Sunday, December 26, 2010

Happy birthday, Richard junior!

Dear son,

Today is your birthday - you are turning 20! WOW!

I hope and pray that this will be a special day for you and that you would feel the LOVE of GOD for you in a very tangible way! We will try and call you in a few minutes. Hopefully it'll work today!

Words cannot express the LOVE that is in my heart towards you, our Ugandan son!
Meeting you 1 month ago, after many years of letters and photo exchanges, would DEFINITELY be the highlight of the year for me!!!

Remember this? We had such a great time with you on that first evening together!

I think of you every day and pray for you every morning and evening!
I always pray that it won't rain in the night, as I know that your grandma's place where you're staying at the moment, gets flooded when it rains.
I'm so sorry about that - and wish that something could be done to fix that!

I miss you so much that my heart aches!!!

Meeting you was WONDERFUL - but we had WAY too little time with each other!!!
2 days just weren't enough - at all!!!!!!!!!

Texting you every few days - and calling every so often also isn't enough ~ ~ ~

I long for the time that we can spend more time with each other ~ ~ ~

Get to know you better

Hear more about your story

Your joys, pains and aspirations

Wrap our arms around you and love on you

Shower you with our affection

Laugh with you

Have fun with you

You are such a blessing, Richard!
We are so privileged having YOU as our son!
We feel totally honoured that you would consider us your parents, your family!

We love your tender spirit,
your expressive way of communicating
the gestures you make while you speak
the way you are asking questions
and listening
the way you lean on Dad when you sit next to him
the way you put your hand on his leg

You're so affectionate and WE LOVE YOU!


A place lights up when you come into it!
There's something about you, how can I say it -
It's like you SHINE!
GOD definitely shines through you!
We are so proud of you and who you are!!!

I know that this letter won't reach you in time for your birthday.
You will probably only get it in a month or so.
Dad and I want to let you know that we're SOOOO THANKFUL that you were born, that our paths crossed - and that we get to call you our son!

Looking forward to many more memories together,

Lots of love from far-away New Zealand,

Mom and Dad

Richard does not have access to internet and won't read this - but I will be sending him this letter - with a few adjustments and also with the photos of our time together- very soon - just had to share this with somebody - hehe

Happy (belated) Christmas greetings

Hope you had a wonderful time celebrating God's GREATEST GIFT ever to us!!! WOW!!!

We had a great time - was almost going to be a disaster as I was really exhausted and not feeling well at all. But after Rich and I had a time of crying out to God together, everything turned around and we had a wonderful time - with our family and good friends from Tahiti! YAY!!!

My favourite part was worshiping God together in the evenings with different instruments - including a Tahitian ukulele and a German accordeon (played by Patricia from Germany) - singing worship songs in several languages - AWESOME!

I'm SOOOOOOOO grateful!!!!!!!

Just missed Richard, our Ugandan son - - - couldn't even get through to him on the phone :(

By the way, little Joseph in Uganda (see last post) is doing better.
His dad has a broken hip and had to be transferred to a hospital in Kampala, which is quite a ways from their home - and also a financial challenge -
Thanks for praying for them!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Please join me in prayer!

I was going to share about some other incredible people who are making a difference in Uganda. One of them is this couple/family.

We visited them in their humble home - 2 bedrooms, no kitchen - yet - and a continual terrible smell coming from the neighbour's pigs...
Very crammed quarters.

They have 4 biological children and 4 adopted/fostered children.
Not all were there when we visited.

Beautiful, beautiful family!

Jane, the mother, also works with YWAM and the "Women of Hope", even though they live quite a ways from that community.

We found out today that the father, Chrosmas (spelling?) and young Joseph (10), sitting next to me on this photo

had a bad motorcycle accident and are both in the hospital.
It seems quite serious.

My heart aches for this family who's already struggling with another medical condition of Joseph's.

They are a real light-house in their community.
They have lots of kids on top of their own constantly staying at their home.
I guess the kids are attracted to the LOVE in this home!

