Sunday, January 31, 2016

February Update from the Clark Family

As we look forward to 2016 we find ourselves surrounded by those God sent us to serve. Whether that serving looks like sharing the Bible, teaching sustainable agriculture, or investing in our neighbors. We aren’t starting up a Ugandan Shark Tank but sometimes it does look like we are just handing out money. The reality is, we are here because people sacrificed and continue to sacrifice to fund God’s direction for the life of our family. That direction is beginning to look like sharing our resources to ease the burden of our neighbors. The big picture is to bring tools and opportunities so that the community can free themselves of poverty, more about that later.

In the shadow of the Powerball Lottery fever, which we felt even over here, we find ourselves both envying and pitying the winners. Everybody asks themselves, "What could I do with all that money" and "What would that money do to me?" It remains to be seen if the winners will defy the odds and make positive choices to improve their lives and the lives of those around them or follow the path of so many before them and allow the money to drive them to ruin. Without a single winner taking home the full billion their odds are less intimidating but substantial nonetheless. Even with Uganda’s high inflation our regular income doesn’t make us billionaires but it does give us more resources than our neighbors and with those resources come responsibilities.

Throughout the past decade of donor-supported-full-time-volunteer-service our financial solvency has had its ups and downs. We followed the Apostle Paul’s advice and learned to be content in times of less, less than less, and then times when we were just broke. We can proclaim with confidence, have faith my brothers and sisters in your most desperate moments God will be with you and send relief. You may still have to go through those seasons of shame and uncertainty, but every time God will show himself to be faithful.

We, like most other folks, often felt the squeeze during the Christmas season. In Uganda the juggernaut of spending and decorating is nowhere near America’s level of enthusiasm but they do value returning back to their home place and eating the most expensive meal of the year, the Christmas Chicken. You know Christmas is coming in the States when you see twinkle lights and hear carols here you can tell because every minivan taxi is loaded down with live chickens heading for the cities. The chickens aren’t anything special, by American standards they’re quite small, but pound for pound they are the most expensive and sought after dish. They care more about their Christmas Chicken than we care about our Thanksgiving Turkey. Last Christmas, because of the generosity of so many of you, the local ladies in Jeri’s Bible study group got to take home a Christmas Chicken. Your response was so overwhelming they also received extra shillings to truly make their holiday meals a Christmas feast. It was a small donation in American dollars but the hope it brought on this side went far and beyond. Is it a temporary fix to give these women a couple of meals to feed their families? Yes, but if you have walked through a season of financial uncertainty you know the anxiety of being overwhelmed. You look ahead for the encouragement of change and see nothing but darkness. In that dismay even the small flicker of a single candle can give you hope that you can endure and that God will provide. Your support allows us to be agents of God’s provision.

We didn’t anticipate this addition to our budget when we arrived but now eighteen months later we see how God is allowing us to contribute towards this community. Our first intention is sharing the Word and training people to use what God has given them to meet their needs. Part of that training is the next School of Sustainable Agriculture. Beginning this Friday, ten young Ugandan men will start their twenty-week journey towards stewarding the creation God has given us. Joining those young men will be one of the ladies from Jeri’s Bible study. She has a small plot just around the corner, speaks good English, and a desire to improve the life of her family. We are signing her up in faith that the funds will come for her tuition, just under $600, and know that this training will impact the entire community. If you didn’t get a chance to help with the chickens perhaps you can help Nora participate in this school.

Nora and two of her girls

Right after the school gets started Jeri heads back to America. She is scheduled to help a previous client birth another baby. What an exciting opportunity to bring another life into this world and eat In-N-Out hamburgers, we will miss her. The children continue their homeschool journey and build relationships with local friends, Zoe and Dora even joined a volleyball team. If you’d like to see Jeri while she is stateside message her on Facebook. 

We do what we do because of you. Thank you for your continued support.

Friday, November 6, 2015

November Update from the Clark Family in Africa





A Month of Thanks

Thanksgiving is the most American of holidays. Including our Canadian brethren to the north, a day set aside to be thankful is unique in this world. We try to explain Thanksgiving here and it just sounds like we are grateful for eating a lot of food; which isn't a bad explanation, 'cause what I wouldn't give for some Greenburg smoked turkey dipped in cranberry sauce. Last year we had the distraction of the Agriculture School to keep our focus off missing candied sweet potatoes with mini marshmallows. This year Dora's birthday will occupy our end of month festivities. She wanted to have a Hawaiian Luau, which would have been an indoor event in Texas, but here it's warm enough to make fresh flower leis.

