IN THE NOISE AND IN THE QUIET, WE FIND JOY

SCHOOL ACCOMPLISHMENTS

Since last we posted, there have been a plethora (Kelly says shout out to El Guapo) of exciting things happening at The Amazima School (TAS) and for us personally as we continue to serve in Uganda. We had our very first Science Fair at TAS and it could not have gone any better for the students and the staff who had the pleasure of attending. For the preliminary round, there was a night for all of us to walk around and see the very creative experiments the students selected. They worked in pairs so there were 36 stations for us to check out. For the adults, it was a lot of reliving high school science in one night. Even so, it was incredible to watch the enthusiasm and preparation that went into proving their hypotheses right or wrong. The top three pairs competed on the following Saturday night in front of the student body and staff with the winners being a pair of boys with a “moldy bread” experiment. The top three teams also presented their experiments to the parents and guardians at TAS Visitation Day. They were blown away by the whole idea of the science fair and very proud of their students….especially the ones whose students ended up with medals around their neck!

All of our school sports teams have improved greatly since TAS opening. Our girls’ teams got to do a lot of celebrating this term since it was the first wins for their basketball, net-ball and volleyball teams. The boy’s football (soccer) team had their first non-loss. The game was a draw, but we will take it. Our boys are tough players and working hard to compete against schools with more than 50 times the number of students. This school year is also our students first time to participate in team sports. We could not be more proud of their effort and attitude. Even the ones who do not participate are very supportive and cheering loudly on the sidelines. It’s definitely a team effort with only 24 boys and 48 girls at our school. The 2018 school year will bring 48 more boys and 24 more girls so we will be equally balanced and have more to participate in school wide activities.

The Amazima School is a Ugandan school, not an International school. Being a national school means we have to follow the very strict rules set forth by the Ministry of Education and Sports. In Term 2, schools compete in what is called Music, Dance and Drama or MDD for short. There are 16 events encompassing singing, dancing, poetry, speeches and many more. Our students only had a week to prepare for the events in which we decided they would participate and given that the other schools were 10-20 times our size, our 5th place finish was incredible! More importantly, our kids were (by far) the most humble and gracious of any school there. The judges and officials made an effort to tell our teachers how impressed they were with the students of TAS. Moments like these validate the approach we are taking to education and student life. We are all overwhelmed with the results God is allowing us to experience. 

The Amazima School Farm, which will be maintained by the students, has been prepared for planting! It will be managed using a method Amazima has been teaching the surrounding communities for many years called Farming God’s Way. Each student house (24 students) has a section of the farm they are preparing for planting (beans and maize) which will be done in Term 3. The video below talks about Farming God’s Way at Amazima Ministries.

Term 2 brought lots of excitement, fun and hard work but also some sorrow. Kelly and I have been strengthened, however, by the continued transformation and unity of both the staff and students through trials. Our campus was put to the test when two of our students lost their primary guardians to death during the term. We witnessed Ugandan and Western Family Mentors support them in those hard days here on campus and in their communities. On Sunday mornings this term, we studied the “Joy Letter” of Philippians. We all know that joy is possible in Christ regardless of our circumstances. Through God’s grace, they fully understand this promise and have embraced it in the face of extreme difficulty. The students were excited to go home over the break and share with their families and communities how they can have joy no matter their circumstances. 

CHAMPIONS

The Amazima School Staff participates in the Jinja Corporate League. Once a month (over 6 months) for entire Sunday afternoon, they competed in soccer, running and tug-o-war against other organizations in the district. THE AMAZIMA SCHOOL ARE THE CHAMPIONS of the Jinja Corporate League! It’s worth noting we were undefeated for the season in tug-o-war (23-0). For this we were awarded three goats, a trophy and a plaque. We even made the national news! Way to go TAS!!

REST AND RELAXATION

A local resort was running a special so we took a couple of days in the middle of Term 2 to get away. Twenty minutes away from the school is one of the most peaceful, beautiful places we have ever been…Wildwaters Lodge. The food was incredible (best we’ve has since being in Uganda) and the views breathtaking. I thought I was used to all the cricket and cicadas noises at night from living on the lake in the states. Well…I was wrong. The first night they were so loud I thought an emergency alarm was going off. After getting used to our new little friends it was a very enjoyable, needed get away. We sometimes don’t realize how tired or run down we are until we get away. In the quiet, we are able to stand back, reflect and appreciate what is happening in the lives of the students and staff.