The little one on my lap just came over when we arrived.
Told somebody he wanted to sit on my lap.
Shortly after he sat down, he fell asleep.


Would you please join me in prayer for this family, the Muwonges?

Monday, December 20, 2010

AMAZING people!

After writing about several tragic situations we came across in Uganda, I'd now like to brag about some absolutely AMAZING people who are making a difference:

Today, meet Judith and Fred:They have been serving with Youth With a Mission in Uganda (and other African nations) for 10 years.
Judith started reaching out to the women in the community - the ones you would've been reading about - 2 years ago.

She visits them, encourages them, prays for them, tries to help them in whichever way she can, shares her food with them and whatever else she can spare (she and her family don't have much either - she has 4 small children and adopted her orphaned niece who's now 12 - she also does the accounting for the YWAM base - no salary, though)

She started a support group that meets weekly, called "Women of Hope" and also a weekly support group for HIV+ women

The photo below was taken during one of these meetings - many can't make it to the meetings because they are too sick to walk there - she likes to offer them some water and bread whenever she's got money to buy the bread - they always come hungry and thirsty - even the children in the photo are HIV+

She's got such a compassionate heart for these ladies and their children and has gained their trust and friendship! She is a JEWEL and SUCH a blessing for them!!! Even though she can't help financially (hardly at all), her love has already made such a difference in their lives!

It's her birthday today! HAPPY BIRTHDAY JUDITH!!! YOU ARE AMAZING!!!!

Her husband Fred is trained in community development and together, they are developing a plan to see the community around the YWAM base transformed!

He told us, "They are stuck. They aren't able to help themselves. They need a kick-start and then they can work towards becoming self-sufficient."

We would love to partner with them to get this transformation under way!
The 2 of them are perfect for doing the hands-on work.
They "just" need partners - mostly in finances, but also prayers!

Judith sent me the photo below since we got back.
I had given her a bag of clothing etc I had brought with me and left it for her - told her it was for her and her family.
She passed most everything on to these ladies:

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Precious Lydia

I met Lydia on our last evening near Jinja (Eastern Uganda).

She is 23

Her husband died 2 years ago

She's got 3 children - 4-year old twin boys and a 5/6 year old girl

When her husband died, his family came and took EVERYTHING from her

Her home now is a rented cement-cube of about 6-8 square meters (US$5/month)

without windows (it's hot!)

What you can see here is all she owns

No mattress

No mosquito net

Don't know about a blanket

She's got no money

No skill

NOTHING to work with

She's young

She can work

She would like to learn tailoring (sewing)

IF she could just learn a skill like this one, she would be able to support herself and her children!

She needs help because this training costs money...

I went to her place around dinner-time

Asked her what they are going to eat for dinner

She said, "I have nothing"

I know that some YWAM-friends share their (meager) food with Lydia often

It was hard for me to encourage her and pray for her

without the thought in the back of my mind:

"SOMEBODY is going to help finance her training to become a seamstress"

S O M E B O D Y ????

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


Tonight, I'm thinking of 2 more widows I met while in Uganda... One is Ruth.

Ruth's husband died 13 years ago of Aids and shortly afterward, she started getting sick.
After getting worse and worse, she went to the hospital, did the test and found out that she also was HIV+.

She's got 6 children. The ones that are still with her at the moment are 14-year-old twin girls and 15-year-old twin girls - you can imagine what she would have gone through in the last years, trying to raise her girls - she's also got 2 older ones - one who's 18.

There is NO financial help for a widow in Uganda - life is tough!

I met her one day when she came to see Judith (local YWAMer who's reaching out to the ladies), desperate because one of her daughters had been sent home from school that day because she wasn't able to pay the school fees.

I also found out that her now 18-year-old daughter had a baby 3 years ago.
She dropped him off at her mom's place and pretty much disappeared.

