Thursday, August 6, 2015

The Bane of My African Existence

Bake them
Mash them
Boil them
Nuke them
Freeze them
Scorch them
Drown them - at this point you might have realized I'm not talking about a food item.
Bleach them
Poison them
Dryer them...and yes, I'm making this a verb for this post, especially since this is what motivated me to write today. I was taking down a kitchen drying mat from the line outside because it's getting ready to rain. With chagrin I noticed it had an ant colony growing on it. (In my defense, this is the mat that sits under the dish rack liner, so it doesn't get much attention.)

Inspiration struck! I was going to put these laundry items in the dryer, a highly unusual appliance out here, when I realized I might just find a new method for killing my tormentors! And will the lint collector thingy scoop them up too? You can't imagine how exciting this is - I can't wait to go get the stuff out of the dryer to see if I'm successful.

Yes, killing the ever-present columns of ants is a sick hobby of mine. Hopefully it's the only sick hobby I have. I don't know anyone here who loathes them any less than I do, but I might be the only one keeping a list of my termination techniques. Nuking them in the microwave doesn't actually work; I guess ants are up there with cockroaches. And so far, my favorite technique is scorching them. When they're crawling on a pan, I like to turn on the gas stove and they just shrivel up and fall off when I knock the pan. It's very rewarding; I suggest you try it.

Ant annihilation is much more satisfying than ant prevention, which is also a full-time job. You will recognize my kitchen as it's the one with:
-peanut butter, the sugar jar, honey, etc in (imported) Ziplock bags
-shortening, cereal, margarine, baked goods, etc in plastic lidded ice cream containers (yes, we reuse them here)
-cooking oil sealed in used water bottles
-butter and bread in the refrigerator
-bananas hanging from the pantry door in a mesh bag
-raisins and peanuts in lidded jars
-the trash bag hanging from the outside kitchen window (to keep it away from the dogs)
-the dirty dishes stacked precariously in a tower within a basin with a moat of water at the base to keep the ants from crossing

But don't be fooled: the ants do not limit themselves to the kitchen. They are marching out from behind the mirrors and toilets in the bathrooms. They are filing from the air vent to the window. They are on the highway between the power socket and the back of the hutch. And if you would like to know how I deal with them outside the kitchen (when I'm consumed with both anger and energy, a rare combination), let's just say two words: glue gun.
And the verdict is out: the dryer kills them and the lint screen, as you can see, collects them!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Conference Celebrations for Completed Translations

In March, we had our conference for all our staff in Uganda. This is an event which happens every other year, and people travel in from their village translation centers to join us. This was an especially joyful year as we celebrated the completions of translations of four New Testaments. Although we still have quite a lot of work to do before the books head to the printers (namely final checks and typesetting), a huge amount of work is now complete!
The back of our conference shirts

I had lunch with one of the translators for the Aringa New Testament, Barnabas. He told a friend and me that working on Scripture is like a woman in labor - it is so difficult but then she rejoices as new life enters the world. After we finished eating, my friend looked up at the wall in the dining room and saw this batik, which seems to sum it up well.

One of my favorite parts of the conference was the worship. There's just something amazing about singing to the Lord with people from several countries and languages. It always gives me a taste of heaven, worshiping God with believers from many places in several languages.

In Joshua 4:2,3 God commanded Joshua to, “Choose twelve men from among the people, one from each tribe, and tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, from right where the priests are standing, and carry them over with you and put them down at the place where you stay tonight.”
So we had four stones with the names of each language which has recently finished the translation of the New Testament.

At the end of the day, a translator from each of the languages then carried the stone on his shoulder while everyone cheered and praised the Lord for the work He is doing. These men and women have spent many years working for God to carry His words to their people.

Joshua told the people, "Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. (Joshua 4:5-7) I'm not sure what will become of these stones, but I know people throughout Uganda, Tanzania, and all over the world will be telling their children about how the Word of God came to them in their languages by His power and to His glory!

It's an exciting time for us here in Uganda, and we're so thankful the Lord has blessed us with seeing this work coming to fruition. Around 1,900 languages are still waiting for a Bible translation project to start. Let's not forget to pray for them. As Jesus said, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field." (Luke 10:2)

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Worth It

What could make it worthwhile for a family of five to hazard potentially dangerous driving conditions for nearly six hours to speak for ten minutes and shake some hands?


