Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Weekly Update 19: A New Day Dawns


We got a house. Nicest one on the property. So nice it was previously where Hopeland welcomed special guests. I guess that's us now, except we're no longer visiting, we live here. We have permission from the government to be here through next year (then we reapply) and vison for the land and community to keep us busy till our children become adults (Zoe is getting close, she turns 16 on Christmas day). This is the fulfillment of a journey that we began eight years ago. Let's get started!

Welcome to the first Monday of our new life. We got accepted on staff here at Hopeland last Wednesday, graduated from the Ag Training School Thursday, and moved into a four bedroom staff house Friday. Quite a whirlwind of a weekend. It all happened so fast if I don't stop to write some of it down we will get settled and not give God the praise for moving on our behalf. During our "acceptance to staff" meeting it was expressed to us that housing us would be a challenge. Two days later we were in the best house on base. God moved on our behalf. The prayers of those that sent us continues to carry us through to the next step.

Most of the time we seem to be waiting for God to move. We pray and we wait. Many times we get tired of waiting and just do it ourselves (and maybe that was God's intention for that situation). When it comes to possibilities for our future we may feel like we're always in a holding pattern. But when God seems to move all of a sudden one can feel overwhelmed quite quickly. I don't know why I say, "all of the sudden," we've been praying for this day for the past eleven months. And when I say we, of course I am including all of you who have been praying with us.

I did the final sweep on our student dorm this morning. We moved out over the weekend but I finally got to finish it after base intercession today. I'm handing back the keys at our first staff meeting after lunch. It is a transition that we have been planning for and we are ready to hit the ground running. I am going to start assessing the local community farming efforts and determine what value I and Hopeland can bring to not only their farming techniques but also their worldview and ultimately higher yields in their food supply.

The transition also means I'm moving from something new happening every week to the slow waiting for the crops to grow. We'll still send out updates but they may not be weekly. Of course if you want to know what's going on always check clarks2africa.blogspot.com. Thank you for carrying us through to the next step in our serving in Africa. Blessings.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Weekly Update 18: Loose Ends



This week's update is collection of many events. Jeri contracted malaria. In her absence the children and I went to an African wedding anniversary event. We discovered living worms in our water supply. The boys and I finally tried food prepared on the side of the highway. And I begin my last week of class time in appropriate technology for developing rural Africa. 

The biggest challenge this week has been Jeri's malaria. When we came to Africa we were told you don't prevent malaria you manage it. We daily take our anti-malaria pills and it seems the prevailing thought is not if you get malaria it's when. Jeri in her infinite kindness sacrificed her well being to go first. The World Health Organization estimates just over half a million people died in 2012 year from possible malaria related infection. But don't be afraid folks this ain't Ebola. Malaria is preventable and treatable and the mortality rate drops every year. Jeri took the local remedy, Artemesia tea (which tastes awful), and the pharmaceutical remedy which is a three day antibiotic. Five days later she's fine.  During the recovery she missed the big event of the season, the Mukasa's 25th wedding anniversary. 

A joyous event in any culture but our local YWAM Family, the Mukasas, have been especially blessed and chose their to share their special day with 40 other married couples. In addition to celebrating with our hosts these other couples were the center of attention. They had a processional, matching outfits, and gift exchanges. Food and cake was served to a packed hall of well over 300 people. We were just interested bystanders enjoying all of the festivities understanding none of the proceedings. This much spectacle was above and beyond even by Uganda standards and it reminded me that even in this "poor" nation poverty is a mindset not a lifetime sentence.

What is appropriate technology? Basically it's using what is available and affordable for the location you are in. As much as I wish there a Home Depot here to furnish all my construction needs the reality is I need to be able to do as much as I can and advance the local innovation with materials they can get. That sump pump would be a great resource to have but if we're in a village and they don't have the electricity to run it then it won't be of much use if I have to empty a water tank. We are working on a Rus Hand Pump, which only requires some pvc pipe and a couple of wooden blocks (Google it). When we get it running I'll post a video.

