Thursday, December 20, 2007

Deep Sighs Are Prayers

It's been a long week. Phewwwwwwww.....let out a deep sigh.....

I have lived with the Scott Family since I got back from Africa in May. Rob, Stacey and their girls Emily and Kaylee have kindly and graciously put me up for the last 7 months. They have given me a room, have fed me, included me in their life and have grown in my heart to become my family.

So when Stacey's dad got sick and her sister (my best friend Shannon) temporarily moved in, it didn't feel weird or strange. It felt right that we should all be together. Shannon's boyfriend Will has traveled down from Red Deer a number of times to offer his support and lend a hand, quickly becoming part of the family too. Shannon and Stacey have been at the hospital every day since Allan was admitted. Three nights ago, he passed away in his sleep while both of them were by his side. Rob and I waited for them to get back from the hospital and we shared embraces and grief. The next morning I got a phone call at work that my brother-in-law's father had also died that night in a car accident. Overwhelmed by everything, I came home and was on the receiving end of comfort-giving. Weird hey? But also, not so weird. It just made me feel more like we were all in this together.

Now Shannon and Stacey are busy with funeral preparations, we celebrated the girls 4th birthday, Christmas in on its way, and I leave in 13 days for Uganda.

Life is amazingly dynamic. We may be going about our business and routine thinking we are in control until that illusion vanishes and we are suddenly thrust into situations we may not be ready for. Ready or not, life happens and I'm extremely humbled by this gift of life I've been given, thankful for a community that has become family, and awed by a God who knows and cares and guides....sigh....sigh now.

'We're walkin' on a thin string but I know The Lord got the whole thing in His hands.."
-Josh Garrels, Songbird

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Do These Things Mean Anything?

Is it possible, that God is so much bigger than us and our worlds, that He can cause our individual lives to cross over with a stranger's life even for a moment? And if so, if it's possible, does it mean something? Does bumping into one another cause a greater grumble of activity in the grand scheme of things?

I was set out tonight to do a very individual, specific task for myself. Find a guitar case. Not just any guitar case though. There are features this case needs to have: a) needs to be travel-friendly b) needs back-pack straps so I can hike around African villages with it c) needs to be lightweight d) needs to be sturdy e) inexpensive

I have been searching for this case for a month and a half and seem to keep coming up empty. I'll spare you the frustrating details. So finally, as I'm driving to the next music store, I start praying out loud. "Here's the thing God..." I laid it all out, what I would really like to have in a guitar case, and if He could help me out, I would really appreciate it...

In comes Shane at the music store, long, bushy grey hair, Santa-esque physique and kind blue eyes. First encounter: I ask if he could lend me a hand. He starts clapping and pointing to me shouting for everyone to give me a hand too. I laugh and say, "Yah, ok. I set myself up for that! Good one." He helps me on my quest to find THE guitar case and over the 30 minutes I remain in the store, he finds out I do HIV/AIDS work in Africa, why I do HIV/AIDS work in Africa, that I leave in January, that I go to church, that he has a daughter named Nicole, his son's birthday is today, he likes to crack stupid jokes that make me laugh, he is a Celtic Pagan, his wife also works at the store and they have a dog who licks my hand.

We finally track down the case I'm looking for in Edmonton and it will be here next week. Has features a), b), c), d), and e). Thank you Jesus! I am so relieved and happy. Shane offers his hand for me to shake and says, "Nice to meet you." I shake his hand and say likewise and also, I thank him for all his help and for some reason I decide to tell him what I've been thinking all along, that he is a very kind man. I tell him to have a fun birthday with his son. Shane loses the twinkle in his blue eyes; his face falls. "I'd like to," he says, "if my son also thought I was a kind man..." Ohhhhhh dear. I put my hand over my heart and offer my sincerest apology. His son is somewhere in Pennsylvania. I don't have to guess that they are estranged. I gently ask about his daughters and he says they're coming for Christmas and his smile comes back. I wish him a very good Christmas and then they are closing up the store so I have to go.