We have much to be thankful for. Jeri comes back from a successful trip to Germany tomorrow. We purchased the car that many of you contributed towards. Except for the red head getting his weekly sunburn we have all been healthy this year. Yes, we miss family and friends. Yes, the fall chill and seasonal colors are Jeri's favorite part of the year. And yes, I miss my wife spending all day cooking my favorite meal of the year. But in perspective of where we live and why we are here we couldn't be more blessed. For all the things we miss we rely on you. So post your pictures of a full table of food. Take lots of selfies with loved ones. Update your status regularly as you wait for the turkey to roast. We live through those moments and are connected to you just as you are to us when you comment our posts.

In the spirit of giving I wanted the children to be a part of your social media landscape so we photographed them and added text to make them memes that you can use in your communications. They were good sports about it, especially Zoe. It takes a very confident young woman to let her father talk her into the photo she took.

Enjoy the beginning of your Holiday season and say an extra prayer for loved ones who are separated from their families.

And just for fun...
Six years ago Jeri and the girls went to California without me and the three young'uns. The end of this October Jeri left me alone with the children for three weeks. Well I couldn't let that go without recreating that moment from 2009. I always say the key to good parenting is consistency. 

Monday, October 5, 2015

October Update 2015

Six is the Loneliest Number

This month’s update will not be about what has passed but about what we are looking forward to. In a couple of weeks Jeri has been invited to deliver a baby in Germany. A client who had a home birth previously is stationed with her family in Ramstein and is hiring her to come midwife her next delivery. Jeri is very excited and yet the journey comes with some challenges.

The most obvious challenge when going from an equatorial nation to a northern climate country where they are already starting to get snow flurries–how to dress appropriately. Unfortunately we don’t have a large outdoor chain store that sells colder climate outerwear. The best she can do is get a sweatshirt? Layers and lots of them and then when she gets there rent a coat? She will only need it for a couple of weeks!? But what can you do… there is never any need for cold weather gear here in Uganda.

The next challenge is timing the birth. This is not the couple’s first child so there is a history of delivery timing, but you never know. All parties are aware of the risks and limitations of trying to predict when the baby will come. They have given themselves a two-week window and crossed their fingers. We will pray that the timing is good and the baby comes while Jeri is there.

Because Jeri is really wants to deliver a baby. Uganda has proven uncooperative in letting just anybody deliver babies. She has been working with a local midwife, but the journey is long to the birthing center.  It is not the easiest place to get to, especially when taking a very crowded bus over a dusty road filled with potholes.  This makes it challenging to arrive at the birthing center in time.  Also, Uganda really wants their midwives to have a Uganda license.  Her licensure should be fine to work in Uganda, but she needs to serve at the local hospital for six weeks in order to receive her permit.  Part of our hesitation to get this accomplished has been due to transportation problems.  Hopefully, Lord willing, this will be resolved soon,

The other event she is looking forward to is a midwife conference that will take place during her stay and within proximity of her client’s home. Apparently this is a big international practitioner’s gathering and Jeri just happens to be able to go. Hopefully it is mostly indoors. And hopefully the baby cooperates.

The saddest part of this journey is of course the five children and husband she will be leaving for two-weeks. I don’t want to sound too pathetic but we are going to be alone. Jeri is setting up lesson plans so the children can continue their school and hopefully we’ll have a car by then …but, she is leaving us. Two years ago Jeri left me us to go to Uganda and have a missions’ experience–and fell in love with this country. Now we are here. Who knows what will happen if she goes to Europe for two-weeks?

Please pray for Jeri, and me us. The client is covering her travel and some expenses but we will need to get some incidentals, some warm clothes and stuff like that. Pray for travel safety and keep up with her on Facebook for her update posts. We’ll update you in November how it went

 The children have joined a local homeschool group. They gave presentations about their favorite things. Liesel demonstrated how to play the Cups game. Dora gave a lesson on taking blood pressure. Xander went over the details of telling a joke. Jax explained Fibonacci sequences to a bunch of grade school children. They are having a blast.

Monday, September 7, 2015

September Update 2015

They Spent a Million (shillings) to Come See Us 

They never produced the Who Wants To Be A Millionaire show in Uganda. The millionaire craze that swept the world a few years back (they even made a movie about it) never reached Uganda. Simple fact is being a millionaire here isn't much of an accomplishment. The inflation here is quite high and their base denomination, the shilling, takes three and a half thousand to equal our dollar. You can be a Ugandan millionaire just by going to the ATM. Most purchases here favor the exchange rate. This is one of the reasons we recommend Uganda as a short term mission destination.

We are Ugandan millionaires. We don't seek it out and certainly the goal of any funds we receive is to improve the opportunities of our local neighbors not get rich. We have also used support to increase the development of the base here at Hopeland both in our housing and agriculture supplies. Your giving allowed us to add to the budget of last team we hosted to buy more materials for the project at the village birthing center. Of course any financial accomplishment we have managed is because we are merely the extension of the folks in the States who send us support. So many have invested in Africa that we are constantly looking for new areas to minister.