GOOD FOR THE SOUL

We are now on break in between terms before heading into Term 3. The campus is very quiet, to say the least. Taking an evening stroll, I hear drums and brass instrument sounds in the distance. It’s a Friday night to be exact. I stop and close my eyes, feel the cool breeze and I imagine the sounds to be a band warming up for “Friday Night Lights.” At least in the states that’s what it would be. I’m not sure what the band is doing in the distance but it brings back many memories of football in the fall (in the south)…some of my favorite memories. I stood there and listened while watching a beautiful Ugandan sunset. God brings these little reminders of goodness all the time.

I had thought I wouldn’t smell fresh-cut grass for a while either. Most grass is cut here using a slasher (done by hand). Our campus (being as it is very large), however, is blessed to have a riding lawnmower so walking around smelling fresh-cut grass has become one of my favorite things. I don’t get home sick when I appreciate the small things God provides in the quiet.

One of the hardest things for us to leave back in the States was the dozens of students with whom we had built relationships over the last 14 years. We are so excited to report that one of them is living in Jinja for the next 9 months! We get to help Courtney (Flick) feel at home in Jinja while she fills our heart with “student love”. We have really enjoyed getting to show her great places to eat, introduce her to everyone we know and just hang out and watch movies.

INTRODUCTION/WEDDING

We had the honor and privilege of attending and being part of two of our dearest staff member’s (Derick & Ruthie) traditional introduction ceremony. Derick is one of the Ugandan Family Mentors on Kelly’s team and Ruthie is the Student Life Administrator (Kelly’s right hand). We got to dress in traditional Ugandan formal attire. I (Danlyn) wore a Mushanana and Kelly wore a Kanzu (see pictures below). It was fun to dress up and “do” my hair, which I hadn’t done in over 8 months. Luckily, how to use a curling wand came back from muscle memory. At the ceremony, the Amazima staff was present with groom’s side. We walked/danced in along with Derick’s family in-front of all of the other guest who had been seated for over an hour waiting for the groom to come and request the bride’s hand in marriage. We then sat in special seating with the groom’s family. There were lots of traditional speeches, presentations and dances. We helped present the “gifts” (dowry) to the bride’s family from the groom. This included many gift baskets with fruits and vegetables, 3 live chickens, tons of matoke (bananas) and a 132 pound bag of rice just to name a few. Kelly was selected to carry the giant bag of rice down a steep, rocky hill and in a dress that was too long. Quiet a site! There was a point of gift exchange where a group of us girls got to dance with a group of guys from Ruthie’s family. Totally spontaneous and so fun! The groom and bride’s family had their meal in a separate location from the rest of the guests to discuss the dowry. We assume all went well because after being there for around 3 hours, Ruthie was finally presented to everyone. And she looked stunning. She had four traditional Ugandan dress changes in the night (Kelly says $2 to Big Daddy Yum Yum). WOW! It was definitely a big party.

The next day Derick and Ruthie got married in the sweetest ceremony. I helped a team of amazing ladies transform the backyard of the Matron of Honor into a southern outdoor wedding. That was the bride’s wish. The day was perfect even though the celebration was shut down a little early with the worst storm I’ve experienced in Uganda to date.

CONSTRUCTION UPDATE

Phase 2A at the school is progressing with a speed we are not used to here. The Chapel, which will be “The Rock” of our campus, is scheduled to be completed early December but we’re hoping for a little sooner so we can enjoy it a little bit before the end of the school year. Included in this phase are eight new general classrooms and three large speciality classrooms… a science lab, fine arts room and a music room. All of these classrooms will be completed for the start of the 2018 school year in February. Phase 2B will involve additional dorms and Family Mentor housing since we will add 72 to our total number of students each year.

