Sunday, November 23, 2008

Conversations with Peter-part 1

*I think I need to give fair warning to those of you who read our blog. In the past I have refrained from bringing up topics of controversy or sharing thoughts on deeper issues, not necessarily on purpose, but because this blog was started as a "family fun" blog. I wanted it to be a family blog filled with our fun life stories. But the reality is…we are in Africa now and what we see on a daily basis is not exactly “fun”. And although we will continue to share family news and stories, which I hope will remain amusing and interesting; we will also be sharing more transparently about issues that we are wrestling with in our own hearts.

Okay, so since it’s been two months since we left Fort Collins Colorado I feel like I need to backtrack a bit and share a little more of what’s happened in the last 8 weeks. We landed on the red earth of Africa on Sept. 19th. It was a good flight. The kids slept through most of the flights in between eating, and watching some flicks. We managed to acquire 6 of our 7 bags in Entebbe…not bad!! On our last flight from Amsterdam to Uganda, Jeff took charge of the kids and allowed me a break to sit on my own. I had the greatest privilege of sitting next to a gentleman named Peter. Peter was the first Ugandan to greet us as we all sat waiting in Amsterdam for our flight. I have to admit it was difficult to walk around the airport where there is a great number of Africans meandering around catching flights and such. This was our first “experience” as a mixed family in a very African dominated area and I have to admit I was quite nervous about how we would be received. In fact, the main question people asked us before we left was “How will you be received in the African community as Mazungo’s (white folks/foreigner) with African children?” We had no answer. We are used to the stares back in the States and almost oblivious to them now, unless a rude or wonderful comment is made that awakens me to the fact that we are “different” looking. It’s true, you really do forget this. You really forget that your children are African because they are your children period. It’s beautiful really when you think about it. God supernaturally deposits a love that sees your child not as an adopted child, not as brown, but as your child, given to us as Gods gift. Not that we are blind to our color differences or ignore our children’s heritage but none of this comes first, first comes love and family.

Anyway, back to my story of Peter. We had stood around the waiting area for several hours swallowed in stoic faces and blank stares. Peter, a Ugandan man, was the first person who approached us with a gentle greeting. He told us our children were beautiful as he greeted them. We chatted briefly and my anxious heart was soon comforted by Peter’s kindness and acceptance of our family. He had left Uganda 2 years ago on a scholarship to study in New York City and now he was returning home to his family. He was probably in his forties, married with 4 children, working in his village in Lira. This was his reunion trip back to his mother land, friends, and family after being away for 2 years. Can you imagine, of all the places to land for your first visit to America, New York City??? Wow!! Talk about a culture shock.
As we took our seats on the airplane Peter sat down next to me. My dreaded 9 hour flight took a turn for the better as it was filled with rich conversations with Peter. Peter was a man in love with Jesus, with words of wisdom flowing from his mouth. I do believe that this seat, 28F, was divinely chosen. We shared the stories of our lives; we talked about parenting, culture, music and the Word. I have come to realize something about myself which I don’t think I’ve thought much about. I am a very open and bold person. Now I’m not saying this to brag. I am just seeing myself in a new light. When I say bold, I use it very loosely and lightly because it’s only when I am in certain circumstances in which I can be bold. As a sociology major I am very intrigued and interested in people, culture, societies, the why’s of life. So, as we got to know one another, I began to ask those bold questions. We spoke at length about one another’s cultures and why we as Americans behave and live the way we do. I also asked about Africans, about their cultural dos and don’ts. I asked questions that could have offended any other African but Peter was a kind hearted man, open, honest, and longing to answer my questions just as I answered his. What I learned is that sometimes we need to step out in boldness and ask the hard uncomfortable questions. We need to open our lives and hearts to another. We need to extend grace in the midst of searching for answers and in our desires to learn about one another. If I had not taken a risk of openness and honesty, I never would have received the gems of understanding and wisdom from Peter’s heart. I learned so much from those hours of talking. There was a beautiful exchange of our struggles, our victories, and our defeats. He shared some profound insight and observations with me that struck my heart.
One of his topics of discussion was how Americans spend their money. Now, just as a word of warning, I do not write any of this as a judgment on anyone, nor did Peter speak of these issues in judgment or bitterness towards people. He spoke in love and out of his longing to understand. I also do not write this in anyway to guilt anyone, not even myself. I am sharing this because it has challenged my heart and caused me to think.
While Peter was in NYC he was befriended by many American families that are now his life long friends. But what he wondered about…What he sat up at night pondering about….was……How does an American spend $10,000 (could be way more or much less) on a weekend vacation? Or a family vacation? He had heard story after story of families’ vacations to the Caribbean, S. America, Europe, or where ever and he picked up on the cost of such trips. He sat through power point slides shows in people’s dining rooms while sipping tea, and flipped through photo album after photo album of beautiful landscapes and sun drenched smiling faces. And he wondered……Did they not know? Were they not aware of the suffering in other countries? Did they not know about all the AIDS orphans unable to afford ARV’s? Were they not aware of the famines? Had they not heard about the starvation and the displaced people groups living in refugee camps? Did they miss the news of thousands of children dying from malaria? Were they not informed about the lack of clean drinking water for so many of their brothers and sisters? Did they not know? Were they not told? Because surely if they knew, they would do something about it,…. right? Surely they would not turn their backs on them? Could not mere ten American dollars save the life of a child who does not have a mosquito net? Couldn’t a few hundred dollars help change the lives of many? Peter truly believed that these people must really not know. His heart is comforted in believing this. Because surely Americans, surely we wouldn’t choose to let people suffer and starve while we para-sail in the Caribbean, feast on buffets, and sip margaritas on exotic beaches.