So anyway, all this struggle to find a guitar case, I'm just musing, was it all to bring me to Shane who in 30 minutes made an impression on me and who maybe needed to tell someone about his son on such an important day as this? It all of a sudden seems to mean a lot more than just me and my guitar case.

Hmmmm.....

Sunday, December 09, 2007

TRUE

Why do I pretend? I'm tired of pretending. I want to stop pretending but it's become such an ingrained habit in me, I don't know where to begin. It makes me feel sick sometimes, the way I shove that little girl in me down, yell at her to be quiet and quit her crying. "I'll give you something to cry about" I say to her, echoing the words of my father from years past. I can't have weakness in me. I can't let anyone see how truly frightened and alone I feel. That just won't do. I have to steel myself against the blows life brings. There's expectations too I need to fulfill. People expect me to be funny, happy, laughing, bubbly, cheerful, a leader, a mature Christian... If I let them down, I'm afraid I'll lose companionship. And there's so much in the world to be depressed about, I can't add to the pain. I have to be what people need. Because I need those people to need me. I need to have a role to play.

But I'm so tired of it! This mask is suffocating me! It's beginning to meld into my skin and now I wonder how I will be able to tell who is really me, and who is the mask? Oh God! Ever since I got back from Africa, I've struggled with this masked society of ours. I see how those around me look at one another, judge one another out of their fear and I bought into that fear. And I started judging too, and I toyed around with a mask or two, wanting to know what it feels like to live someone else's life. It's not at all that I despise the life I have. That's the infuriating part. I love the life I have. I feel very blessed by it. So why would I go and play pretend??

I marvel at the ones I meet who freely show their true selves. They seem so free and peaceful. I long for that courage. And for that freedom and peace. I know I've been that kind of person before. I just don't know how to get back there.

So, here's the thing. I'm giving it up. I'm done. This is stupid. We all experience fear, loneliness, hope, disappointment, hurt, love. I don't want to pretend that I'm always fine when more than half the time it's a ruse.

And here's how I'm going to start. By admitting to you, friends, that I sincerely doubt my ability to make a difference in anyone's life and I'm a lot afraid to go back to Africa and try to help people whose lives are steeped in suffering. I don't know what I have to offer, especially since I have been somewhat estranged from Jesus who is the source of all the love, goodness, peace and sustenance that people need. That I need! We all need Him! All I have is hope in a God who is truly bigger than my mixed up self. And I have a very minute, mustard-seed size faith in Him, which I hope He will make grow into an enormous, full, leafy tree that will provide shade and health and beauty.

And I want to tell everyone I'm sorry for being a phony. Maybe if we all try to be more like who we really are, we won't need these silly pretenses. Maybe we can help eachother to be True.

I think that's it for now. I needed to get that off my chest. Thank you to all my loved ones who continue loving me for me. I love you for who you really are too, as super corny and cheesy as that sounds! It's TRUE!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

"Wellness Is Cultural"

I didn't want World AIDS Day to pass by and not do something or be involved somehow. Last year I was in Cape Town and we went from township to township doing skits, singing songs and holding a memorial for all the lives lost to AIDS.

This year, it was a bit more difficult finding events in Calgary to attend. This one was last minute. A gathering of Aboriginal people at the Museum where high school students had put together an exhibit looking at HIV in their community.

The parallels between our Aboriginal communities here in Canada and the life in the townships in South Africa are so similar. Poverty, drug and alcohol abuse, violence, lack of education...these things lead to the spread of HIV in all of our communities.

My hope is that we in Canada can be as open about HIV as I found South Africans and Ugandans to be. Everyone talks about it and even people infected with the virus are not ashamed or afraid to declare their status. In doing so, they are breaking apart the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.

Here are some pics of the students' artwork. Let's talk about it.