We are coming to the end of our course and nearing the next step of joining Staff and using what we've learned to bring up the community. It is a big step and we are glad we have you to pray us through it. If you have thought about an extra gift to send for the holidays now would be the time, anything sent after November 28 won't get to us until the end of December. Why the pics of Liesel in the header? She got her hair done by the local gal and was cuter than any other photos we had. Blessings.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Weekly Update 17: 100 Days


Are you a creature of habit? When you go to your favorite restaurant do you order the same thing every time? Do you have alternative driving routes that you insist on taking even if it frustrates your passengers? Do you have a specific way you fill the dishwasher? Hang your clothes? Do you have a routine that if interrupted requires you to start over from the beginning? Even in Africa, as disruptive an environment as you could imagine, we have found ourselves settling into our routines.

On the occasion of our residence in Uganda rounding out one hundred days our class was invited to visit a local resort on the Nile River. The class and the family spent a day swimming and fellowshipping together about 35 miles north of the Equator. Needless to say four of the children, who do not have red hair, got their summer sunburn seven months early. The children had a great time because it broke up their normal routine of daily chores and homeschool. The sun comes up at 6:30--every day. In Texas we had a weekly routine for breakfast: eggs, Monday; oatmeal, Tuesday; French toast, Wednesday; etc. Here, toast and a banana is the routine, adding eggs and bacon is a rare treat. 

We even have built routines around things we could never have imagined would be the norm. Zoe points out taking motorcycle rides with random black men has become an unexpected norm. Sharing public transportation with livestock and taking cold showers also have lost their initial fascination. Walking through the village and having children shout, "mzungu how are you?" is still  fun especially when they join us for the walk. 

Enjoy your routines. We have started building routines for contingencies. When the power goes out we have routines for the distribution of headlamps and a couple of solar powered lanterns. When the water gets interrupted we gather buckets and trek up the well to collect reserves for washing and filtering. We've also collected rainwater when a storm has been the cause of the water pump failing. Routines are nice, routines are helpful, and routines can help you keep your sanity.

Even after one hundred days there are still some things I'd like a routine for. These hot Africa afternoons, there just isn't an escape, even with cold showers the heat is so pervasive. Relying on public transportation to get shopping done. Even though the availability of bodas and taxis are frequent it is always a challenge of timing to catch a ride. How to keep the red clay from getting everywhere. Avoiding mosquito bites without drowning daily in bug spray. And always the final challenge how to move forward in a nation without an In-N-Out Burger location.

One hundred days has freed us of a lot of the unproductive routines we had in the States but it has also separated us from you. As this course draws to a close, and we prepare for the work to become the full-time endeavor instead of the part-time application, losing our classmates threatens to further emphasize our distance from those we love. We will make new relationships and hopefully ministry partners to affect greater change but please pray for us as we seek new routines.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Weekly Update 16: God Makes Time


What are you waiting for?

I have this inane little game on my iPad. It's a management game so it requires no skill, timing, or ability to see similarly colored gems with potential alignment. You just assign your little characters a task and then wait for them to finish. Progress increases upon their accomplishments and the purchase of more characters. There isn't even a world building aspect and because I refuse to spend actual dollars on "in-app offers" my advancement in the game is almost glacial in its speed. And yet, I cannot stop playing it.

One character finishes his tasks in less than a minute, the returns are minuscule but he requires resending upon each return. This gives me something to do while waiting for my higher grade characters to accomplish their goals and get bigger returns. Every time they do their thing I get to tap the screen a bunch of times as virtual gold coins go bouncing around and accumulate in my "bank." And the process starts again. 

The game developers have mimicked reality in that greater returns require greater patience. The quick fix provides little reward. Sustainable farming not only requires patience, it almost creates it. Why Jesus made so many connections between agriculture, our lives, and Kingdom living has made so much sense since joining this school. The quick fix in our gardening, our investments, and our lives will often cause more damage than benefits. We tell the children using chemicals to solve problems in their lives is the same as using chemicals to solve problems in their soil. Taking vicodin for an injury is a suitable immediate solution but might not be the best option for long term management. Chemical pesticides and fertilizers have also demonstrated their long term detriment on our American soil. 