Would we?

Would I?'s something to think about. Its interesting how other cultures perceive our choices and our lifestyles (the other thing he spoke about was how people love their pets better than they love other people). Part of the reason I share this is not because I think family vacations are wrong, but because I think it helps us see into our own culture. One thing Jeff and I learned in some of our mission's training is that before you can be a student of other cultures, you need to be a student of your own. These are wise words and it's helped me to see and consider how others see our culture - and view me for that matter. Check out the following website Though we were not surprised, Jeff and I fell out of our chairs, when we saw where we fit in the worlds economy.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Safari ants & cockroaches

We moved into our house!! Praise God!! We have a beautiful home, way nicer than I would have expected. We have beds and more furniture will be on the way this weekend. When we leave in April, the landlord will have a furnished house to rent, which will be the first one in Arua! He has already had NGO’s and missionary families ask about renting the house when we leave. We have orange, lemon, mango, guava, and avocado trees in our yard!! You can bet we’re going to be harvesting as much fruit as we can eat and drink in the next 6 months. Our yard is pretty big which Osobie and Fatu are happy about. The kids are sharing a room and we are turning the spare bedroom into our “school room”. We are definitely blessed!! And on top of it all, we get to have some roomies! There is another building next to our house called the “boys quarters” with 4 small rooms. Susan, a waitress from the hotel and 2 of Jeff’s coworkers will be living there until April. It will be nice to have some new friends around. We are planning to have a house warming party once we get more organized. Jeff’s hoping to grill some pork and I am going to “attempt” to make matoke, rice and beans for all the Ugandans! I’ve already had the comment made from Jeff’s driver Jackson that if I’m cooking matoke, he’ll be having a Nile Special (Ugandan beer)!! Can you believe that? Well Jackson, you just wait and see…this muzungu might just surprise you with some mean matoke. ( this was written almost a week ago… and we already had a small little house party but we kept it simple so no matoke was made, maybe next time). So, we are thankful, we are well, we are healthy, and we are cooking our own meals!! Now that is something to celebrate!! Especially when you can eat mondo sized avocado’s everyday!!
Side note*One thing that we didn’t expect was a dilemma with power. We have just gone our longest stretch without power, 4 days. There have been some serious problems in Arua with the power situation. So far we’ve lost power every weekend from Friday night until Monday morning. We might need to invest in a generator so we can have light! Please pray the power problem gets sorted out! But anyway… did I mention that the bugs here are scary huge?? Let me share some bug tales..:)