Friday, November 23, 2007

Ebenezer


Today,
I am building
This Ebenezer
Out of,

Well placed words,
A halo of blue tree lights
Cinnamon and peppermint oil on lips
Questions of purpose
"A Christmas Carol" sideburns
Three hugs in five minutes
A deliciously unexpected encounter
The whispered smile of divine,
Swirling in and out of the breath of our mouths.
Familiarity and mystery joyfully haunting
Confounding and simplifying
In the smile, the eyes,
The hand to face in expression of wonder.

For up to this point,
I have found help
So before I walk away from this place forever,
I'm placing my Ebenezer
Between yesterday and tomorrow
So I will never forget.

(1 Samuel 7: 12)


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Family Photo


My sister, Michelle, brother-in-law, Kirk and nephew, Keenan came to Calgary from Saskatoon this weekend to visit. This was kind of our family's Christmas celebration because they aren't coming in December. So since we were all together this one evening, I decided we needed a family photo! Who knows when we'll all be together again since I leave for Uganda in January.

We had to wake Keenan up for this and he was NOT pleased, so we tried to take the pic as fast as we could. We could have played around more with the camera and different images but hey, at least we got this one. Go Family Olsen/MacIver/Tasa/Chabot!

Saturday, November 03, 2007

One Way Ticket

The ticket has been booked. I'm going back to Africa! The date will be January 2, 2008, nice way to start the New Year. I'm flying through Amsterdam and will stay a few days to visit good friends who were with me all last year, through the HIV/AIDS school in Cape Town and the outreach in Uganda/Sudan. I'm going back to the YWAM base in Arua, northern Uganda where I stayed last March-April just before I came home. I am hoping and praying about starting some sort of HIV/AIDS ministry, probably some kind of education/awareness/working with youth mixed with support for those infected/affected by HIV. Arua is also close to Sudan where I would like to go back to, also Yumbe, a village I've gone to twice and really want to go back to, and the base does some work in Congo (so I can use my French), and Central African Republic. All this means to you as my devoted reader is that I can get to a lot of countries pretty easily! I know it will all unfold once I get there.

I am SO excited!

I wasn't at first. When I booked the ticket, I was very freaked out. I went for a walk. It was damn cold! But I turned on the tunes and just walked. (As an aside, something I wonder if any other cold-climate person who has an ipod has noticed with a mix of frustration and amusement ...you can't turn the click wheel on an ipod with mittens on, huh...) OK, so I walk and I listen to my tunes and I decide to sit on a bench for a bit and hope the cold wind will clear it all up for me. Well, when I look up, the first thing to catch my eye is a young Sudanese guy walking across the street and my first reaction is to laugh out loud because I know God just let me in on a little secret...This is what I want. Africa. There's no doubt in His mind or anyone else's mind that I know of, but I needed to be reminded.

And I'm SO excited!

Halloween 2007

I don't know how long it's been since I carved a pumpkin, roasted pumpkin seeds or handed out candy to the kids on Halloween. But I had fun doing all these things, especially because it was so exciting for Emily and Kaylee, daughters of Rob and Stacey who I live with.


E & K eating our pumpkin seeds


Our pumpkin "Johnny"


Me and Shan as bug girls


E & K in costume


Yah, that's my pastor...

...and his elegant wife Stacey


...and me...I might not be normal...


Johnny the pumpkin in old-fashoned spooky black and white

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Lounging around outside in late October in short-sleeves....thank you Calgary for being so unpredictable with your weather. Of course, when it decides to storm next week I may curse you...

Saturday, September 15, 2007

An Inspiration Called becca

I adore my friend becca. I met her in 2005 at Beautiful Gate in Cape Town. She always inspires, encourages and challenges me just by being her. Right now she is in India, leading a team of women that are helping other women to give birth to healthy babies. She wrote this post that really inspired me and I want to share it with you. In it she puts into words the reason I will continue to do the little bit that I can while I still exist on this earth.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007 becca wrote:

let's clap our hands. (disjointed, but maybe headed somewhere...)

I noticed the other day that I excuse myself from clapping in a corporate applause. It's as if I don't think my two hands coming together make enough sound to matter either way.

