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.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Monthly Update May 2015

 Weddings and Weeding

April showers bring May flowers. What do May flowers bring? Weddings! We attended our first Ugandan wedding this month when the Kitchen Director got married. Her kitchen and staff was one of the first photo essays in Africa Zoe collected on film so she asked us to come and shoot her wedding, I went along to keep Zoe company. We were assured we were the only photographers she asked but as you can imagine as soon as things got going out came every image capturing device people have and we were off to the races. One of the things that photographers will do here is without invitation people will shoot a wedding, both still and on video, and if you like it they'll sell it to you. Most were just friends and loved ones who wanted images for their own personal memories, I guess. It goes beyond a culture that just got a new toy and has to use it for everything, folks just crowded in for every moment. Zoe did a wedding shoot in the States and her mentor guided her how to be invisible. Photographers are necessary but they need to capture the moment without becoming part of the moment. As you can see in the top photo that's just not how it is done here. One official photographer, one videographer on speculation, and then as many as ten people who would just come right up and take pictures or video. Zoe quickly adapted and jumped right into the fray. I don't believe any elbows were thrown but she certainly had to push in to get the shot. That is the way here. They don't value confrontation so if you need something or are in a hurry you just do it. If you wait, it's because you've got nowhere better to be. The big thing that makes them get on schedule is when the rains come. 

And boy have they come. We went from two and a half months of nothing to well over 40 inches in thirty-nine days (I say "well over" because my home-made rain gauge tops out at four inches). We'll keep getting rain through May, maybe a bit more in June, but that will be all we get for the short growing season. The long growing season goes from August to December and that's when most of the crops are grown but this short season is still important. As you know from previous posts we were ready to plant. The beans and corn we got going are all doing well and of course so are the weeds. The picture below is one of our base work crews weeding the bean field. We also have another crew weeding Mondays and Tuesdays. All that grass behind us will become mulch next week so once we get this round of weeds cleared we can slow down the next set from growing. Yes, a nice treatment of weed killing spray would make this all hard labor unnecessary, but that kind of defeats our goal here of soil restoration and sustainability. Just as confused as we are about photographing a wedding the Ugandans are just as confused about our weeding.

One thing they do appreciate is natural medicine. When we covered this subject last year in the Ag School, Jeri was able to attend. Now she has the opportunity to share with her Bible study group what the plants they already know have to offer them. The irony of course is the foreigner has to educate them about their native plants. Just as in the States, the passing down of traditions is challenging and much of the knowledge from previous generations has been forgotten. But nobody likes going to the doctor especially when the remedy grows in your back yard.

Thank you for following our journey. Your participation and support allows us to bring education and resources to those who hope to end their poverty.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Monthly Update April

Here comes the rain ...for real. The rains have arrived. In Uganda that means it is time to plant. In the past week we’ve seen over 12 inches of rainfall mostly at night. During the day we measure and plant. Here in YWAM Hopeland, Ugandans are learning the value of mulch. The Farming God’s Way technique of planting that we follow calls mulch God’s Blanket. Even though it is just cut grass, there never seems to be enough of it. We will start our compost for the vegetable gardens soon and it will require more grass as well. We must move forward not fearing scarcity. If we truly believe in God’s provision for our gardens and our lives we must live as though there will be enough, even an abundance. This is so much different than what the world teaches. If you get more then someone else gets less. For you to win someone has to lose. We rob from Peter to pay Paul. But we believe in a messiah that fed 5,000 people with three small buns and two fish. Not only was there enough, there was an abundance. We are naming our fields after the Fruits of the Spirit. There isn’t a fruit of abundance because we expect them all to be abundant. Many believe Africa can not only feed itself but also the world. Thank you for helping us train Africans to grow beyond their fear of scarcity. 