With our most recent guests we visited a children's home in our district that has 37 disabled children. Home of Hope was founded by a mother whose son was born with cerebral palsy. With no local support she opened up her home to other children with disabilities and now ten years later she takes care of all who come. Sadly disabilities like CP, epilepsy, encephalitis, and downs are harshly judged here and many times the staff will open the front gate in the morning to find someone has abandoned their child in the dirt. It is a grim reality but it all changes when you stop hearing the history and just sit down with the children; well you can try to sit down as soon as guests arrive you are pushing children on swings, talking walks with the wheel chair able and handing out sweeties. We had a wonderful visit and hope to return often.

As we posted last month we have been loaned a car for six weeks. It was because of this car we were able to go to Home of Hope. Without a car we couldn't make it. Public transport doesn't go that far away from the village and hiring a car would be too limiting for the frequency we'd like to go. The village birthing center also falls into the category of, "We'd go more often if we had a car." So after a year of not having a car we are reaching out to ask for a vehicle. We have one in mind from a friend in Kampala that took very good care of it and is willing to give us a deal. Out the door with servicing, insurance, new tires, and registration we need $4,000 USD. We've been given $1,000 already and pray to get the rest before the middle of this month.

Many of you have seen our biggest news which is Sarah and Aaron Bunch came all the way from Texas to visit us. The children had no idea and what a surprise it was. If you haven't seen the video of the children's faces when they walked up you are in for a treat. We had a amazing ten days with them and look forward to them bringing a team next year. If you'd like to come out and do some worthwhile ministry, visit another country, and perhaps see some wild animals (and I don't mean our children) let us know; it's why we're here.
As much as we have have learned about the Ugandans and their culture from riding public transportation, it is time to own our own vehicle. If you would like to help in this process please follow through on the fundraising site by clicking here.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

August Update 2015

One Year Ago
Last Thursday marked our first year in Uganda. It has been quite the year of milestones. Our first year of foreign service, a year of being totally dependant on God for our finances, and our first year of not owning or driving an automobile.

In a nation where private car ownership is not the norm and roads are not maintained one would think a break from vehicle maintenance, insurance, refueling and driving in congestion would be refreshing. However over the past year getting back and forth from church, purchasing tools and building supplies, and joining with homeschool groups in town has proved to be challenging if not impossible in many cases. Just going to the store and getting a box of groceries (yep, a box) strapping it to the back of a motorcycle and schlepping it up the dusty hillside is exhausting. Our friends from South Africa have left to visit home and have loaned us their van for six weeks. We have only driven it twice but I’m not sure we will be able to go back to public transportation after they return. Next month we will begin the process of fundraising for our own vehicle. There have been many opportunities for ministry that we have not been able to pursue because of lack of transportation. If you know of any organizations who specialize in funding ministry vehicles for overseas missions let us know, we’ll need all the help we can get.

We welcomed a Family Ministry School for several weeks of outreach here at Hopeland this month. They organized a children’s event, ministered in the hospital, served in the village, and helped refurbish our friend’s birth center. Jeri and Dora have been working at the Good Samaritan Birth Center for almost as long as we have been here. They even spent a night in the guest quarters hoping for a baby to be born. The midwife, Christine, has a well appointed facility but has little time or resources to get up to the requirements for national registry. We combined our own personal resources with the team and were able to buy several liters of paint, wood for furnishings, and supplies for cleaning. They set aside three days and postponed a day-off to complete the job. The second day we arrived, Christine came running out to bring Jeri and Dora in to catch a baby. It was not her first delivery in Africa, but out of the hospital and sharing it with Dora made it special. The team lost no momentum and neither did the baby’s mama, two hours later she was on the back of a motorcycle with her new bundle of joy and headed home. The team was amazed at how issues of personal care are overlooked but equally impressed with how Christine managed it all. Christine still has a number of projects to complete but some deep cleaning, a new coat of paint, and some extra seats made a world of difference and she was thrilled with the results. This is the second team we’ve hosted as a family here at Hopeland and both have been great. If you would like to journey to a foreign place, that is very safe, and has so many opportunities to do good let us know and we will set it up for you.