In my usual dramatic style I considered the implications for my life. It's easy to be discouraged by the many needs and pains in the world, even in one city alone, or one village, even in one life. Structures of injustice, personal decision, national violence, lack of hope--so many destructive forces working against even one person, even one little girl living in Palestine.

And what am I expected to do? Save the world? Run for presidency? Why bother to clap my hands or give rupees to the woman asking for coins? Why pray over a newborn? Why get out of bed tomorrow?

Taken to an extreme, it seems ridiculous. Of course we should get out of bed. Of course we should pray. But I wonder where and why I've drawn the line that divides what is useful and will "matter" and what is too insignificant in light of the need.

I remember in the spring of 2004 tearing down the tents we slept in for a few nights on the main college lawn. We hoped to raise awareness among the 2'700 other students about the situation of refugees, particularly in Iraq and Palestine.

Of course my hopes for the event were high and disappointment set in quite deeply as only a few people participated and even fewer cared.

As my friend and I slowly dismantled the quiet protest on Good Friday I felt like I had failed basically every suffering person on the earth. Who was I kidding? What a waste of time and nothing changed. And I just feel depressed. And I didn't sleep well.

My professor would try to comfort me as I was continually disappointed with my efforts to see change that never seemed to come. "This is something, becca, not nothing. It's something."

At some point along the journey, the words of Jesus began to save me. In Matthew 25 I stumbled upon one of the few pictures of "Judgement Day" and I realized that those people who were called to Jesus to 'inherit the kingdom' were those who cared for Jesus (in all of his disguises) in the simplest ways. Food, water, hospitality, some clothes, a visit when she was sick and compassion when he was imprisoned.

A friend encouraged me to think about our Ressurrected Jesus who, after dismantling the forces of death in every sphere of this world and the world to come and ultimately bringing the indestructible promise of healing to every tongue and tribe and nation...makes breakfast for us on the beach. And says that if we love him we should feed his lambs.

So maybe my life's work won't bring that much change, and newborns will still die, women will continue to suffer alone in pregnancy and nations will rage against eachother.For now. But the powers of darkness hear my tears over a little baby in India and they hear the cries of oppressed peoples for justice and they hear the prayers of the sisters at St. Emma's Monastery and of a father longing for his son to come home. They hear the bridegroom calling out to His bride. And they tremble. Because soon, things are going to change.

So until then, let's clap our hands and pray and love eachother and take care of strangers and teach and hang out in slums and tell our stories and listen. As my friend sings, "I will beat my drum and you can beat yours too, and we will shake the earth, 'cause our names are new."




Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Globalfest with the Abdallah's

I took the Abdallah' (my Sudanese family) out to the Globalfest Pavilions on Sunday. I was suprised how many people they knew there. Other refugees from Sudan were there to support the Darfur dancers. They knew more people than me and have been in Canada only 5 months!! I met their community leader, Eisa and a few other people who I tried to impress with my tiny bit of Arabic. Ha Ha! "As-salam alaykum"

Mohamed liked the Spanish music and dancers the best, while Alawia and I were impressed by the Ukranian dancers who leaped and twirled in superhuman ways.

On the way home on the bus, I told them I would keep going downtown and make my way home. In their broken English, they managed to get me to understand that they really wanted me to stay the night at their house which touched me deeply. I had to decline their offer because I was working the next day. When their stop came, I shook Mohamed's hand, hugged Alawia and then Sayda, who held onto me so long, I thought something was wrong. But she happily waved to me after they got off the bus and I waved back giddily, so honored to be their friend.

Me and AlawiaSayda

Face-painting

The Abdallah's: Alawia, Sayda and Mohamed

Alawia and me

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Our First Bus Ride In Uganda



Bleary-eyed morning beneath my mosquito net. Where am I? Oh yeah...the hotel...Entebbe...we leave for Soroti today on the bus. My watch says 5:00 am. The cultural shift is slow. All this traveling has left me numb. 15 hour drive from Cape Town to Johannesburg, a night at the Midrand YWAM base, six hour flight to Entebbe, another night here in the hotel...