We have since the beginning of this school been rebuilding the Ugandan soil in our garden beds with compost, manure, and extensive mulching. Last week we also learned natural ways to rebuild our bodies. Anamed is an international organization that promotes natural and indigenous plant based medicines. Christopher, the Uganda National Director, led our instruction for the week. The organization focuses on 60 different tropical plants and fruits that treat maladies but are also helpful for our well being. As you see in the pictures, Dora, our mini-midwife in training, not only got to sit in but helped in many of the practical applications.

Moringa, the miracle tree, is a plant with many uses. We were shown one of benefits of its seeds in water purification. The pitcher Dora is stirring in the lower left photo is dirty water getting mixed with the moringa seed solution. The next day that water was clear! Now, it still needed boiling to kill all the stuff you can't see but the sediment was bound to the solution at the bottom of the pitcher. Dora enjoyed making ointments, soap, and tinctures from all these natural products and learned an important principle of how God's provision will sustain but isn't always as rapid as we demand. We have already started growing some of the plants that will be useful in keeping us free of malaria and adding nutrition to our diets.

What has God put in place for wellness in your life that would be much easier if you just did it yourself? Is it relationships, nutrition, career, finances, child raising or all of the above? Is waiting the worst part or is it the fear of there not being enough time? Every time we come up to the deadline of something, worrying every step of the way, we find once the "thing" is done it worked out just the way it should have, as though God had a plan all along. Funny how the timing seems to work out when the one who created time is in control.

Weekly Update 14


Tusanyuse Okukulaba
(We are happy to see you)

I broke the house last night. Melted a breaker. In the process of trading out a faulty light switch, unfamiliar with its design and working by headlamp, I wired it wrong, threw the switch, and burned it out. We spent the rest of the evening in darkness. My family has gotten used to these inconvenient errors in my judgement and lapses in diligence, I melted through a hot water pot last month. If the children make mistakes the rug gets a stain, we are delayed in leaving somewhere, sunglasses get left on a taxi, etc. If I make mistake we go without water (a month and a half ago I turned off the wrong valve). It is very humbling to constantly be apologizing to the wife and children. It definitely softens my critical nature in judging the children and making their every slip up a federal offense. He forgives much whom has been forgiven much.

It is in the midst of this humility that we we are taking language lessons. It goes without saying the children are picking up Lugandan quickly. Me? Not so much. I don't anticipate I will ever be able to give a sermon in the language of the people—without a miracle from God. As a homeschooling father who is supposed to be the guiding hand in my children's education this is a new experience. I have no expertise in this subject and on top of that not the most adept student. Lugandan has just as many exceptions and particulars as any other language—I'm just not getting it as fast as the children. Not that I expected to. We are relying on them to learn this quicker than us, this isn't about raising children as much as it is about mentoring partners. I hope that doesn't comes off impersonal or a hands-off approach to parenting (they by no means call us by our first names). The five of them get all the love and affection we can give but the olders are getting used to having more expectations put upon them. One of the priorities is being being able to communicate with the folks around us. Liesel is our secret weapon. Even with just the few words of greeting she knows the Ugandans go crazy when they hear her speak their language.

I can't compete with that and I don't want to. To live through the lives of our children is something we aspire to. We have no ability to offer a return on the investment people have made in us other than serve others and nurture amazing children that will continue beyond our achievements. Much of our calling is to assist in the discovery of their callings. Like any investment strategy the earlier we start the better. Africa is integral to finding and developing each of the children's calling, whether they choose to continue in Africa or not. Serving with them gives them confidence, authority, ministry networking experience, the list could go on and on. Serving with them gives us more hands to do the work we've been sent to do and hope that someone will learn from our mistakes. Maybe Jax will seek a calling as an electrician.

House Building and Seed Bed Planning


(This post missed publishing on our blog page back in August)

Writing this by headlamp tonight because the power is out. Blackouts are not unique to Uganda of course, but sometimes because we are so rural, it feels like maybe nobody is really working to solve the problem? So we ate dinner by headlamps and are sending the children off to bed early. Which is appropriate after taking the trip to town this morning for church, lunching in Jinja, and coming back via taxi bus just in time for dinner. Whoever said Sunday was the day of rest didn't try to get to church by public transportation. Country living has it's perks but getting anywhere in a hurry ain't one of them.