He's severely handicapped - three years old now!
She carried him to the HIV support group where we were able to meet him, too, and pray for him. A friend in NZ had given me some money to give to a needy child, and HE was the one I felt we should designate the money for.

I really feel for her! Taking care of a special needs child in NZ can be a challenge, but there's SOOO much support! There is NO support in Uganda!

I don't know how these women do it.

They are VERY resilient, courageous and hard-working -

trusting in GOD!


Monday, December 13, 2010

Some very real faces of Aids

Still in the village that means,

"A well of deep sorrow" or

"A place where nothing good can happen".

We made an unannounced visit to this home.

It was dinner-time.

There was no food cooking anywhere.

No staches of granola bars either, or bread, or anything else in that place.

You only eat what you cook -

If it's a good day, it's posho (cornflour and water) and beans.

Rice would be considered extra special.

That evening, we surprised several ladies as they were praying or reading the Bible

Imagine that:

Instead of cooking/eating

Reading the Bible


There were three benches in front of a mud home.

A Bible was open on one of them.

We got to meet a grandmother,

shake her hand

quietly pray for her.

She's blind and is dying of Aids.

Her daughter next to her also got the virus.

She's got 8 children.

2 teenagers were there. This is them:

They don't go to school - cuz there's no money.

There's no Christmas in this village

No fancy decorations

No songs blaring

No gifts

At least - today, Monday, Dec. 13th, they will eat!

Thanks to a gift we were able to leave behind.

We are told that when the YWAMers brought food occasionally in the past

there was a "mob"

they are SO hungry!

THIS will be their Christmas

A special day!

I wish there could be food provided for them


And - better yet -

A means to kick-start them out of their misery

into a self-sustaining life-style!!!


Saturday, December 11, 2010


If you want to know what's been going on in my heart since Uganda, have a look a this video. I sums it up pretty well...

Friday, December 10, 2010

Next door...

... to Joyce lives this teenage mom with her baby - and I don't know how many others.

We didn't get around to asking her name and her circumstances.

But we were told that due to the hopelessness in the village and teenagers not being able to go to school, many young girls hoping for a better future get involved with a guy.

They end up with a baby and soon realize that things aren't as sweet as they were hoping for them to turn out...

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Meet Joyce

How would YOU like to be a widowed grand-mother

and care-taker of 5 grandchildren,

living in a 6 square metre mud hut

that you are renting?

Owing what you can see here:

Sleeping all together on THE "mattress" you see in the photo below (we just arrived to this scene, as the little one was carrying the mattress into the hut for the night)

Not sleep when it's raining, cuz your hut gets flooded?

Not being able to send the children to school?

Eating/drinking only sporadically?

Surrounded by a whole village in similar conditions?

A village called "A well of deep sorrow" - or "A place where nothing good comes from"

YET - Joyce has hope - she is part of a group started by an African YWAMer, Judith - "Women of Hope". Judith has been reaching out to the women in this village for 2 years now,

Leading them to trust in Jesus.

Encouraging them to cry out to Jesus in their distress.

I could see HOPE in Joyce's face -

Whereas the children in the village seemed lifeless - hopeless.

There has GOT TO BE SOMETHING that can be done by the body of Christ to be an answer to this grand-mothers cries!!

I believe so!!!

Joyce with 4 of the 5 grand-children (the left part of what you see is another "room"/"hut" where somebody else lives, the photo just missed the door)

Can't remember if she was HIV+ or not - (a large percentage of the widows and children in the village are)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Teenagers praising God!

On a spontaneous visit to an orphanage that our driver told us she had, we witnessed this scene (not put on for us).

I was VERY touched - these girls are former "child soldiers/abducted by the rebels" in the North of Uganda. I cannot begin to imagine the trauma they must have gone through, and here they were singing - the same song we sing here in NZ...

JESUS is just AMAZING - what HE can do to transform lives and bring FREEDOM!
I've got the leader, Jennifer, also on video, but it's too long to post...
She's this one I wrote about before.