Last night we went to the hotel restaurant to get dinner. I had an orange Fanta. Orange Fanta = foreign country to me. Only, I just saw they've reintroduced it in Canada. In plastic bottles though. Not glass. Glass-bottled orange Fanta = foreign country.

And I had my first taste of a staple Ugandan dish (which I grew to love later). Matoke. Boiled, mashed, green bananas with a gray peanut sauce. It turned my stomach. I helped Josine eat her fries and stuck to my Fanta. When the waiter came back and saw the barely touched food, his face fell and so did my heart. I tried to explain that the traveling, the exhaustion, the heat, all made it difficult to eat. But it was no use. I crushed him. Oh God! I made my first cultural blunder in this country and wanted to crawl under the table. Spoiled North American child I am!

I open my guitar case to retrieve the swath of fabric that was extra protection for my guitar but will now be wrapped around me for the next leg of our journey. We girls can't be traipsing around in trousers. Noooooo....Trousers = hussy here. The fabric is from a trip I took to Togo once. It's blue and white tie-dyed and actually extremely comfortable. I'm already getting the hang of this. Like riding a bike and I think back to those days in West Africa...sigh...Uganda is a lot like Benin and Togo, except they speak English here. Yippee! So many memories, emotions, heightened senses are seeping back into me, like a comforting hot bath after a long, hard day. I feel my shoulders relaxing, my anxiety receding as I breathe in this humid morning air. At least for now, in this bleary-eyed morning, I am peaceful.

I join some of the other girls downstairs in the restaurant for our complimentary breakfast but I can't eat anything. It is far too early for food. The sky is still dark. I see coffee and make a beeline for it. Oh! Thank God for coffee!! There is also a cloudy white juice some of the girls are drinking. Pineapple they tell me, also bleary-eyed. Yum! I sit down content to sip my coffee and thirstily chug this amazing juice. I finish half the enormous glass before Paula looks at me and asks, "You know the bus we're taking doesn't have a toilet right?" Doesn't have a toilet? It's too early to think. Like the ignition of an old frozen car not wanting to turn over on a cold winter morning, my mind has trouble computing. But slowly it makes the connect between my empty coffee cup, the half-drunk glass of juice and the face of the girl who has shared this important little fact with me half an empty glass too late! Six or seven hours on a bus and no toilet? Surely they will stop for who can possibly hold it that long? Paula shrugs when I share this common sense out loud. "Maybe" she says unconvincingly. She's been to Uganda before. She knows how it works.

I start to panic. I'm the type of person everyone hates road-tripping with. The type of person who must go to the bathroom twice before the movie starts and directly after. I have a pretty intense case of 'hamster bladder.' I probably stopped us every two or three hours on the drive from Cape Town to Joburg. This is not good. I try to calm myself with positive self-talk. You'll be fine Nicole. Don't worry. The bus will stop. It has to!

Our taxi has arrived to take us to the bus station in Kampala, a 45 minute drive. I look at my unfinished juice with contempt and dash to the hotel toilet, willing all liquid out of my body. It's all I can do now. This is it. The journey begins and despite this minor anxiety, I am actually thrilled. Africa!

We get to the station and are reunited with one of our students who had left a month earlier to visit Rwanda. It is so good to see her! I'm so happy to know she is safe and we are together, that I barely notice the rickety, orange-dust-coated bus we are loading our luggage onto. I'm happy to point out, the windows open so at least we will get a breeze.

I have fallen asleep due to the perpetual movement of being on the road several hours and the sun beating down on us. Tabea and Lucinda are also dozing next to me. The bus had to take a detour earlier because of road construction. According to a German girl we met on the bus who does this all the time, this will delay us another hour or two. Guh! I wake up to the familiar uncomfortable, burning sensation that my body gives me when it needs relief. Oh no little bladder. Not now! Oh God! I pray. I am actually praying now for a miracle; a supernatural enlarging of my bladder! I manage to ignore it another hour, distracting myself with the beautiful scenery outside. Banana and mango trees, mud hut villages, children waving as we pass...