Jeri leads a group of local HIV+ women who meet every Friday for support and the study of scripture. AIDS has ravaged Africa, and those who are diagnosed with this disease do suffer with many obstacles. One of these was lack of education. They come to the Bible study because they know only God can minister to their need and they know that comes with the study of scripture, but many of them are illiterate. The Ugandan Bible Society has adapted a device that speaks to that challenge. A solar powered audio Bible with the scripture in the local language that has a headphone jack as well as a speaker. Jeri found this resource and reached out to our supporters for help. Ten people received her plea and now twenty women and families have the Word of God available to them in a language they can understand. We went all the way to Kampala to collect them and Jeri and the girls presented them to the women at their end of the month feast. The joy these women had in hearing the word of God was such a gift.  It was a true party! What a privilege to be your ambassadors and give these women your expression of love and compassion for the people of Uganda. 

Easter is upon us and our church gave the children’s ministry the opportunity to present a resurrection drama on Palm Sunday. Xander was a Roman guard, Liesel was one of the ribbon dancers, and Jax was Jesus! He did such a good job. The children have missed their community theater opportunities since being here so this was a great chance for them to perform and bring glory to God this season.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Monthly Update March 2015

Without Television

I am a product of my generation. Television is my friend. When I was growing up in the 70’s and 80’s television was the reward for doing homework. In my family we watched Cosby and A-Team before bedtime. In my mind the achievement of adulthood was staying up late. My family teases that I stayed up so late watching TV that the TV would end up watching me. My children looked forward to Sunday nights to watch the Amazing Race and imagine if they could survive in a foreign country. Now we are in a foreign country and the TV that was my constant companion since childhood has been left behind. We have a variety of digital media that we watch from a hard drive and DVDs. Somebody sent us the entire I Love Lucy series which we enjoy regularly. We have also discovered the show Parenthood, which we watch after the children go to bed. The show’s opening credits include photos of the principle cast as children, encouraging you to believe that these people have grown up together. Even though we know these actors had no prior relationship before they were cast, for the sake of the show we believe they all belong to the Braverman family. Almost in the same way Family Ties made me believe Meredith Baxter-Birney raised Alex, Mallory and Jennifer Keaton. Sometimes Parenthood presents such a strong case for family strength I want to be a part of their family as well. As a child I wanted to be a part of the family with a mother who was a lawyer and a father who was a doctor (and former stand-up comedian) with their five children, even if I would’ve been their only white child (and thirty years ago every Thursday night for 22 minutes I kind of was). Television is a powerful medium for showing us something beyond ourselves whether it is a race around the world or how a family could live with and love each other, no matter what. Here in Uganda we are nearing the end of the long dry season and preparing for the rains to come. On the property we are still focusing on soil restoration. This means planting in some spaces that haven’t been used for a while so we can let the overworked areas lie fallow. Crop rotation is not a traditional farming method here which reduces the soil’s ability to grow healthy crops. One of these places is a forgotten sweet potato field that may or may not produce this season because the soil has no life in it. Normally we don’t do this much digging (see above photo) but to clear the weeds and get some order back to this plot we had to bust up the abandoned potato mounds. The children have been helpful in getting this space ready and developing our sunflower garden. We have a number of seedlings growing and as soon as the rain starts we’ll start transplanting. When asked why I chose agriculture the answer is easy, I like to eat. When asked why Africa? I go back to my TV families, I like to belong. Last week I got to share my testimony with the whole base. I told them the story of our son Wilson and how his death crushed us and could have ended our hope. Instead, we put our trust in God, steadied ourselves with those around us, and took the next step. God gave us grace and our family grew. Along the way God brought others to us who wanted to belong. For better or worse Ugandans didn’t have exposure to the Huxtables or the Bradys or the Taylors (if you go all the way back to Mayberry) to give them an example of what family could be. They have family. Their clan or tribe is valued above their nation, but they are approaching a crisis where the children out number the adults. When this generation is gone, leadership will be left to children who have no model to follow. Our mission here as a family is to do that. Be a family. In a small way we model the idea that there is another way besides the way it has always been done. We strive to represent that in farming and in family. Thank you for supporting us to bring hope to the people of Uganda. Photos, top from left, The Family busting up the soil chunks in an obviously posed shot, a better posed group shot, Jax watering sunflowers. Bottom row, Jeri and Zoe singing with the worship team, our mandazi version of french toast, Sean sharing at weekly devotion.