It all started at 9 am as we loaded the truck with our luggage and household goodies some missionary friends sold to us at a great price. At 9 am, the power is supposed to come on. The schedule is power from 9 am to 11 pm, which is actually amazing, that is when things go as scheduled. Well, the Sat. morn of our big move into our house began without power and didn’t come back until Monday afternoon. So, our first 2 days in the house went something like this. Moved in our luggage, put sheets on our beds, hung mosquito nets, cleaned like mad, then the much dreaded “darkness of night” blanketed us. Now I am not afraid of the dark or anything, although the kids aren’t fond of it, but what I am dreadfully fearful of are cockroaches!! I know they don’t bite, I know they cannot harm anyone, but they are stinkin’ creep-ville! I don’t care what anybody says! Now I am not talking about the itty bitty sized roaches found in shady restaurants and crawling across sidewalks in big cities. No, I’m talking about AFRICAN sized cockroaches!! These things are as big as a half dollar if not bigger and they move so fast I swear they are running at the speed of light!

So, after going out to eat (we still didn’t have groceries or cooking gear just yet), we came home to a pitch black house and began our long first night of cockroach hunting and Katie freaking! Can you believe it? I mean I am not the type to care much about spiders. I am not the shrieking type, but boy did I ever reveal the “wimpy” side of Katie. I wasn’t a good example for Osobie and Fatu and soon they feared the roaches. After many hours of surveying the house with flashlights and killing roaches we attempted to get some sleep. Right as I was slipping into sleep, I peeped open my eyes one last time and there again was the monster size cockroach crawling on the wall under the curtain. Poor Jeff thought his wife had finally given up on her paranoia and was certain I was asleep until I yelled for him to come and kill the beast. Once again we settled in under our net (which I forgot to mention was too small and so ineffective) and lay there hoping that we were so tired we would just pass out. WRONG!! Within minutes our ears were pierced with a loud hissing sound coming from the hall. Jeff armed himself with DOOM (bug killer) and searched for the animal. It came from a hall closet or the ceiling. We called our night watchman, George to see if he knew what African animal was living in our attic. George first announced it was a cat. Then he decided it was a rat! At that point I was ready to head back to the hotel! Then the final verdict came back that it was a large insect. Jeff sprayed a whole can of DOOM in the attic but the insect refused to die! We fell asleep to an awful sound of hissing, and that concluded the first night in our house in Africa!

The second day went similar to the first. Our first activity of the day and last activity of the night was chasing after cockroaches! Osobie and Jeff had a wonderful papa-son talk and soon Osobie was my brave hero telling me, “Mama, I can kill them for you!” He knew the routine. He slipped his beefiest shoe on his hand, I carried the flashlight, and together we went around the house lifting up bags, sliding curtains back and killing cockroaches. Fatu was sweet enough to come along but never with any intention of killing. She’s definitely a lot like her mama when it comes to these things.