Lucinda and I look at eachother knowingly. She probably also drank that gorgeous pineapple juice this morning, unaware we would be denied basic facilities on our bus. I am laughing inside. How will this play out? By this time, we don't care. A bush on the side of the road is all we're asking for. We are at bursting point and desperate. We discuss our options: find a cup or a bottle? Pray for a miracle like I have been already? Pee our pants? Make the extremely packed bus full of locals stop just for us white girls?

Lucinda gets up and grabs the arm of the conductor hastily. I don't hear what she says but the conductor speaks to the driver and a few minutes later, we have pulled over. Oh sweet Lord! Thank you! Thank you! Lucinda and I literally jump over luggage, chickens, and small children already hiking up our skirts as we disembark. Imagine if we had been wearing trousers!! Josine has taken this golden opportunity to join us. I don't look at the bus as I crouch in the too short grass. I pretend it's not there or I'll have shy pee and this is NOT a time for my pee to have stage fright! I know everyone on the bus is lobbying for a glimpse of the three white asses on the side of the road. We'll be a topic of conversation for days under the mango trees! I don't care! This is sweet relief! The three of us are laughing at eachother and the absurdity of the situation as we're crouched down with skirts hiked up. This will also become a great story we will tell over and over. "Remember our first bus ride in Uganda...?"

We quickly jump back on the bus, not wanting to aggravate the travelers by taking up their time. The rest of our team is snickering at us but we smile back triumphantly.

The rest of the ride goes by without incident. I lay my head against the window, smile contentedly, and wisely decline a sip of water from Tabea's bottle.

After this adventure, I learned to not drink a drop of any liquid from the night before a bus journey until arriving at our destination. Worked everytime!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

African Stories: Boda Boda



Most of us know what it's like to learn to ride a bike. When we were kids, somehow we learned to balance and then ride off on our own. We may have even become so confident, that we rode hands off the handlebars or had someone ride on the handlebars with us.

Well, that was when we were kids. The day they told us about the boda boda in Uganda, I was both curious and anxious.

The boda boda is a bicycle taxi fitted with a cushion over the rear fender. A person is meant to, straddle the cushion if he is male, or sit "side-saddle" if she is a female. (Sometimes we disregarded these cultural rules for the sake of comfort and safety). Then you have to trust the guy riding the bike that he will get you where you need to go safely, without throwing you off. With his thin street bike tires, he must negotiate through dusty, dirt roads, other boda boda, traffic, including large transport trucks, matatu taxis, pedestrians and we must not forget to mention the random goat/pig/chicken/cow making its way into our path!

The first day we decided to take boda to the market, we stood outside the gate to our compound and waited on the road, having been instructed to call out 'boda' when we saw one approaching. In no time we had rounded up a couple of amused boda-taxis as we nervously explained our boda-taxi virgin status.

They were patient as we maneuvered ourselves to sit on the cushion and rearranged our skirts so they wouldn't get caught in the spokes. I greedily grabbed the sides of the cushion, white-knuckled as we took off. "You sit properly for me." he instructed. What? I thought to myself. But this would become a common command on the boda which I never quite knew how to obey. How many ways can you sit on a cushion on the back of a bike??

My boda just kept going, effortlessly riding through town amidst people and vehicles who only slightly obey rules of the road.

The breeze cooled my hot, sweaty skin and I started to relax, trusting my boda driver, no longer too afraid. The exhilaration of this new adventure was intoxicating! The sights, sounds and smells of Uganda all around me filled me with that out-of-body feeling, you know, when you feel like you are looking at yourself from above or when you are both dreaming and sort of conscious at the same time. I smiled stupidly as we sped along the road, past shops, tailors sewing clothes, music blaring in kiosks, the green and white mosque, surrounded by palm trees, the line-up at Stanbic bank, samosas and mandazis frying in the cafes, wafting out to the street, mixing with the sweet sweat smell of my boda driver..."I am in Africa!" I thought to myself, a thought that came pretty frequently the first few months, and even a few more times after that.

