept – Nov/Dec

What we in America would call the big “summer” break is actually Dec/Jan in Uganda. During this long holiday, you’ll find many students and teachers alike headed back to the village to visit family and friends, as is the case with many of our own students at New Creation Center.

I, myself, am looking forward to this holiday as much as my students. And now I know why my teachers all looked completely frazzled and burnt out at the end of each year – it’s because they are. I’m just now feeling their pain myself. So for all my teacher friends: you really do fight the good fight. I’m praying for you!

Speaking of, please pray for the students here as they start their exams. Also, during this holiday between term 1 and term 2 we are looking for a qualified English teacher at New Creation Center. Please pray that we find one!!

From Uganda, this is Teacher Leslie, signing off! Singing my merry tune of school-time freedom! Woo-hoo!!

Friday, April 6, 2012

It's Greek to Me!

Technically, it’s not Greek, it’s English. “Ugandan” English to be precise. Did you know that Uganda has 2 official national languages? They are English and Swahili. Now, Swahili is rarely spoken where I live. You mostly hear Luganda and English in and around Kampala. And most schools are taught in English, so children learn pretty quickly. While English may be a second language for most Ugandans, it is one of their official languages.

Anyway, since arriving back in Oct I’ve catalogued some of the interesting turn-of-phrases that have graced my ears. Now, if you are a Brit or an Aussie, you may think some of these phrases are commonplace. Apparently, you all use some of the same jargon. For those of you from the USA, consider this your proper Ugandan English lesson for the day:

Uganda English
USA English
Can I go susu?
Can I go for short call?
Can I go pee?
Can I go pee?
Can I go for long call?
(what do you think this one could be??)
Someone is poo-pooling.
Someone is on the toilet, pooping. You’d think that long call and poo-pooling would be interchangeable, but they aren’t. You’d never ask to go poo-pooling!
My pen is disturbing me!
My pen won’t write. I think it ran out of ink.
Not doing your assigned chore
I need to pollute.
I have to fart.
Turn signal
We have ever.
Yes, we’ve done that.
I have tonsillitis.
I have a sore throat.
I have the flu.
I have a cold.
My stomach is paining me.
I have a stomach ache. (note: the word “ache” is rarely used here)
Move back, scoot over, step aside, etc.
Well be back.
Welcome back.
Assist me, please
Give me that, please.
I’m going to the saloon.
I’m going to the salon (to get a haircut).

I’m sure there are more, which I have either forgotten to write down, or have become so common to me that I think nothing of it. In any case, I do sometimes get a case of the chuckles over some of these. Especially the poo-pooling comment. I most often hear this as the kids reason for being late back to class after the bell rings! Someone else was poo-pooling and they had to wait to susu. Still makes me laugh as I type this.

And that concludes your first Ugandan English lesson. Study … there may be a quiz on this next week. Oh wait, that’s teacher-Leslie coming out. I forgot, this is blogger-Leslie.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Broken Bones

Yes, it is true. We have a broken bone in the house. And surprise, surprise … it’s not Shafiga. Shafiga holds the record with 2 broken bones. In fact, she’s had the only 2 broken bones that New Creation Family Home has experienced (even with all these wild boys!). Until today. And who is the grand prize winner … drumroll please … Vickie!!

Yesterday, during lunch break and recess, the kids were playing this game called “Bando”. It’s kind of like hide-n-seek. So, Vickie choose to hide in the mango tree and before she was discovered, jumped down and landed very badly on her foot. We iced, wrapped and elevated to see if it the swelling would go down and when it didn’t this morning, Mama Sarah made an appointment.

Vickie is a little tentative in smiling for this picture.
 We took Vickie to a nearby hospital/clinic for X-rays, which told us that she did in fact break one of the bones on the top of her foot. She had never had X-rays before and I could not tell if she was scared of this giant machine that stood before her, so I explained that the machine takes a picture of the bones. Most importantly, it won’t hurt!

Next, we go to P.O.P., better known as Plaster of Paris. This is a new building on the premises. Actually, I don’t think you can call it new if it is still being built, but the bottom floor is done and they are using it. Before entering, take your shoes off (which I thought was hilarious and therefore took a photo of my foot with Sarah’s foot, which you can find on FB).

I’ve never seen a cast being put on, so I stayed to watch and held Vickie’s hand as the technician wound the gauze-looking stuff around the broken part of her foot. It didn’t take very long and then Vickie was being measured for her very own crutches! The ones she was using were Shafiga’s old ones, but she’s much taller than Shafiga.

And that is the tale of Vickie’s broken foot. Since she’s young she only needs the cast on for 30 days. Pray that it goes quickly for her!