What is taking this man's undivided attention from the heat of the day, the discomfort of squatting on the ground in a suit, and a loud speaker two feet away blasting in his ear? THIS:

Let me tell you what's going on here. On Wednesday, we donned our best and traveled up to the town of Nakasongola to attend an event honoring the anniversary of the Ruuli king's coronation along with thousands of other people. We were fortunate to travel in our car; many traveled by public transport, bicycle, or on foot.

Before the king arrived, the local church was given the opportunity to present the newly published Gospel of Luke in the Ruuli language to the crowd (the reason we attended). These blue books are what the man is reading above. It has taken years of labor for these three men to translate the first book of the Bible into their language.
They haven't worked alone though; they have been joined in their efforts by people from around the world who have supported them: linguists, orthography experts, translation consultants, administrators, financiers, and prayer warriors.

After sections of Luke had been read in Ruruuli, Dusty, as the director of our language programs in Uganda, was asked to speak for ten minutes, introducing the book of Luke, and encouraging the crowds to welcome it into their community and lives.

He spoke passionately and enthusiastically as one of the translators interpreted into Ruuli.

It was greatly encouraging to see people in the crowd, like this woman in blue, who were listening with great attention to Dusty and to the reading of the Word for the first time in their language.

Was it worth the drive, the heat, the effort, and the years of labor? Definitely! After ten years of living and working in East Africa, this was our very first time to be able to attend such an event - to actually get to watch people as they heard God speaking to them from His Word in their very own language!

As we drove away, we tried to figure out how many people were there. We estimated 4,000. Hearing that I jokingly said, "I guess we should have brought some fish and loaves," but even as I said it I realized that God had fed those 4,000 with His Word in their mother-tongue. Those 4,000 people and all the Ruruuli people who did not attend now have the opportunity to understand the true Christmas story of the Lord's birth for the first time this year:

"I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord." (from Luke 2:10,11)

Imagine hearing THAT for the first time in YOUR language!
Praising God with you in Uganda,

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Heads and Tails; the Reptilian Variety

Yesterday our local play group visited the Uganda Reptile Village to learn about the reptilian critters in our area. Here are some photos of the afternoon.

Nile Crocodiles are much smaller than I had anticipated. It's hard to tell from the photo below, but the big guy is maybe 3 or 4 feet long from snout to tail. That being said, the crocs who live in Lake Victoria are huge; the type you see on National Geographic eating an entire zebra. These particular Nile Crocodiles just get chickens.

In Tanzania we had several Monitor Lizards near our home. The Swahili word is "kenge." You don't want to get too close because they lash out with their tails and can break your ankle. Or the bacteria in their saliva will make a nasty infection if you get bit. Our guide told us that too many here in Uganda are killed for their skin, which is used to make drums - the part of the drum you strike/tap. Sadly, she also said that some are skinned alive because there is a belief that it makes the music better.

This Leopard Tortoise is over 100 years old! Along with the chameleons, this was the only reptile which Cooper was brave enough to touch. They are the biggest tortoises in East Africa and can get up to five hundred pounds! I guess this guy's still got a long time before he can start offering rides.

The Egg Eating snake is not venomous, but it sure did thrash around a lot when the kids handled it. Jack thought it made a nice live necklace. Works well with the motorcycle t-shirt don't you think?

Aaah, and here is our old friend (well, two of them), the Forest Cobra, one of the most dangerous snakes in East Africa. This is because its venom is particularly fast acting. I say "old friend" because this is the same type of snake we found in our garden two years ago and killed. Had I known then about the Reptile Village, I might have tried to intervene to save its life. Instead, I just saved our own. Oh well.

And the grand finale - the African Rock Python. These lovely MASSIVE snakes often live inside termite mounds (which are huge - many feet high). This one weighs 30 kilos and was Herculean in its strength. When frightened, it also puts out some serious poop, which is why Jack had dropped his hands from the end of the snake and is trying to figure out what just happened. (See the white spots in the foreground if you must.)

Jack then happily moved next to his sister to steer clear of both dangerous ends of the python.

Lastly, the parents' turn. Only three parents got in on the action; I was definitely not going to miss out, now that the snake had released its fear. Our guide, Diana, is on my left. She has been bitten by snakes seven times, and yet look how happy and healthy she is!