I realized pretty quickly that the boda was not only useful for getting me places, but gave me a few uninterrupted moments to "spy" on my new African world without being bombarded by curious passerby and blazing heat. I loved it!

We arrived at our destination too soon. We dismounted and paid our drivers the required 300 Ugandan shillings, about 20 cents. One of them tried to get more out of us, a muzungu tax, we began affectionately calling it. Muzungu=foreigner or white folk. Of course, the good people we stayed with had warned us about this so we shook our head no but offered them thanx and a smile. They reluctantly went on their way and us on ours, having proudly survived our first boda boda ride!


Saturday, July 21, 2007

Quote

"And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom."

-- Anais Nin

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Teenage Affluenza

I got the link to this video on Rob's blog: "Come To Church & I'll Buy You A Beer" (listed under my links)

It's awesome. Watch it!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Back in Canada

It's always so strange to me how I can go from one way of life to another so rapidly. Often, I wonder if I just dreamed up these African adventures because they seem so far away from me now. Other times, I will see a Sudanese person walking the Calgary streets and I get this tugging, pulling on my heart, realizing it wasn't just a dream, it was a dream come true and in some small way I can identify with that person living in this culture so foreign from their own. And all the while I'm trying so hard to accept being here in my own culture even as the scents and sights and sounds of a far-off place haunt me daily.

Back in Canada

Last Week On The African Continent

Seeing and smelling the ocean, leading worship for the BG base, seeing my outreach students, Rachelle and Hasha after two months and Tabea after three months! Seeing staff and students from the HIV/AIDS school as well as the BG staff: childcare workers, admin staff, coffee at Mugg & Bean, seeing how much the kids had grown in four months, realizing how much Uganda had changed me...an amazing way to spend my last week on the African continent.

Cape Town May 2007

Visiting Soroti On The Way Back to South Africa

Despite the 10 hour ride in a dumptruck, on roads that were pot-holed and washed out, I am so thankful that I was able to go back to Soroti,where we began our outreach, and visit my friends there before leaving Uganda. One of our students, Sasha, had made a two year commitment to the base there and it was great to be reunited with her along with another of our students Paula.

I also got to do some more teaching with the Video Show and was able to visit the family we bought the cow for.

Visiting Soroti On The Way Back to South Africa

Paara Game Park

This was an incredible gift from the Arua base leaders, John and Vikki! It was especially awesome to see the giraffes so close!

Paara Game Park

March/April 2007 in Arua, Uganda

It was a bit strange at first to be without a team once I'd made the decision to stay in Arua. But I adjusted quickly thanks to the amazing staff who welcomed me in as part of the family. I enjoyed my time there so much and I hope I will get to go back and see them again.

March/April in Arua

Back From Sudan; In Arua

We left Yei at something crazy like 2:30 or 3:30 in the morning. I can't believe I slept most of the way to the border because those roads are nasty and the bus kept leaning in ways that made me wonder if we'd even make it to the border. The trip from Yei to Arua was around six hours long and what was left of the team would be leaving the next day for Kampala, then flying out to South Africa. I had to decide if I was staying or going with them by the time we got back to Arua.

As we sat in the coffee shop in Arua, I decided that if my bank card worked in the local bank's ATM machine (because I had no money left after the 2 month outreach), that I would stay in Arua. As I walked through town to the bank machine, I realized how much I wanted to stay and when my card worked and out came the Ugandan shillings I was thrilled!

The next morning I said good-bye to my students and co-leader and then back at the base I sat and wondered..."what have I done?!" :) But I'm so thankful I stayed to be able to experience all that I did and to grow some very important friendships there.

Back From Sudan; In Arua

Sudan Photos

We went to Sudan for two weeks in February. First to the YWAM base in Yei, then onto Loka, a village on the way to Juba, then back to Yei.