Then came the next adventure, safari ants. Sunday night we were walking through the yard checking out our bounty of fruit trees and stumbled upon some ants. It was just a small line of ants marching towards their destination, no big deal right? WRONG! We followed the trail and discovered millions of them in piles and marching in lines all across the yard weaving through the grasses. I am talking biblical proportions here!!! We couldn’t believe our eyes and then looked further to see they were taking over a whole building! They covered the walls of the “boy’s quarters”. The building is white and it was now painted ant-black. O and I ran inside to get the bug spray and started spraying them until the can ran out. Thousands upon thousands of safari ants, the kind that spread up your legs and bite you like mad! Maybe some of you have read Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver?? They crawl between your toes and start biting and man does it hurt!! Jeff’s coworker said that safari ants would “undress you”! Meaning you will have to rip off your clothes if they attack you just to get them off of you. Jeff chuckled and Nicholas said with a stern face, “No really, they will!” So I hopped up and down spraying insecticide everywhere hoping to end this ant attack. I am sure I was a laughing stock to all the passerby’s on the street!! That was day 1 of safari ants. It took 3 more days of spraying, burning the lawn, setting fire to them and their homes (which you have to find first), pouring gasoline and boiling hot water on them to finally put an end to the ant ambush. Our neighbors taught us all the techniques for killing safari ants and I sure had at it!!

Okay… so now I’ll have to tack on another week of fighting safari ants since I wrote this post last week. Our latest invasion happened Saturday evening when our neighbor yelled at our window “they’re coming”!! We all knew what he was talking about! We grabbed our paraffin (kerosene) and newspapers and starting burning the ants, hundreds of them taking over their yard and marching towards ours. There was a team of us outside fighting the little buggers until finally we felt we had burned them all. We came back in to sit down to dinner. Fatu said prayers for us and we began to enjoy our meal finally. We were pleasantly surprised because our beans were still warm, when all of a sudden I heard a crackling sound. “Did you guys hear that?” I asked. Jeff saw an orange glow from our bathroom window and yelled “Fire”!! We grabbed cooking pots and our pitcher filled with water and ran out to see our papyrus fence on fire!! Luckily our water tank was nearby so we all heaved water onto the fire and soon it was out. Oh yeah…
After 2 days of no power and not much to do we had our first bit of excitement and thrill killing ants and putting out a fire! Never short of adventure around here!!
*I had to include this pic..we are making Christmas cards and this was Fatu's first nativity scene..check out baby Jesus,...isn't that cute or what??

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Two years ago today, my sister lost her best friend, and we lost a big part of our family. My sister’s husband, Matt, passed away unexpectedly on this day. Our hearts are grieving today. Our hearts are aching today because of the loss of a husband, father, son, brother, and friend. Matt was a kind hearted and loving husband, and a loving and wonderful father. Matt was a man of integrity and drive. He accepted everyone he met just as they were. He was real, confident, strong, and solid in his faith. He had a heart of compassion and was a friend to all. Matt you were loved by us all and we miss you so much!!

We praise you God for the beautiful child that you gave Matt and Mekay and we thank you God for keeping my sister and their daughter in your loving arms during this time.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

ONE YEAR!!!!!!!!!!!!

What a marvelous day it is!!
(This post is a bit late because we just got our power back after being out for 3 days)
God, this day we celebrate first and foremost, YOU!

Not to us, oh Lord, not to us
But to your name be the glory,
Because of your love and faithfulness Ps. 115

I will praise you Lord, among the nations;
I will sing of you among the people
For great is your love, higher than the heavens;
Your faithfulness reaches to the skies!! Ps. 108