DARING TO HOPE

Kelly and I have both read Katie’s (our founder) newest book “Daring to Hope – Finding God’s Goodness in the Broken and Beautiful” We can honestly say if you loved her first book “Kisses From Katie” you will love this one just as much, if not more. If you have not read the first book you still have time before the new one comes out October 3rd. A bonus for The Amazima School…for every “Daring to Hope” book bought during the 1st week of its release, the publisher, Random House, is going to give the school a book of our choosing from their publishing house for our library. WIN WIN! You get a book! We get a book! Photo credits on the book cover to our very own Mackenzie Dalton 🙂

FINISHING STRONG

We start the 3rd and final term of the school year on September 18th. The stories from the villages about our students over this break are extremely positive so there is a lot of anticipation for the home visits scheduled for next week. The feedback from our parents and guardians is the most important measure for how effective is our approach.

Thank you for all the support and prayers!

 

ROUTINES ARE MEANT TO BE BROKEN

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We tend to get into somewhat of a routine until a happy interruption comes along. This can be a national holiday, visitors or a last-minute dinner invitation. Although the schedule and programs for what ended up being the best week at The Amazima School (so far) had certainly been planned, no one could ever have predicted how it would have been received emotionally by the students and staff. This was Easter week…a time of renewing. For our students and many of our Ugandan staff, it was also a time of learning and understanding that one cannot “lose” their salvation or undo the finished work of the cross. The freedom and excitement in the student’s eyes when they “got” this truth was incredible. They were encouraged in Bible class to discuss and ask questions surrounding this topic all week which led to deeper conversations. On Thursday night (Maundy Thursday) the students, their House Parents and Ugandan partners (our family teams) enjoyed a special family meal together on the veranda of each of their homes. Afterwards, the last supper was explained and then the family teams, along with many of the school staff and administrators, washed each of the students’ feet. To witness the moment when the students collectively comprehended what was happening was both overwhelming and powerful in a way we have never experienced. You could feel the Spirit working. If you ever get to be a part of a feet washing ceremony, do it! Afterwards, all the students (every single one) walked in complete silence (without us telling them) to our Night of Worship. On Good Friday, the students and the staff watched Passion of The Christ. If you’ve seen the movie, you know how hard it is to watch no matter if it’s your first or tenth time. It was a very emotional night.

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Kelly explaining the “Last Supper” to the students of The Esther House.

VISITORS

Visitors are a very welcome treat and taste of home! The past couple of months we have been blessed with lots of visitors. We are getting spoiled. First, Kelly brought Emily and Jeffrey Hardy back with him from his trip to the states. He tried to tell me to go to bed and they would see me in the morning since they would get in from the airport around 1:30 am. Ummm…that would never happen. I couldn’t sleep knowing a piece of home is a few hours away. What a joy to greet visitors! When they first arrived we literally had to make ourselves go to bed. It’s so fun playing tour guide and showing everyone our campus home, Jinja town and all the best places to eat of course. 🙂 While the Hardy’s were here, we, along with several other house parents and their personal children had the opportunity to visit the village home of one our dear friends. Kori and I helped to prepare and cook food. We spent most of the time shooing away chickens from the corn on the fire but we did learn how to successfully peel matooke (green banana that tastes like a potato). Mackenzie, Emily and Sidney sang and played games with all of the local children. We all got a tour of the beautiful gardens where so many different fruits and vegetables grow.  We picked lots of fresh avocado to bring home. Kelly, Jeffrey, Zach, Jason and Jackson all helped local men build a chicken coop using large sticks and mud. It was a great day being welcomed by new friends, learning new ways to do things and sharing a meal all together. The next day was an extra special treat. Jeffrey helped lead Sunday morning worship. What a great weekend!

 

To just be able to sit on the couch and hang out with friends from home…oh what a joy!! Next, we had the pleasure of doing this with Kristie McCollister for two weeks. We were the ultimate tourists. We all went on our first safari including a Rhino Trek, a visit to Murchison Falls (the actual Falls – incredible), and a five-hour game drive through Murchison National Park seeing so many elephants, giraffe, kob, bushbucks, hartebeests, waterbucks, buffalo, antelope and baboons. We saw one python who was a couple of days into digesting a very large kill and also a few lions from a safe distance. We cruised up and down The Nile River to the base of Murchison Falls seeing hippos, warthogs (Pumbas), lots of different birds, giraffe and elephants going for a cool drink. We ended our adventure with a four-seater plane ride back to Jinja.