The second video is them singing an African song (at my request) - BEAUTIFUL!
Sorry - for some reason, I can't load the second video... shame

Sunday, December 5, 2010

short video from the market

... and you can see Richard showing me his favourite beans.

Back home


The last couple of days back home have been DIFFICULT!

WAY more than I expected!

It is a combination of things, but the hardest is the condition of my heart.

I am broken.


Humbled beyond anything I have EVER experienced.

Between seeing the living conditions of so many, hearing their heart-breaking stories - AND - on the other side - meeting the most extraordinary, self-less people I have ever met (Africans) - more on that another time - - - there are just NO WORDS to express what my heart is going through.

In a way, I feel like I'm grieving - have probably left a part of my heart there...

Also really miss our son Richard there. The scene on our day of departure just about broke me.
He REALLY wanted to see us one more time and said he was going to come to the airport.
He must have been on the road pretty much the whole day (round-trip) just to see us for 5 minutes.

And he almost missed us, cuz his van (public transport) broke down.

When he finally arrived, he was almost running towards me (Rich was already with him, I was watching our luggage) and hugging (you can tell he really wants the touch but is also quite stiff, probably not used to hugs at all) - and he's almost 20 - we've only seen each other for 3 days...

First thing he said was,

"When the van broke down, I started crying.

I miss you so much -

I love you.

After I finish my studies next year
(he's learning to be a mechanic) I will get a job, earn money and then I'm going to come and visit you."

When I reassured him of our love for him and expressed how sorry I was that we couldn't spend more time with him, cuz we had to go to the gate, he said, "At least please pray for me."

So Rich and I both took one of his hands, held them tight and prayed our hearts out... trying to hold it together... (at least me, Rich is less emotional)

After a heart-felt good-bye, little 4-year-old Mercy kept INSISTING to go with us. She was adamant, holding on to Rich's hand. In the end her mother (Pastor Lydia, who'd also come to see us off) had to use quite a bit of force to take her off Rich and what ensued was a HUGE scene - with her screaming at the top of her lungs ~ ~ ~ oh boy!

After we'd been through security etc, we had a look in one of the shops - and there was English worship music playing - one of my favourite songs about Jesus - - -

And that's when I lost it ~ ~ ~

Couldn't talk - even to Rich - for a long time - kept crying off and on for hours.

Thought it's a good thing flying to NZ is a loooooong trip. Needs to be ~ to give me time to process.

Just imagining Richard and the parents he'd never had (lost his mom at 8, his father before) - and how attached he was to us - even on the first day we met - just because we'd been sponsoring him and there were a few letters back and forth...

Imagining his sadness to see us go - - - what he must be feeling/going through....

And then he called us - one last time before boarding (we'd run out of money on our local cell phone, otherwise we might have tried calling him)

He is soooo sweet and we love him so much!!!!

Miss him terribly.

He's part of our family now...

It hurts!

After all of the impressions and experiences we've had in Uganda, I feel like I would want to lay face-down in the dirt for a month - cry out to God - be quiet...

But taking up the "mom-hat" again doesn't allow for that - and so I've been fighting back the tears... (changing 7 dirty nappies/diapers in the first 24 hours was quite the reality check - just one of several...)

In a way I feel bad for our little ones - especially Kylie.

I don't have much grace.

Can't handle whining, complaining.

Especially about cleaning up toys or her room, when I see the Ugandan children before me - without toys, without their room, without food, without water, without schooling.

Don't know how I'm going to handle Christmas.

Don't feel like getting any more toys. Puh!

I feel like I need more prayers now than the whole trip.

I am going through grief.

And it's deep.

I look at our living room and realize that 6 widows with their kids could live there (separated by walls) and still be better off than in Uganda - cuz they won't get rained on...

Our house could house an orphanage with about 30-40 kids (like what we've seen).

Without wanting to do so, I do compare - all the time - - -

LORD, please help me!!!