Over a year ago we declared our intentions to represent you and do something bigger in this world. So many folks came alongside us and supported us, without you none of this is possible. We are only just beginning. We have big plans and dreams not only to improve the lives of our Ugandan community but to deliver some new lives as well. These posts will hopefully keep you connected to us and the work you sent us to do.

Monthly Update February 2015

Six Months

January marked our six-month anniversary in Uganda. If we were dating, people would mock our commemorating such a brief duration of commitment. But like an adolescent romance they wouldn’t understand how much we love this country. We ride on the backs of motorcycles or in crowded taxis and get a new vista of landscape around every turn. We are greeted daily by locals who praise our efforts and impart to us well being. And our children are protected and adored by the very people we have come to serve. Showing our affection for this nation was getting the girls’ hair braided in the local fashion. The procedure, management, and duration of the plaits had unique benefits and drawbacks that as a bald man I could not appreciate. Obviously much time was required in a chair both to apply and remove the braids. Apparently once the hair was done scratching the scalp is prohibited which also had the benefit of not having to wash it as frequently. All the attention it garnered was fun and the Ugandans genuinely seem pleased when westerners embrace their culture. The girls are receptive to getting the braids in the future but for the time being like to be able to turn their heads without getting smacked in the face.

Another Shipment of Love

Poverty is broken relationship. Poverty is insufficiency of options. People die from poverty. Poverty is not running out of Skittles. Yet every time a care package has come from the States and we exhaust the treats and consumables within we are confronted with our western sense of poverty. We are not making light of the true suffering that exists in this world but expressing the great homesickness that comes when our supply of familiar comforts runs out. It is not so debilitating that we are not able to go without. We do seem to be building up our endurance in between shipments. As sad as it sounds the exuberance that comes when we open the zipper on a duffle or cut the tape on a box is above and beyond what you can imagine. Folks have been so generous in sending these bundles of hope and love. It may seem an exaggeration but believe us when we tell you receiving that package with mechanical pencils and duct tape and Kraft macaroni and cheese in it is like breaking the surface and gasping air when you’ve been held under water just 30 seconds too long. The effort and expense that y’all have extended to us is nothing short of divine providence and we can’t possibly thank you enough. We know it must seem silly all this rejoicing over material items, but truly it reminds us that we are not forgotten. It reminds us that you are out there, thinking of us, and you are willing to go the extra mile to send a box of Little Debbies and Starbucks Via packets. If you’ve had a notion to send something across and save a drowning bunch of white people we will be more than grateful.

Building a Future

Even in America we are a larger than average family, more numerous (and taller), especially than they are used to accommodating here in Uganda. As we shared last month we are living in a former guest house, which is nice, but we really need a place to call our own. There is an office bungalow that with little effort could be converted into a suitable dwelling. We felt this was a better option than building a new structure for cost effectiveness and speed of occupancy. Our initial projected budget of $15,000 doesn’t seem like much to build a home for a family of seven but with lower material cost, donated labor, and our tax return we are sure God will provide for whatever needs arise. If you are interested in seeing what building a home looks like in Uganda we invite you to join us. If you can’t come and help us here, a special gift would go a long way. If God has placed a burden on your heart for the future of Africa, this is the beginning of our ministry in a new era. Hopeland is positioning itself to raise a generation of young people to lead the nation. As Uganda moves forward–Africa follows. Your investment here will affect the entire continent. Click here if you would like to give. A year ago we declared our intentions to represent you and do something bigger in this world. So many folks came alongside us and supported us, without you none of this is possible. We are only just beginning. We have big plans and dreams not only to improve the lives of our Ugandan community but to deliver some new lives as well. These posts will hopefully keep you connected to us and the work you sent us to do.

