Sunday, November 12, 2017

IY ROPES


This last week we enjoyed hosting 32 young people here at camp for our annual New Hope Uganda Investment Year (IY) ROPES camp.  For those of you who have not heard us talk about this before, ROPES stands for Rights Of Passages ExperienceS.  It was begun by a group in Kenya and we have adapted it for us here in Uganda.  The camp is designed to highlight the journey from childhood to adulthood and help kids as they transition into a new phase of life.  It is one of our favorite camps to be part of because we have seen the tremendous impact it has on young people in challenging them to step into manhood and womanhood.  Having graduated from secondary school at the end of last year, the IY students at NHU have spent the previous ten months of the year doing different internships and trainings to help them prepare for the next step in their lives.  Their ROPES camp then is the culmination and the drawing together of all that they have learned throughout the year.

Life is a journey, and often a hard one at that.  This is one of the main points of ROPES camps as we encourage young people to push through the hard times of life and let God use these times to refine us and draw us closer to Himself.   As if to emphasize this point, the challenges for these IY students began at the very beginning of the camp.  We have had a lot of rain recently, which means that the roads leading to Musana are a muddy, slippery mess.  The bus that was bringing them here decided the last long muddy hill (about fifteen minutes from Musana) was too much for his bus, so he just dropped them off at the corner and headed back to town!  Several of our staff braved the muddy roads, piled them inside and on top of their vehicles, and brought them the rest of the way.  That was the beginning of their ROPES camp journey!

The next morning the rains again made for some challenges as they were scheduled to hike throughout the day.  After much prayer and doing some activities, the rain stopped and they headed out on their 10 km hike through the bush, villages, waterfall, and other places around us before ending up (after dark) camping out on a hill on our property overlooking the lake.  Many of the girls especially thought that they would never be able to make it the whole way, but they encouraged one another, persevered, and conquered that step of their journey!


Wednesday found them at the challenge course doing activities to help them think through the practical aspects of living as a godly man or woman.  They then spent the rest of the day in fasting and solitude, pondering their past and the road ahead, their relationship with God and how to make their faith their own.  Thursday was their day to make a symbol or "memorial stone" to help them remember this week, the commitments they made, and their step from childhood to manhood or womanhood.  For the girls, this symbol was a candleholder made of clay.  For the guys, this symbol was a knife forged from rebar, which they then used to slaughter a goat for their celebration meal!


It was such a blessing to be part of this camp with these students.  Several of the guys had been out here at Musana earlier this year doing internships with Nathan, and several of the girls had been part of our family during our time at Kasana in 2010.  We enjoyed seeing their maturity as they faced challenges with good attitudes and encouragement to one another.  So many of them have come from very hard life situations, but God has done a mighty work in their hearts and it is beautiful to see their love and passion for serving Him.  And so, on Friday we sent them out from this place as young men and women, ready to step into whatever God has for them next.  

If you want to read more about this ROPES camp, check out this blog (Adventures in the Kingdom) by one of our fellow staff members who was a cabin counselor for the week.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Safari

Water buffalo
Thanks to the generosity of some good friends we spent the first few days of our vacation time this month on safari at Kidepo Valley National Park in the far northeastern region of Uganda.  Since coming to live in Uganda seven years ago, we had never been on safari together as a family.  Thankfully our kids are old enough now to really enjoy getting to see all of the animals.  They got excited anytime we saw something moving in the grass as we drove along, and I think they all expected to see a lion start chasing a zebra at any moment!  
"Come here little elephant!  I won't hurt you!"  -Abigail







Supper around our little hut
Sunset in the park
The scenery of the park was as stunning as seeing all of the animals.  The valley is surrounded by low mountain ranges which were a beautiful backdrop as we watched the rain rolling in or the sun setting.  Our campground in the middle of the park held small round huts or places to camp with a tent.  There was no fence around the campground so we saw zebra, jackals, warthogs, and waterbuck all roaming freely around the little huts!  



We had a wonderful time together as a family seeing the beauty of God's creation.  Thank you, friends, for helping make this time possible!  






Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Guest House Update

Since our post a few months ago about raising the roof of the guest house, the place has changed quite a bit.  During the month of June, the crew of our local contractor were hard at work pouring the floor, bricking and plastering the walls, and putting up a thin concrete ceiling in the bedrooms.  Meanwhile, our guys were doing plumbing, electrical, gutters, and some landscaping.  The last month has been focused on painting the interior walls, installing solar equipment, and installing cabinets in the kitchen and bathrooms.  There are many details remaining but hopefully it will be completed in the next few months.  It is so fun to see all of the progress, and we are so thankful for all of the men working on it!
Working on the brick interior walls 
Baggie & Nathan prepping some concrete

Dan helping with the painting
Let there be color!

A view of the big double doors onto the back porch that over looks Lake Victoria




The partially installed kitchen cabinets
The first lights to be installed
Solar equipment on the roof




Friday, August 11, 2017

Baptism

This last Sunday we held a baptism at our church where sixteen people were baptized.  Several of the people were on staff with us here at Musana Camps.  Among the rest were two women who just came to trust in Christ in the last few weeks and a family of a father and a son with each of their wives.  Each one of these people has an amazing story of the way that God has worked to draw them into a relationship with Him.  

One of them was a man that we have known since we came to the camp over six years ago.  He has changed from a man who drank too much and often mistreated his family to a man who's main concern is taking care of his family, studying the Bible, and sharing the gospel with his neighbors.  His family has recently been going through a rough time with some health concerns, but he testified at the service on Sunday that even this sickness has shown him new things about trusting God.  It has even been a picture to him of the sin in our hearts and that the only way to be healed of that sin is to come to Jesus.  Many people in his village are mistreating him because of the disease that his wife now has or they are telling him to leave her and take another wife.  But instead of fighting with the people around him or separating from his wife (which is something he very likely would have done six years ago), he has remained calm and faithful, trusting God to provide for their family and bring peace in their community.  After his testimony, several others in our congregation stood up to speak words of encouragement to him and his family, reminding them that God knows and loves them deeply and is always working out what is best.

After hearing these testimonies and listening to each person proclaim their faith in Jesus Christ, we headed to the edge of the lake to watch each one be baptized.  As they entered the water, one of our ladies began singing in praise and worship.  The singing continued through all sixteen baptisms and for several hours afterward as people just enjoyed praising God for who He is and the grace that He gives us in Christ.  It was beatiful.  


As we enjoyed the beautiful time of fellowship together, I thought back through the journey of our little church...from when we began meeting every other week with mostly just a handful of camp staff...to the Sunday when we had twenty kids from the community show up...to the weeks when it was almost all children coming to church...to the times when parents of the children began coming...and the story continues up to today when we regularly have sixty or more adults along with over a hundred children.  But more than just a story of growth in numbers, to me it is a testimony of the power of the Holy Spirit to work in the hearts of people to bring them to faith in Christ.  Being a part of that journey and seeing God's hand at work has been one of the biggest highlights for us in our time here in Uganda.  God is amazing, and it is amazing to see His handiwork.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The Family Farm

We did not come to Uganda to begin a family farm, but living in a remote place has allowed us to keep some animals from time to time.  We enjoy the benefits of fresh, "grass-fed," "organic" meat, eggs, and milk, and we also enjoy the benefit of having our children learn responsibility as they take care of animals.  Our current animals are a turkey and four dairy goats.  (We were also given a chicken as a gift recently, but the crowing at four o'clock in the morning was its death sentence...It tasted very nice in some barbecue sauce!)


Keeping animals also opens up some interesting conversations with our kids.  Hannah asked me the other day, "If the boy goat marries one of the girl goats, will it marry another one at the same time?"   (And then came the awkward pause on my part...) My answer was something like, "Well, yes, probably so.  God tells people not to do that, but goats can because they are animals."  Her response was, "Of course, Mom.  Goats don't know what God said so they can't obey that."  


It was so simple, and yet so profound.  Thank you, Hannah, for reminding me to be thankful that God actually speaks to us and that we can listen to Him and know what He wants us to do.  I am so thankful to be a person, made in the image of God, and able to have a relationship with Him!  So, I will enjoy our animals as gifts God has given us, but thanks to Hannah I am reminded to be thankful for the ability as a person to be in a relationship with the Creator of the universe.


Abigail singing to the turkey