FAQs

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” Proverbs 17:17 (ESV)

I was recently back in the States for a stint, and there were two questions that I kept being asked. Okay, there were more than two questions, but these were probably the two most frequently asked:

  1. What is your (my) favorite part about living in Uganda?
  2. What is the hardest part about living in Uganda?

Even though these were the two most common questions I received, every time they were asked, they would stop me in my tracks. Because, honestly, there is a lot that I love about living here and a lot that can be really challenging. I love the basically perfect weather! I dislike being away from my niece and nephew (and the rest of my family, but they are the two cutest members). I love the convenience of being able to hop on a boda if you need immediate transport. I miss driving on smooth roads. I love the students I get to teach! I hate the never-ending war on ants. The list could go on for hours.

But honestly, if I really give myself enough time to think about it, my favorite thing about living in Uganda is also the hardest.

It’s the community.

I have here a community that has stood by my side through thick and thin. We have celebrated major holidays and have cried through extremely challenging circumstances together. They have seen me thrive and have seen me at my ugliest. Some people have been a part of my community for the entire year and a half that I have been here, while others have only just recently joined. Without the community with which the Lord has provided me, life here would be so much more difficult.

When you go through exciting new experiences with people, those memories often last a lifetime. But when you go through the trenches with people, it creates a bond that is unbreakable. Things happen in the trenches that you cannot share with others. Or if you try, they may listen and be empathetic, but they will never truly understand in the same way the people do who were alongside you. Life here is not all trenches, but I have certainly had those moments, and I am so grateful that God has surrounded me with an amazing community of people with whom I have experienced both the peaks and the valleys.

So how could such a wonderful community also be the hardest part about life here?

In the 18 months that I have lived here, I have already had to say, “See ya later” to several amazing friends. Some of these friends I know I will see in the next few months, while others I pray I will get to see again someday. It can be really hard to allow yourself to form such close friendships when there is an end date.

But that is what God calls us to do. He calls us to invest in people. He does not say, “Only invest in people who are going to be in your life for at least a year.” He does not say, “Only invest in people who look/think/act/etc., like you.” We are called to build relationships because that is what Jesus did. Not everyone with whom Jesus came into contact ended up being a close, personal friend…heck, a lot of people did not even like Him…but He still laid down His life for them.

So I am challenging myself not to grow cynical. I am challenging myself to continue investing in those around me, not knowing if we will be together for 2 months, 6 months, 2 years, or 20 years. And I want to approach each day with a grateful heart. I am so thankful for the sweet friendships I have formed here and for the opportunity to serve in a community of believers who desire to love those whom God puts in our lives…even when it is difficult.

thanksgiving

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Simply One-derful

“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” -Galatians 6:2 (ESV)

Today marks one year since I moved to Uganda. That time has been a whirlwind of happies, crappies, sappies, and more. I have experienced some of the highest highs and lowest lows of my life in the past 12 months, and I have been so grateful for all God has shown me in my time here. I have learned a lot about doing life here, and I thought I would share just a few insights:

  1. It is oftentimes safer to drive off the road than on it.
  2. Teaching is challenging no matter where you teach, who you teach, how many you teach, or with whom you teach – the challenges just look different.
  3. You will probably definitely call your mechanic more often than you call your family.
  4. Ugandan sunsets are some of the most beautiful in the world.
  5. You don’t get to see giraffes, hippos, lions, or elephants on the daily (though sometimes you see monkeys!).
  6. In the first hour you are awake: you will find a ridiculously long worm (that you think is a snake) in your toilet, your sink will spray water all over you so you have to get changed, you’ll burn your finger, and you will spill your tea. (Okay, so this isn’t a typical day, but it just happened to me on Tuesday, so it’s fresh.)
  7. Growing in your faith doesn’t happen easily just because you’re serving as a missionary. I still have to be intentional about my relationship with God, and finding time to be quiet with Him is oftentimes even harder for me here than it was in the States.
  8. It is possible to feel completely at home and also like you are entirely out of your element at the same time.
  9. You might end up getting a dog who turns out to be a bit loony…you’ll love her anyway.
  10. Dealing with the power company will bring out a side of you that you didn’t know existed and teach you a whole different type of self-advocacy.
  11. Your computer might unexpectedly stop working, but you will have amazing friends who offer you a spare while yours is (hopefully) getting fixed. (This generosity will allow you to write a blog about your past year in Uganda.)
  12. Asking for help is a sign of wisdom, not weakness.