Monthly Update January 2015

Our First Chicken in Uganda

We purchased two live chickens from a local farmer and named them Supper and Dinner. Our local friend Marion came out to instruct us in the proper way to process a Ugandan chicken. Turns out it is just like it is done in the States. For about seven dollars you can have a fresh chicken dinner, if you are willing to do the messy work of killin' and plucking. There may be other tastier homeschool lessons but most other anatomy lessons don't allow you to finish with dinner. We ate "Dinner" that night and sent "Supper" home with Marion to surprise her family. Buying local will have to be a special treat until we can get our own flock going. One of our goals for 2015 is to raise our own chickens for eggs and meat production. We have some coop building to do before that (if you'd like to contribute towards our first African chicken coop let us know). The local breed, called a kroiler, is for eggs and eating and is supposed to be quite delicious, we'll keep you updated.

The Mzungu Midwife Gets Busy

Jeri and Dora found the pregnant people! If the Ugandans who live far out in the villages want to have babies in the town hospital, they often have to travel out of the jungle sometimes on the back of bicycles to the crossroads where they get a taxi. They have to travel on a road that has more potholes and obstructions than pavement which is not fun for a laboring mother. Good Samaritan Birth Center was raised up out of a need for these women to get care in a more obtainable location. Really just a spare room in her home, Christine has delivered up to ten babies in one night! Her story began when she inadvertently delivered a baby during a routine taxi stop where the driver wouldn't let the mother on because he was afraid they wouldn't make it to the hospital in time. Christine, a young Ugandan woman had just finishing her midwife training so she got off and delivered the baby. She later learned this was the hub for mothers heading to town and decided to come back after her residency was completed and established her clinic there. A widowed mother of three children she usually works alone but has accepted the assistance of Jeri and Dora with great happiness. These mothers would not get any prenatal care without Christine's services, exactly what God told Jeri she would be doing in Uganda—helping Ugandan women have safe and healthy births. There may even be opportunity to bring in western midwife students to further their birthing experience. This is a growth opportunity for development and life saving assistance. If you have any burden for mothers getting better care during pregnancy, don't hesitate to reach out to Jeri. She has a lot of ideas to support Christine and her calling and would love some prayer and financial partners. Christine gets very little money to run her birth center and Jeri has lots of ideas of ways to improve their care. Dora has also written about her experience at the birth center. You can read her post at 

The Clarks Take an African Holiday

Our oldest daughter turned 16 in Africa. Unable to give her a sweet sixteen party or buy her a car (a common gift at this age according to MTV) we opted for a safari trip at one of the many wildlife parks here in Uganda. The Queen Elizabeth Park in the southern corner of the country has elephants, water buffalo, crocodiles, hippos, lions and 90 other species of animalia. We saw our share. In one section of the park we watched as another party drove off the beaten path to a outcrop of bushes that our guide told us was a known place for lions. We couldn't follow because that party had paid extra for "special experience." We continued to come across antelope, wart hog and buffalo until our guide came across a park employee who gave us some privileged information. He jumped back into the van and off we went into the savanna. A couple of twists and turns and we also found some lions. Being mid-morning they were halfway to settling in for their daily siesta, but they were right there. We've been closer to the king of beasts in several zoos but to see them free was a "special experience." Later in the day when we saw the hippo, buffalo, and elephant all associating by the river's edge with no guardian watching out to make sure they were behaving, it gave us pause to realize how powerful and awesome God's creation is. What an honor to enjoy some of the richness this country has to offer. Of course because Zoe's birthday is also Christmas day the expedition needed to be a special day for all. Thankfully the trip above and beyond compensated for being away from all the usual holiday traditions and fellowship that we missed not being in the States... mostly (we miss all of you dearly). The only tradition we were able to observe was our annual picture with Santa. We sought out African Father Christmas on a hunch and he didn't disappoint. I doubt he had any clue about why we were so excited to find him but he was enthusiastic nonetheless. His inclusion made a fine addition to our 15 year ritual (to see the collection check my Photo Albums). A year ago we declared our intentions to represent you and do something bigger in this world. So many folks came alongside us and supported us, without you none of this is possible. We are only just beginning. We have big plans and dreams not only to improve the lives of our Ugandan community but to deliver some new lives as well. These posts will hopefully keep you connected to us and the work you sent us to do.

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 Thank you for carrying us through to the next step in our serving in Africa. Blessings.