We pray you are all doing well! As we are now in our 7th month of living in Uganda, we have moments of feeling like this is really becoming home, but also moments of missing our family, friends, and even random things about “home.” For example, at dinner recently with some friends, we played a game of “if you could eat any fast food item right now, what would it be?” Answers ranged from Chick-fil-a spicy sandwiches, McDonald’s big macs, Taco Bell beefy cheesy burritos, Dunkin’ Donuts iced coffees, to name a few. It was fun to think about these yummy things and the memories that come along with them…kids playing with cousins in the playgrounds, quick runs to get a coffee with family (and maybe a donut hole or two!), and more. We feel like we say it so many times on a weekly basis, but we are so thankful for the community of missionaries that God has placed us with here in Mbale. We are blessed with wonderful friends who we can regularly have a good time with, have fun conversations, share stressful situations, ask for advice from those with more experience, pray together with and for, etc.
We have also been so sweetly encouraged lately by many of you who have sent cards, notes of encouragement, or emails to let us know you’re thinking of us and praying for us. It seems God orchestrates your messages perfectly, for days or moments when He knows we need the support, hope, and comfort that your messages bring.
Things have continued to be busy for Ryan at Lulwanda. There are typically at least a handful of children a week who contract malaria, but if caught early, with treatment, they feel much better normally within even a day. His days are also filled with taking children to the dentist, checking on students at the Secondary Schools (there are Lulwanda children at about 5 different Secondary Schools, some are in town, others are about 45 minutes-2 hours away), keeping the clinic stocked with supplies and medicine, etc. He is continuing to build relationships with the kids and staff through caring for them. He has been given really neat opportunities to be able to get to know them better, since when they have the need to come to him, he often is able to spend a good bit of time with them, talking with them, learning more about them, praying with them, and sharing Bible studies with them. Ryan is also working with the Lulwanda Primary School staff to find a time each week that we can better delve into studying God’s Word with the children. We are excited about this, and pray that the children will begin to have a hunger for learning more about God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit and how they can have a personal relationship with Him that affects their daily lives.
We also have a wonderful praise to share: there was a Muslim man, Kaseem, who had been doing some carpentry work at our home. Through several conversations, Ryan had been sharing with him about Jesus, what He did for us, what His sacrifice means, and more. At one point, the carpenter really did an awful job on a particular project. Initially, we were going to find someone else to fix it. However, we felt we should give him a second chance, and also use it as an opportunity to continue talking to him about God’s grace and His gift of salvation. Over time, he began to ask questions and eventually wanted to come to church with us. On the Sunday that he came, a guest speaker who we have not seen before was giving the message. He was a former Muslim, and was teaching from the book of James. During the sermon, Kaseem had many questions and explored more of God’s Word. Afterwards, Ryan introduced him to the speaker and they spoke for a while. Ryan could see after a while that they were praying. Once Kaseem and the pastor were finished praying, he came over to Ryan and with tears in his eyes, said that his name was now, “James.” He accepted Christ as his Savior! We mentioned him a couple of months or so ago in our prayers requests, so thank you for those who have been praying for him. Please continue praying for him as he begins to grow in his walk with the Lord and that his personal relationship with Him grows and becomes more and more intimate and meaningful. What a gift it has been to see God working in James’ life! It is humbling to watch God’s hand in so many different areas. While our focus is most often on the children of Lulwanda, we were able to see how God was also working in a carpenter’s life that He placed in our home. It has helped remind us that God is always at work, and perfectly orchestrating things in His amazing timing. It has urged us to pray that we all will not be too distracted by our own agendas, to-do lists, worries, stresses, etc., but to keep our eyes and hearts open to seeing where, how, or who God wants us to spend time with, talk to, share Scripture and experiences, and pray for/with. We want to live Psalm 16:8 which says, “I keep my eyes always on the Lord” (another translation, “I have set the Lord continually before me.”) This is the same, whether we are in Uganda or in the U.S., and we seem to see more and more that although life here can sometimes feel so different than what we were used to, there are also so many similarities and lessons to be learned in terms of working out our Salvation, obeying God, and loving Him and others (just without the Chick-fil-a, Dunkin’ Donuts, etc., haha!).