Sudan

Hasha's Sudan Pics

Friday, June 22, 2007

Yumbe, Uganda

After leaving Soroti, seven of us traveled first to Arua and then on to Yumbe (very close to the Uganda-Sudan border) for 10 days of HIV/AIDS teaching in the community. One of the highlights of the outreach!

Yumbe

Yumbe, Uganda

These photos were taken by one of our students on the team, Sasha

Sasha's Yumbe Pics

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

God Roads

"Some of you wandered for years in the desert, looking but not finding a good place to live. Half-starved and parched with thirst, staggering and stumbling on the brink of exhaustion. Then, in your desperate condition, you called out to God. He got you out in the nick of time; He put your feet on a wonderful road that took you straight to a good place to live. So thank God for His marvelous love, for His miracle mercy to the children He loves. He poured great draughts of water down parched throats; the starved and hungry got plenty to eat." -excerpts from Psalm 107 in The Message Bible

Here are some of the "wonderful" roads that took me to really great places to live.

ARUA



YUMBE
SUDAN

SOROTI


Monday, June 11, 2007

Outreach to Uganda/Sudan Photos

Soroti

So, here are some of my pics. I've decided to do this in stages because I have a gazillion pictures to wade through! So, I will post chronologically starting with Soroti, Uganda where we stayed for three weeks.

Enjoy!

Outreach to Uganda/Sudan Photos

Hasha's Soroti Photos

Some really great pics one of the girls on the team, Hasha, took in Soroti

Outreach to Uganda/Sudan Photos

Sasha's Soroti Photos

These are some really great photos one of the girls took in Soroti

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Here is my adorable nephew, Keenan, with my gorgeous sister Michelle. I just met Keenan for the first time 2 days ago! He's a keeper!

Less than a week until my little bro gets hitched! We took Keenan shopping today; it was fun how everyone oohed and ahhed over him...babies make people act weird. And I'm one of them now...anything for that sweet smile!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Welcome Back to Canada


The grass is green, flowers blooming, and the snow, yes, that's right, the snow is falling...huh? What better way to welcome me back to Canada than a May long weekend snow storm? Sigh...and I thought I'd escaped winter's evils.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Feet Firmly on Canadian Ground

Back in Canada at last with high speed internet connection and a computer that works! SO sorry it has been 4 months since I last wrote. I tried, honestly I tried....

I arrived yesterday after many, many hours of flying and waiting, and flying, you know how it goes. Even found myself the dodgiest hostel in LA to stay at for a night. $15 to stay in the girl's dorm. I was on hold with Westjet for a good half an hour praying I'd be able to change my flight from Thursday to Wednesday so I didn't have to spend another night in that hostel. God is good! :) I'm home now. Phew! LA intimidates me.

And everything is normal and not normal all at once. But it's a familiar feeling at least. Guess I'm becoming an old pro at this sort of thing, adjusting from one life to another; one very different world to another...

Pictures on their way I promise, but my laptop crashed in Cape Town and I have to get all my files recovered and blah, blah, blah...

Looking forward to seeing all your shiny happy faces. Have missed you!

Friday, January 26, 2007

The Cow Has Been Delivered!

Friends, you have no idea what a tremendous blessing you have been to a very needy family here in Uganda! For those that don't know, my museum co-workers gave me money to buy a cow for someone while I was here. So I had been praying and praying that God would show me who and when and it worked out so perfectly, you wouldn't even believe it! Except that you should because now this family has income, has milk, their cow will be able to produce more cows which they can sell and they are so thankful to you they hardly had words! Simon, the YWAM staff member who helped me accomplish all this said even to him it is a blessing to see that the people back in Canada care so much and want to help!

So thank you you guys! Through your generosity, you have changed lives and I have been honored to be a part of this! Truly honored!

May God really, really bless your socks off! Miss you and love you!
Here is the husband and father of the family and the cow he picked out.
This is the family we bought the cow for. They have 7 children and live in a small mud hut on the edge of town.