No power also means no internet. I'm writing this Sunday, we'll see what Monday brings. (Monday, power came back on at 5pm)

This week in the village, outside of the Mabira Forest Centre, we started teaching them about seed beds. Since the project is based behind a primary school, I brought the boys. This being our third week in the village I didn't worry too much about upsetting any balance but how well could I stay focused with Xander and Jax there? Of course one of the reasons we are in Africa is to do family missions, so off we went. 

The boys did great! We have often said our children validate our very existence in ministry and bringing them fulfilled that expectation. They were especially helpful when we used the parable of a wise man building his house upon a rock to teach about planning our seed beds. The African children appreciated acting out the wise man while the mzungu children portrayed the foolish man. Thanks for taking one for the team Xander.

After class and some time in the garden we journeyed out of the village and into the bush to visit one of our student's farm. It was a long and gorgeous walk. God truly has blessed the nation of Uganda. I know outside of the cities there are slums, garbage dump communities, and places of much suffering. I know there is still much poverty and injustice for farmers. However, when you can walk through the countryside and see so much growth and so many happy children you know there is hope for Uganda. Country living has its perks. 

Our new friend Ibrahim brought us to one of his properties, where he lives and grows sugarcane and papaya. We prayed for him and graciously received  samples of his crops. We have much we could learn from him, but even in the short time we have been here we have learned techniques and management that will increase his yield. If he can sustain these practices he could be a leader in his community which is why we spend more time teaching Kingdom principles that we spend teaching how deep to plant seeds. Any NGO or manual can teach proper crop rotation, we are here to share relationship, teach farming according to God's design, and feed people. You are part of all of this and more because you sent us. Thank you for your support.


Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Clark Children Parody a Parody

Tacky by Weird Al, as performed by the Clark Children. Enjoy!

We're Gonna Get Tacky
A music video of thanksgiving

We put out our music video cover of Weird Al's Tacky last week. It is a silly thing with no hidden spiritual relevance just a fun song the children like to sing. It took the better part of a Saturday to assemble the costumes, spackle on make-up and sort the locations for shooting. After we finished and looked at the footage we came up with so many more ideas, but isn't that always the way of things? When these things are done professionally super humorous  people plan and script out each detail—we just started with a couple of ideas and went from there. Luckily my wife and the children are pretty creative and we caught some funny bits. They are comical but not long suffering. Although we made Dora drop out that tree several times most scenes we had to get it in one take. This isn't their first parody. When Zoe was eight the three olders lip-synched Weird Al's White and Nerdy for my birthday. Jeri and our adopted daughter Sarah even came up with choreography.

Sarah was also the inspiration for this video. If you have admired the wardrobe choices in our family photos, then you have admired her influence on our family. She has contributed so much more but her fashion guidance made the selection of Tacky as a tribute uniquely appropriate. Our gratitude to Sarah, her husband Aaron, and their three boys represents our thankfulness to God and all y'all who have contributed to our transition into this country.

Two duffle bags of reminders and resources from home arrived this week. As we look toward November we prepare for our annual season of thankfulness. Yes, it is easier to be thankful when you get two duffles of new stuff but we wouldn't be here if we hadn't been thankful in the times of lack as well.

The Africans are fascinated that we have a national holiday dedicated to giving thanks. We have explained the historical and traditional significance of the event, but among the nations we are unique in our intentions. I know, Canadians have Thanksgiving too and as combined North Americans we have much to be thankful for.

A few years ago we volunteered at the Tyler, Texas Salvation Army Thanksgiving  Service. Not out of a great sense of sacrifice or volunteerism but because we had no where better to go. After we finished our assigned task we joined the feasting folks who also had no where else to go. We were served a fine meal and we were grateful. Subsequent Thanksgivings when we had the resources and relationships to host our own feast we were abundantly thankful.

In about a month we plan to share our American feast of thanksgiving with our African friends. We thank God for the resources and funds you have sent and will send to supply this feast and even possibly import some American delicacies like canned cranberry jelly, ha! Still not sure if we can find marshmallows for candied yams, maybe another trip to Kampala. We encourage you to also look ahead and start planning now for your own feast day of thanksgiving. Whether you join or host enjoy the season of thankfulness. And if you want to join our feast here, come on out—we'll keep the light on for you! Just remember to bring the marshmallows.