Today, November 8th 2008, is our 1 year anniversary of being a family! One year ago, I was flying on a plane from Monrovia, Liberia to Denver Colorado with my sister and with 2 of the littlest most precious children I have ever known. On Nov 8th we finally came HOME together! And even though Papa was still working in Africa, O and F were ours and they were home!! Tears streamed my face today as I sat in awe of God’s goodness and faithfulness in what was an impossible feat. But NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE with HIM! When all hope was lost, His hope remained. When everything pointed to NO, He said YES! When our dreams crumbled, He picked up the pieces and created a beautiful masterpiece. When our groans and aches overwhelmed us, His peace and comfort sustained us. He whispered to Jeff and I “fight for your kids”, and we did and the victory is HIS! They came home!! We are a family!!
From the day we received their referral, we just KNEW they were ours. We fell in love with them that very day almost 2 years ago this month. We dreamed about them, we prayed for them daily, and we walked through the journey of adoption. We eagerly, and maybe a little too eagerly (sorry Donna/ Melodie) awaited photos and information about these 2 lovely Liberians. Every photo we cherished and stared at for hours as if we looked long and hard enough we would hear their voices! Our journey turned into a heavy battle to bring them home, but the Lord led us through it all holding our hands and promising His love and faithfulness until the end. Jeff met them in Oct of 2007 in our fight to bring them home and it was love at first sight! My day would come too and it did on Nov. 1, 2007. I was shaking like a leaf is what I remember as I went to the orphanage to pick up our kids!! I thought I was going to throw up I was so nervous. The kids were napping and so I got settled on a chair while the nannies got them ready to bring out. My heart raced and I tried to fight back the waterfall of tears so I wouldn’t scare them. Then, the moment came I will never ever forget, O and F, groggy eyed and sleepy, wobbled out the door and walked over to me. I lost it! The tears unloaded and my heart skipped a beat. They were more beautiful and precious than any of the photos I had seen!! They came right up to me and sweet little Fatu just melted on my legs as she leaned against me. I hugged them both gently and just sat staring at them. God’s gifts to us! How was it possible? The best gifts a mama could ever dream of!! Osobie sat on my lap and started singing Jesus Loves Me as the nanny prompted him. I wept and sobbed and hugged one of the nannies, thanking her for caring for our kids. All my butterflies flew away and a deep peace rested on me. They didn’t smile much but they were not afraid either. They held my hands, touched my skin, rested their bodies against mine and even sat on my lap. It was too wonderful to even comprehend. That day is etched in my heart.There are so many stories to share from the last year of living life together as a family! We have experienced so much joy, fun, laughter, love and adventure along with challenges and tears of course, but the JOY far outweighs the hard times!! God couldn’t have picked two more perfect kids for our family. When I look at all of our personalities, we fit so well together. Fatu is our spicy, sassy, but sweet daughter and Osobie is our thoughtful, silly, sensitive, and a little strong willed son. Fatu reminds me of myself when I was little and Osobie as of now, has a personality a lot like Jeff. That all could change in the next couple of years as we continue to grow as a family and the kids continue to adjust to us, but for now we are enjoying our family as God designed it.

As you can see in the pictures, O and F have changed SO much over the last year! They came home as babies, speaking Liberian English, laughing at running water and coffee makers, scared of roaring stuffed elephants, hugging everyone and anyone, and eating more food than Jeff and I combined. They have grown so much and grown up so fast! They have doubled in weight and probably in height too!! They are doing well in school, learning new things each day. They love to play games as a family and still love helping out around the house. I thought for sure their love for “chores” would fade away but they still like to help mama cook, sweep, mop and fold clothes. Fatu especially enjoys cooking and has recently told us she would like to be a chef, like Auntie Bootsie, when she gets older. Just the other day night we were eating out at a restaurant where they served us a cucumber type salad. Fatu dug into her salad and starting spouting off what she tasted, “I taste vinegar…hmmm…and lemon!” She LOVES food and loves to eat! She and her papa share a common interest in cooking and food. Osobie is all about creating. We call him Macguever, you know the old eighties TV show Macguever??? The man could create anything out of a rubber band, toothpick, and a battery or something like that. Well, Osobie is the master of invention. Give the boy some string, a bottle cap and a leave and he has made a boat. He wants to be a pilot and a builder when he grows up and he has now added fireman to the list!! You go boy!! We are blessed!! We celebrated our anniversary this weekend thanking God for making our family through adoption, thanking many of you for all your prayers for O and F, and praying for our friends who are still waiting for their kids to come home. And of course eating a ton of chocolate that my sweet sister Mekay sent us!! Thanks Meeks for the lovin’!! The package couldn't’t have come on a better day!!

All is well other wise; I’ll post again with some more updates on the house!! Love ya all!!