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Kristie was a big help in us getting ready for Second Term. It was great having a partner to help check off my “to-do” lists. It was definitely a special time having her here. The students were on break for three weeks so it got really quiet around campus. The same day we had to say good-bye to Kristie we welcomed the students back for Second Term. With their arrival, the wonderful sounds of students singing, playing games on porches and simple conversations returned. Routine was on its way back in. But first another break in the routine…

We had another set of sweet visitors who set aside time from their own ministry to come and love on us for a couple of days. Scott and Addie Bowen and their precious children were another great taste of home. We visited and ate well while they were here. It’s just as great getting to catch up with their “growing” kids. That’s the hard part of being so far away from family and friends. Missing out on the everyday lives and the growing up of our nieces, nephew and so many others who are like nieces, nephews and grandkids. And not to mention all of the weddings and babies. Just know I would be at all of the showers (and hosting some) and weddings if I was there 🙂

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Overlooking The Nile River with The Bowen’s

MILESTONES

Kelly and I celebrated TWENTY YEARS of marriage on May 31st. We went out to a great dinner and will get away for a weekend soon to celebrate. We looked at each other and both said we couldn’t believe it has been 20 YEARS. Seems like yesterday we were with our first group of high school students at InsideOut which was over 13 years ago. Who knew that a simple “yes” was going to lead to doing life together in Uganda. Crazy!

I got my Ugandan Driver’s License and have driven to town. I never thought I would drive here but “never-say-never” I guess. Defensive driving at its best! I will continue to practice with Kelly in the car and soon I will be off on my own. I will regain some of the independence I have missed.

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My first drive into town behind the wheel and these cuties were brave enough to join us!

The Amazima School is now officially licensed as a Ugandan Secondary School. This was a long, hard process but definitely worth it! A huge and important victory for the school. From the beginning we were committed, as an organization, to being a National school…not an International School. The only way to challenge the system that is failing with the children of Uganda is to fight from within and show the Government there is a better way. International schools are great and serve a wonderful purpose in giving students an opportunity to receive a top-notch education but because they operate outside of the purvey of the Ministry of Education, their performance has no impact on education (as a whole) on Uganda.

HOME VISITS

The biggest gauge of how we are doing in accomplishing our mission at The Amazima School came in the form of our end-of-break visits to the families and guardians of our students. It’s in these moments where we find out if our kids are humble or spoiled, growing or pretending, learning facts or applying knowledge, etc. Universally, the guardians of our students were overwhelmed with the change they saw in their children. Most importantly, there was not a single report of a student acting out or being lazy. These reports have validated (to this point) our philosophy and serve as a great encouragement moving forward.

We are already preparing for the 2018 school year. Kelly has recruited and hired four new sets of house parents that will move here in January. The school is doubling in size so our family team staff will need to do so as well. We are busy communicating, training and getting them ready for their transition to Uganda. Please be in prayer with us for these new additions to our team as they are raising support, saying goodbyes, getting vaccines, paperwork and deciding what’s important enough to bring. All of those are long processes with many emotions involved.

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The Family Team (minus Simon) having a fun Team Day after completing First Term.

Because of the time change and the utter insanity of our schedule, we don’t do a great job of keeping in touch with people (we will get better!). So, we are very grateful for the phone calls, texts, emails and every other way our friends make an effort to support and encourage us from thousands of miles away. If that’s you, then THANK YOU!

Until next time…

Five Months In…

I (Danlyn) can’t believe we’ve already been in Uganda serving with Amazima for 5 months. Most days I couldn’t tell you what day of the week it is, never the date, and hardly the month. I usually rely on my handy calendar app for such information. I’ve given up trying to keep a schedule like I would in the states, seeing as most days never turn out as planned. After many frustrating days of my “to-do list” only getting a few items crossed off despite how much effort I put forward, I’ve come to appreciate the interruptions.  I’ve learned to breathe (most of the time) during the extra time and effort it takes to accomplish a task. I now relish in the new friends I meet, the stories I hear, and the experiences along the way which would never have occurred without a task taking two or three times as long as I would normally expect. When it’s our evening meal, howver, taking way over an hour to be served, I may not be breathing so greatly 🙂

THE AMAZIMA SCHOOL

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Welcoming Students on The First Day of School

The first day of school was full of welcoming the students and their parents/ guardians/ families, collecting all of the items they were required to bring, showing them to their dorms and around the campus, introducing them to their teachers, House Parents and Family Mentor Partners (Ugandan who works in equal standing to mentor and disciple). The families stayed for lunch and were oriented to the rules, expectations and general functioning of the school. That evening we had a celebratory meal that included sodas and a dance party. The next day…classes began.