All told, it was a great afternoon. I only felt sorry for the little fluffy chicks chirping in several of the snake enclosures, but I guess if they weren't snake food, they would later be mine, so I'll try not to be too hypocritical.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

It's That Moment When... find gecko poop in the bottle of water you use for brushing your teeth. (We have to filter all of our drinking water.) find a bug in your bottle of water...and you KEEP DRINKING. (literally, this instant as I write) step into the water stream of the shower and your anticipatory "aaahhhh" turns into "AAARGH!" as you freeze and realize you forgot to turn on the hot water heater beforehand (We have a "widow maker" shower-head which heats the water electrically.), OR the power goes off in the middle of your shower and you still have bubbly shampoo on your head.
...the gas for the oven/stove runs out in the middle of scrambling eggs before church or before the casserole for company is finished. (You then snatch the canister and rush to the store for another.)
...after two months in America you find your kid drinking water from the faucet. (having forgotten they can't drink tap water in Uganda)
...the electricity goes off with ten minutes left of the cliff-hanger movie. (so you read about it online - anticlimactic) need to make a phone call and your phone says "you have insufficient funds for making this call." (we buy prepaid cards of air-time)
...the electricity men come to turn off your power since you have not yet paid the bill that they have not yet given you.
...your three year old angrily yells at the traffic police officer who has pulled you over (for no reason) because he's mad she called him a "baby." (sweetly as in, "How are you, baby?" It's the Ugandan English term for "child.") realize Halloween, Daylight Savings day, and voting day all passed within a few days and you either didn't realize it, or didn't do anything about it. (Ooops - I know I should have voted; it's complicated here, so don't rub it in.) park your freshly-washed car under a tree full of Marabou Storks and find it completely covered after 15 minutes. (Huge birds make huge messes. These stand five feet tall with a ten foot wingspan.) see post after post of American leaves turning amber, scarlet, and tangerine, and all your leaves are still green.

Then again, we also have that moment when... see post after post of dead looking trees in America's winter and your leaves are all emerald, lime, kelly and forest green. Still!
...a camel walks down your street, a chameleon sits on your head, and the cat finds a cobra (and better yet, a passer-by kills it!). take your dog off-leash into the Botanical Gardens, and she spots the elusive monkeys for you. breast-feed your infant in public anywhere, anytime, and it's completely normal and accepted.'re so thankful to even have running water - what a blessing! And you remember to be thankful for it! have electricity - most of the time! And you remember to be thankful for it! realize that although you miss the fun of snow, your family gets to wear short sleeves and flip-flops all year! are enjoying fruit from your garden all through the year. (We have papaya, guava, avocado, passion fruit, and mango.)

Just keeping lists of all these moments makes me realize how to be thankful in everything. Sure, I'm freezing in the shower with shampoo in my hair, but it sure makes me thankful for all those showers when the electricity stays on, and that we have running water for showers! And if we don't experience the changing American seasons, we sure do relish a consistently mild climate all year when we can enjoy our fruitful garden every day. In flip flops. So what if Cooper yelled at the cop? I'm thankful we didn't earn a ticket by breaking any laws. And if I ran out of gas in the middle of a meal in the oven, well, - hey, I HAVE an oven, and so very many people are here cooking in a pot on three rocks.

Mixed blessings. Silver lining. Gratitude.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Ground Breaking

Last week we received an invitation for a ground breaking ceremony. Because we take Fridays off from home-schooling, this was the perfect morning outing for the kids and me. We brought our quiet and obedient Rottweiler along for the walk, as the event was in our neighborhood.

The local government has hired a Chinese road construction company to repair Church Road. Hopefully they'll pave it, and pave it well. Sometimes a badly paved road is worse than a dirt road. Here are the kids and Ellie, our dog, in front of some of the construction vehicles.

Events usually have tents set up to protect the guests from either rain or hot sun. Fortunately, on this day, the tents gave us relief from the sun, not the rain. We never know which we'll have. In classic fashion, the guests of honor were seated at a table in the front. In this case, I know one is the mayor of Entebbe, and another is the Commissioner. I didn't catch the names and titles of the others. What surprised me was watching how many of the special guests talked/texted on their phones during the ceremony. Do they do that in America as well these days?

This local band played while a few groups of school students marched to the celebration site. We missed the marching, though we could hear the band from our house. The invitation said 9:00am, but if ten years in East Africa has taught us anything, it's to arrive an hour and a half later, which is when things actually started happening as the guests of honor had arrived about that time as well.