Liesel got dunked in Africa! Two weeks ago Liesel chose to accept Jesus as her savior. Last weekend she got into an inflated pool in the middle of the sanctuary and declared to everyone that Jesus is her Lord, and then got baptized. Little did she know it would be so cold. She braved it and now is a part of a big family. We couldn’t be prouder and know her life will be a blessing to many.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Monthly Update July 2015

We grew food. We fed people. Can we come home now?
The rains have come and gone. The beans have grown, harvested, and prepared in the kitchen. The maize is putting on cobs and will be ready to collect in a week or two. Mission accomplished, are we finished? Not yet. Though we have seen much providence in the soil there is still much to do. We have grown the local crops as well as our neighbors but that is short of the calling that brought us to Africa. We want to be a place of hope and a center for learning and transformation in this nation. So we have to produce more than just our neighbors, we have to grow more variety than just the usual crops, and we have to do it in a way that is sustainable for everyone. This season we tried zucchini, yellow summer squash, and acorn squash, unfortunately most were lost to the abundance of worms in the soil. Our broccoli never quite flowered but the leaves were delicious. Tomatoes did well but needed better caging. All in all some good experiments and we will get more seedlings ready for the next rains. If you think of some seed that will grow in only ten hours of sunshine, heavy clay soil, and lots of rain send it to us; we'll give it a try.

Answering Our Call
Many of you responded to our recent call for support and prayer on behalf of seven year-old Arnold. The grandson of Ruth, a woman in Jeri's Friday Bible study, Arnold was born with severe cerebral palsy. His whole life has been a struggle of survival. Unable to eat the staple foods of the Ugandan diet, his caretakers have tried to provide for his special diet. Without assistance they have barely scraped by these past seven years. As you might imagine, there are no additional resources for emergencies and when he gets sick it is hard to get him to eat at all. Two weeks ago we got word Arnold was ill and not eating and so we sent help to get him seen by a doctor. Circumstances prevented his transport so Jeri stepped forward and visited his place. Shocked that this seven year-old boy weighed only 15 pounds she put out the call for prayer and many answered. She organized transport, got him admitted to the malnutrition ward at Jinja Children's Hospital, and set up his aunt to stay with him. The next week we visited them and took them more food and supplies (the children are fed but the caregivers are left to provide for some meals). While Jeri took Arnold and his mom for X-rays at another clinic and more supplies, we stayed back, sang songs, prayed for families, and colored with the children—anything to provide distraction from the endless days of waiting for their children to get well. In Uganda, the caregiver has to stay with the patient, helping to clean them, do all their laundry, and to get meals. It is no small job! The caregiver lies usually on a mat on the concrete floor in one big room crowded with beds and patients and children. This is quite the sacrifice to care for him, especially since he could be in the hospital for a month or more. Arnold still has a way to go before he can come home but thanks to those who gave we have a reserve to get him well and support his caregivers so they can stay with him.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Monthly Update June 2015

If you’re cheap like me many of your apps have the designation “lite” in them. Why pay for the full version of something they are giving away? I get bored with most games before I exhaust the free levels and the productivity apps are too dependent on the internet to be of much use. The business model of give the consumer a taste and they’ll come back for more has proven as successful with Angry Birds as it has with narcotics as it has with missions. This month we had a group from the YWAM Tyler base come out and give Foreign Missions Lite a try.  

Youth With A Mission has been pioneering short-term missions since the sixties. The idea that a bunch of inexperienced youth could train for three months and then just go and share the good news with people was radical 50 years ago and is still polarizing today. Our family and those that serve like us are out and don’t intend to come back anytime soon. These short-term teams are out just long enough to see the need, smell non-conditioned air, taste the difference of something foreign, and most importantly feel the stretch of doing hard things. 

This group of young people spent a month in Uganda and finished out their tour here at Hopeland. In Kampala they worked in inner city areas and reached out to street kids. In Iganga they worked in a village with the locals and witnessed to many Muslims. Out on Buvuma Island they showed the Jesus Film and performed dramas. Here in Jinja they worked the maize field, refurbished mosquito screens on our staff house, and visited a children’s home. They ate a lot of posho, got a lot of bug bites, rode in very cramped vehicles, took nothing but cold showers and according to them had a great experience. 
And what are our lives but the collection of our experiences and interactions with those around us?
Will they all go on to become full-time foreign missionary workers? Maybe. Did their ministry make a difference in a Ugandan’s walk with God? Maybe. Will their presence here have lasting impact on the nation of Uganda? Maybe. Did they ruin themselves for the ordinary and change their perspective of the world around them? Definitely. That change extends to the friends and family that sent them, the youth groups they go back and share with, and the innumerable social media connections that “like” their internet posts. Add that to all the “maybe”s of permanent influence and we’ll take a team of mzungus any day. These future leaders of our nation spent what could have been spent on a vacation, saw a new part of the world, lived in challenging conditions, and survived. What else could you hope for the young people of this generation or the countless young people who have ventured forth since 1963?

The bait and switch of YWAM is we get you to come to a discipleship program with the premise of training you to be a missionary and then turn the focus from changing the world to changing the participant. We are glad to be a part in these kid’s process to being more available to God and learning to hear his voice. If you’d also like to experience and serve in a majority world culture let us know, we’ll make a space for you.

In children news Liesel lost the first of her front teeth. The Tooth Fairy unfortunately left her Tanzanian shillings and she got shorted in the exchange rate.