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Girls Looking “Smart” in Their Uniforms

The Amazima School is now in full swing. The students are in full uniform Monday through Friday during school hours looking very “smart” (word used for pretty and handsome here). A typical day for a student looks like the following:

  • Wake Up, Shower & Chores
  • Morning Devotions with Their House Parents and/or Family Mentor Partner
  • Breakfast
  • Classes
  • After School Chores/ Free Time/ Clubs/ Sports
  • Dinner
  • Preps (Study Hall)
  • Hang Out Time at Each House & Evening Devotions
  • Students in Rooms & Lights Out

As you can see they stay pretty busy as do the staff keeping all of this going. The House Parents, Family Mentor Partners and Teachers are incredible! They have been so flexible as we change schedules, rules, programs, etc. We call them our “guinea pigs” even though our Ugandan friends do not understand the term. New staff next year are already so grateful for us working out the kinks. On Monday mornings, there are devotions for the entire Amazima staff and then we join the students for their weekly assembly, all of which is led by our Country Director and Headmaster, Mark Guthrie.  On Thursday evenings, we alternate between chapel and KAMP (Kids at Amazima Moving with Passion). KAMP is our Student Ministry. More about that a little later. Every 3rd Saturday we have movie night for all of the students. This is surely a favorite for all. So far we’ve shown Queen of Katwe, The Good Lie, Woodlawn, and The Jungle Book (newer version). Afternoons for students are spent doing chores, homework and they would say most importantly sports and clubs 🙂 Official sports teams right now include boys football (soccer) and girls basketball. We also have a hip-hop dance team lead by own Mac. She is fierce!! Clubs include debate, drama, chapel/worship, singing/entertainment/dance, service, and stewardship. Sunday mornings we have a Worship Gathering for all the students, staff and the community is welcome. Our campus pastors Daniel and Dustin do a great job in leading us as well as do Jason and Grace with worship. It is a wonderful time of worshipping, learning, reflection, and good ‘ole fellowship.

The football team had their very first match last Saturday. Students and staff cheered from the sidelines (it was a home game) as the guys represented us well on the pitch (field) in their “smart” navy and white uniforms with the Amazima School emblazoned across their backs. Neon green boots (cleats) were donated from the states and arrived just in time a few days prior to the match. They played hard, incurred 3 injuries, lost 1-0, but represented The Amazima School so well! The school we played thought we were going to be an easy team to beat and they were going to walk away with at least a 10-0 victory. Saying all of this, we are very proud of our guys first official football match!

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The Amazima School’s First Football Match
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Where the Students Eat Meals. Thanks to a Generous Donor!

KAMP (Student Ministry)

I knew this was happening but didn’t really think much of it. I’m not sure why. Myself (and some awesome co-leaders) had three amazing small groups of high school girls back in the states. I attended student ministry almost every Sunday afternoon for 12 years, but we’re in Uganda and it’s not InsideOut so I didn’t let my heart go there. One day Kelly said “I assume you want to be a small group leader”. I was like “yea, it’s what I do”. I was intimidated after thinking about it seeing as I haven’t done it in a few years and these girls may not understand the way I communicate in small group. But I was excited when Kelly told me the ladies with whom I would be leading. The first night of actual KAMP was surreal. I just looked around and cried. Thought about my girls back home and wished I could hug them at that moment. They are a big reason why I am here. God placed them in my life to teach me about students, relationships and it all takes a lot of hard work. I love you girls!