On a lighter note - here's a short video of one of Kampala's streets - as we were loading the van with the food we'd got for Richard's grandmother. You can see him putting the bananas into the van - notice the Christmas-song!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Processing - Part 2

God has been EXPANDING my heart – sooooooooooo much - in several areas, and I am still processing…

The biggest one probably has to do with how I viewed the orphan crisis. I was quite focused on JUST the orphans – but being there you realize that it would be absolutely silly at times to ask “now who is orphaned and who is not?” – you can’t tell from the outside – cuz in most cases, their conditions, clothing etc is just the same, if they have a mother/parents or not…

I guess my burden and passion has expanded from JUST orphans to orphans and vulnerable children – AND WIDOWS!!! Oh my goodness, they can absolutely NOT be excluded from help, as they are for the most part VERy STRONG, COURAGEOUS, HARD-WORKING women with tragic, heart-wrenching stories and in many cases hardly ANY means to care for themselves and their children/grandchildren – a great number of them infected with HIV/Aids.

Also, whereas before I was mostly focused on orphaned babies and young children, God has shown me (at least part of) HIS heart for the older orphans – teenagers and young adults. Just like Richard jn. who is turning 20 this month, there are many others who have not had parents growing up and they are SOOOO hungry for love, affection, attention – PARENTS! My oh my! They might not be as “cute” as little ones (with the exception of our boy Richard, cuz he is!), but boy do they need the love JUST AS MUCH!!!!

Another expansion of my heart would have to affect the way I parent my own children at home – if young couples here can take on caring for 6-20 orphans in their homes on top of their own children (often no financial help at all), maybe I/we can adjust some things, too???? Just MAYBE????

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Processing - part 1

This has probably been the most remarkable 2-week trip I’ve ever experienced!

Seems like it was 6 weeks as the days were so full and the new impressions so many!

My heart overflows with gratefulness to God for keeping Rich and me healthy and safe (the angels must have been working very hard - especially in traffic)!

I felt more energetic than at home, but wait ~ ~ ~ Uganda ALSO felt like HOME!

Extremely grateful, too, that things back home in NZ seemed fine.

I could write a book about everything, here are just a few observations, impressions, memories, thoughts:

  • · Found the Ugandan people very gentle, sweet, warm respectful
  • · They place an incredibly high importance on education – and work very hard to achieve intellectually – most children aspire to do University studies – and those who are able to fund it, do so – with excellent results.
  • · When you say “Hello” to anybody, you have to say straight afterward, “How are you?” or it is considered impolite. The answer will always be, “I’m fine, how are you?”
  • · I am SOOOOOOOOOO thankful that God allowed both Rich and I to come together this first time (wish it could be every time!) – wouldn’t have been able to manage without his help in many areas, let alone just to BE with my beloved hubby. Great to work with him as a team!!!
  • · Soooooooooo grateful for the things we learned by living in Tahiti for 12+ years! It allowed me/us to fit in very easily in terms of culture and flow with people and situations. Otherwise there could possibly have been many frustrating moments… THANK YOU, JESUS – and you precious Tahitians for teaching me/us so much (e.g. about patience)!!!!!!!!!!!
  • · Never thought that French would’ve come in so handy here. Rich and I had to use our “secret” language MANY times in the back-seat of a noisy car to talk about how much money we were gonna pay for the driver, how we were going to react to a particular urgent need in terms of financial gifts etc. – it was extremely helpful – and the people didn’t feel left out as they also had their “secret” language (Lugandan) that they spoke to each other whenever they weren’t addressing us directly.
  • · We expected it to be hotter – so, positively surprised at how pleasant it was – pretty much same climate as Tahiti – we’re told that it does get hotter other times of the year, though – and YES, we DID have several times where we were dripping …
  • · If we were to live here permanently (which we’re not planning on), my hair would probably never get gray - - - thanks to the daily deposit of red dust/dirt in the air – hehe!!!