All events here include "some small speeches." This phrase can actually mean "many lengthy speeches" The event started with an opening prayer, followed by the speeches. In this case, the woman here is the LC, or liaison with the government, for our neighborhood. She also helps solve disputes. She did a nice job of welcoming everyone and kept it pretty short.

Then the band started playing again. Imagine our surprise as we were focused on the band, when we turned around and found this young girl! Wow! Not only was she a serious contortionist, but she was performing on a slippery tablecloth on top of a small table! I kept worrying the cloth would slip right off while she was in the middle of posing.

Luckily, she did it all perfectly while everyone snapped photos or videos with their cell phones (having stopped talking/texting). The next speaker asked what she eats to stay so flexible. Behind her you can see several photographers/videographers as well as 3 groups of students in their uniforms, grey/white (L), pink/white (C), and green/white (R). The building behind them is a private kindergarten, but to the left of the photo, beyond what you can see, is also a public primary school.

This is the head engineer giving his speech, and introducing the Chinese construction crew. This was the last photo I got as Cooper became increasingly uncomfortable about two things: the length of his time at the event, and the concern that they would fire up those huge construction vehicles and run us all over.

Honestly, my longevity at these sorts of events is rather pathetic as well. To my credit, it runs in my family; just ask my dad. It's nice to have a small kid as an excuse to leave. Whatever will I do when I've no little tikes to take me out of this sort of thing? All that aside, we're thankful that someone is doing something about our roads, even if it's one road at a time. No one likes to get stuck in a pothole which is inside of a speed bump!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

In Celebration of Ugandan Independence Day

Today is Uganda's 52nd celebration of independence, having gained independence from Britain in 1962. In honor of this day, I'd like to take some time to learn and share some information about the country where we've been living for nearly three years.

1. At 241,038 sq km, Uganda is slightly smaller than Oregon. A good portion of that is water.

2. The biggest export is coffee! We enjoy it every morning and can testify to its delicious flavor.

3. President Museveni has been in office since January 1986 - wow! The State House (like the American White House) is just down the road and up the hill from our house.

4. The highest mountain in Uganda is 16,763 feet, Mount Stanley. Apparently we even have snow here, though I've never seen it. We have been able to hike around a few crater lakes though.

5. We have about 36 million people living here, and our family was just interviewed by the Census. That was an interesting morning - two ladies in Census aprons came and asked us about our religion, our computers, and our mail among other things.
Some of the fine people of Uganda, specifically those from our SIL office. ;)

6. According to the Ethnologue, Uganda has 41 languages. The reason we live here is to help bring God's living Word to people in their own languages.
Go to for a better view of this language map.

7. Uganda is one of three countries (Kenya and Tanzania are the other 2) blessed to share Lake Victoria - the second largest fresh water lake in the world. Many Ugandans work as fishermen to support themselves and their families. Every week I cook Nile Perch from Lake Vic, and it has the highest content of Omega-3 fatty acids found in any fish. Unfortunately Lake Vic also has the parasite bilharzia, so we don't swim in it.

Tessa and Jack on the shores of Lake Victoria (before Cooper came along)

8. Here's a kicker: according to a recent edition of National Geographic, grasshoppers are 40% more expensive than beef in Uganda! Cheers to Uganda for eating "alternative" protein!
Tessa's arm has a protein-packed visitor

9. Uganda has the third highest birth rate in the world, following Niger and Mali. 49% of the population is under the age of 15. Life expectancy is 54 years. UNESCO cites the literacy rate at 65%.
Some of the kids at the church we attend

10. Entebbe, where we live, is just a smidge above the Equator, but since we also sit at 3,800 feet elevation, we have a fantastic climate. On the thermometer we're basically between the 60's and 80's all year round - yep, we're spoiled. Another nice thing is that because of our location the sunrise and sunset are basically the same through the year too, getting light a bit before 7am and darkish around 7pm. There are about 80,000 other folks living with us on this peninsula jutting into Lake Victoria. That's just enough to have a lot of diversity, but not enough to have much traffic; a perfect combination.

We love where we live and are thankful that the Lord has brought us here! Come visit us and enjoy some great people, beautiful geography, and amazing animals.

* Some statistics, facts, and photos gleaned from:***EDITION***