We had hosts, games, a message geared towards the students who led us well in worship (dance moves and all). It was student ministry. All of those years in the states and this was happening HERE! And the most important part of the night…SMALL GROUPS. We broke into groups of 12 girls or 12 guys each with at least one Ugandan leader and one Mzungu leader (that’s us). The bonus with being at a boarding school, you always have full attendance 🙂 The first night of small groups (which they’ve really never done before), exceeded everyone’s expectations. We actually talked about their lives and God for close to an hour until Kelly had to ring the bell to have small groups come to an end. We HAVE to HAVE an END TIME. They don’t want it to end. They are truly engaged while asking deep questions and actually answering questions we ask. Can’t wait to witness their life growth!

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Our Hosts – Zach (also known as Nigel) and Andrew
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Students Competing in a Rock, Paper, Scissors Tournament
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First Night of KAMP Worship

MORE FIRSTS

As soon as I think we’ve had most of our “firsts”, usually the next day something else “new” happens. I guess we will continue to have them. If we didn’t we wouldn’t be learning and experiencing our new home and new culture to the fullest.

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First Womens Conference to Attend Here

At the end of February, I got to attend my first women’s conference here, IF Gathering: Uganda. A dear friend of mine put on the conference with an amazing group of ladies. They provided 2 days for the ladies of Jinja to gather, worship, learn, discuss and just be quiet. Most of the women from Amazima attended and look forward to the next time we can do something like this.

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First Hair Salon Experience

Recently, I tried to color my hair (with foils I might add). That was a day I was extremely missing Karen, my friend and hairdresser, for sure!! People say I did a good job but man I’m not looking forward to that again anytime soon. It took me most of the day and I gave up on the foils after about 5 of them 🙂 I got my first haircut, in a missionaries back yard. So no wash (my favorite part), only a dry cut but that’s ok. Grateful for what I can get. Got a lot of it chopped off so I don’t have to have one for a while. It’s hard to get an appointment when only there’s only one lady in town that cuts most of the Mzungu’s hair and her schedule is limited to one day a week with only 2 time slots. Kelly goes to an Indian guy who ignores everything he requests and usually does the opposite. HA!

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Ten Foot Cobra (without its head)

This week, Kelly and I were driving home from the village, with a new staff couple for next year. As the school came into view, we saw smoke coming from our house. We thought for sure that it couldn’t be from our house, being as it’s made of brick and concrete, but as we got closer, it WAS coming from our house or rather our back yard (I use that term loosely). When we walked up, we saw about 15 workers, our house-help and the dog gathered around the fire. Kelly asked one of the workers “Why is there a fire?”. He said “Snake”. We were like “WHAT?!?!?” Apparently, the workers had found a snake but in order to capture it, they had to burn it out, thus the controlled fire in our back yard. The snake was a 10 foot Cobra. We are grateful they cut all of the tall grass and burned the area so we can be confident of no other snakes (for now). And what a great way to welcome future staff to our home 🙂

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First Walk with Muggle on a Leash

Muggle, the dog, did not come with the concept of how to go on a walk, at least on a leash. She will walk beside you all day long, if not connected to you. But if she is on a lead or leash she will just stand still when we go to move. We weren’t really sure why? Some sweet friends from the states had a little extra room in their bag so we requested a retractable dog leash for Muggle. It just arrived this past week, we immediately out her on it and it was like she has been doing it all her life. I guess it just took her having more control with the retractable part.

Both of us now have all of our Work Visa’s. No more temporary visa’s for us when we travel in and out of Uganda. YAY! Kelly has his local driver’s license and I will soon get mine. Now how often I will actually drive, who knows? But at least I can run an errand, if needed.

ENGAGEMENT

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Celebrating the Newly Engaged Couple

We had a sweet taste of home with one our dear girls, Andrea, here for two months and then Andrew, her now fiancé, coming for her last week here. What made it even more special was getting to be a part of their engagement night. Andrew pulled off an incredible surprise proposal right beside the Nile River at sunset. One of our house parents, who happens to a professional photographer, captured the whole thing perfectly. It was a special time for us to be a part of the planning and the celebration. We love you two!! Thanks for including us!!

The best thing about our life here is having a front row seat to watch God work in the lives of our students. We are truly overwhelmed and grateful to play a small part in this grand story being written every day all around us.

Sorry for the delay and the lengthy post but honestly, today was the first chance I had some time to sit down and do it!

Til’ next time…