I am still so incredibly grateful that this is the life God has called me to for this season. Some days it seems like I just arrived in Uganda two months ago, and other days it feels like I have been here for years. Life typically just feels normal. I wake up, have some tea, eat breakfast, go to work, come home, eat dinner, watch Netflix and go to bed. Of course, living in a transient community comes with its challenges – I have already had to say indefinite goodbyes to multiple friends. But when you live in a community where so many people are living away from the people they love, the bonds are different. Your friends become your family. If I am ever in trouble, I have at least ten different people I could call at any time, and I know they would come running (thankfully, I haven’t had to do this yet).

I feel truly thankful for these people God has placed in my life. I have learned more about who God is and His great love for us through the people around me. I am so excited to see what this next year (and maybe more?!) will bring!

Be Blessed,
Claire

Kenya Believe It?

 

“I said, ‘Oh, that I has the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest. I would flee far away and stay in the desert; I would hurry to my place of shelter, far from the tempest and storm.'” Psalm 55:6-8 (NIV)

Two weeks ago, I went to lunch after church with a few friends. As we were chatting and discussing life here in Uganda, I made a comment about how we should take a trip to Kenya the following weekend, as we had Monday off. Three days later, our tickets were purchased, and after school on April 13, we were hastily making sure we had everything we needed before hopping on bodas (motorcycle taxis) to the bus station.

We got into Nairobi around 6:30 the next morning (after crossing what may be the most disorganized border ever), where my friend’s fiance kindly picked the five of us up. While the night bus may not be the most glamorous place to get some shut-eye, I somehow slept a few winks. That bit of rest plus an abundance of adrenaline kept us going throughout the rest of the day, as we kissed giraffes, admired baby elephants, sipped tea, and ate. Mannnnn did we eat!

Throughout the trip (and even still) we jokingly referred to Nairobi as the land of milk and honey. This is partly because Uganda imports a great number of supplies from Kenya…including literal honey. But there were also tastes of home we got to experience, such as Dominos Pizza, Coldstone Creamery, and Uber rides (inedible) on paved roads.

There have been a number of trials hitting us this semester. It has been incredible to see God work in the midst of these challenges and to see beauty rise from the ashes, but until we went away last weekend, I did not realize how much I needed respite. I needed a break from the surroundings that had been the setting for so much turmoil. Getting away allowed me to come back with a healthier (albeit tired from another night bus) mindset and a refreshed spirit. I never thought I would be so grateful for 12-hour bus rides and Dominos Pizza!

With Love,
Claire

Jinja Have A Great Year?

“The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” Psalm 18:2 (ESV)

As today wraps up the year 2017, I have found myself reflecting on this past year more than I normally do on New Year’s Eve. I don’t know if it’s because this year has brought about so much change, because I’m becoming more sappy as I get older, or a combination of the two. This time last year, I was getting ready to ring in 2017 with my good friend, Dayna. I was happy with where I was emotionally, physically, and occupationally, and I did not expect any of that to change. Until God stepped in and opened doors while simultaneously opening my heart and mind to something new.

My word for 2017 was “surrender.” I wanted to surrender my plans for God’s, but I never expected to have that tested so extremely. I learned to surrender my career, financial stability, and personal comfort for the better option of relying on God to fill all of those spaces in my life.

So as you go into this new year, whether you’re happy to see 2017 go, nervous for 2018, excited, or anything in between, my prayer for you is that you will be leaning on the arms of Jesus in both the highs and the lows. As you have reason to celebrate, do! Glorify and bless His name through it all! As you have reason to mourn, do that too, and turn to the One who brings comfort.

Here’s to 2018 and to a lifetime of serving our Savior!

In Him,
Claire

Jinja say, “Thanks”?

“Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.” Psalm 100:4-5 (ESV)

This past Thursday, I sat at a table surrounded by friends who have quickly become like family. We ate delicious chicken, mashed potatoes, stuffing, rolls, and even sweet potato casserole (just to name a few). This is my third Thanksgiving not spent in Pennsylvania with family, my second Thanksgiving spent out of the country, and my first Thanksgiving in Uganda. God has been so incredibly good to me, not only this year, but every year! His goodness is unfathomable, his grace and mercy undeserved.

This year, I am abundantly grateful that God brought me to Uganda. I am thankful for the kids I teach, the students at The Amazima School I have come to know and love, the amazing ministry partners with whom I work. I am so glad that God gave me a place to live here with wonderful roommates and incredible neighbors. I am beyond blessed to have loads of food to eat on Thanksgiving Day while families just down the street struggle to get by. I have family and friends who whole-heartedly support me being halfway across the world. I am grateful for the unexpected chance to see all those people in just a couple weeks! I have a nephew who gets the biggest smile on his face whenever I pop up on the FaceTime screen and another niece/nephew on the way. I have a Father who loves me, is so incredibly patient with me, forgives me, and sent His Son to bear the ultimate punishment so I would not have to.

Words cannot express my gratitude for all God has given me. But I have to stop and wonder – would I still have a thankful spirit if He didn’t? Would I continue to praise His name if I didn’t have the things and people who make my life comfortable? Would I be able, like Job, to say, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord,” (Job 1:21, ESV) if everything around me crumbled? Would I still believe God is good?

I pray that I would. I pray that I would be most thankful for God’s gift of salvation above everything else. That I would worship Him in all circumstances. That even in the trials of life, I will continue to proclaim, “Blessed be the name of the Lord!”

Let’s continue to count our blessings and praise the One from whom all blessings flow!

What are you thankful for this year?

Grace and peace,
Claire

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*Note – the above image is not from Thanksgiving but is actually from a dinner one of my neighbors put together from our compound. But we didn’t take pictures on Thanksgiving, and I’m thankful for all these people, so it works =)

Visitation Day

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.” Matthew 25:13 (NIV)

Yesterday was visitation day at The Amazima School. Visitation days are a big deal at boarding schools. Even though the parents/guardians of the students at The Amazima School are allowed to visit their children whenever they would like, due to cost of travel, responsibilities at home, work, etc., it is a rare occurrence that they come on their own time. So one Saturday per term, families are invited to come to the school, see their student(s), conference with the teachers, and enjoy some special performances by some of the student clubs. It is quite the event.

Unfortunately, yesterday morning it was raining. Parents were meant to arrive between 9:00-9:30, but when my roommates and I got to the school a little before 9:30 (when chapel was scheduled to begin), we saw very few parents had arrived. It was explained to us that because of the rain, the dirt road going from the village where most of our students’ families live to the school was extremely difficult to navigate. We were not sure how many families would be able to find reliable transportation at all, or how late they would be if they did.

The next 30-45 minutes was a roller coaster of emotions. I wanted to cry as I watched students sitting around, talking to each other, their eyes focused on the gates. Watching, waiting, hoping. Whenever a matatu (taxi van) would arrive, you could see the students sitting up straight, wondering if it held the people they most loved in this world. Their backs slouched when they saw it was for someone else.

But when it was for them…

When it was for them, I wanted to cry again – this time for joy. I saw students run to their families. I saw smiles that could put out the sun. One of the most beautiful sights in this world is a family reunited.

As I was reflecting on the emotions of the day, I realized (yet again) how much I have to learn from these students. Their posture is one we should all imitate as we wait for our Lord to return. We should be waiting eagerly and expectantly, excited to see Him face-to-face. We should be keeping a watch, never knowing but always hoping for His arrival. On the blessed day of His return, I hope that I will run into His arms with an energy that will never fade. Lord, help me to be more like these precious children!

For those wondering, the sun came out and so did the families of many of our students! Visitation day was a huge success thanks to the grace of God and the efforts of our hard-working staff members.

Be blessed,
Claire

Uganda Worship Him

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” 1 Peter 2:9 (ESV)

72. 72 voices lifted up in praise and worship. 72 students learning about the Gospel. 72 students going forth and living out the truth they have learned.

As I listened to the students leading worship on Thursday night, I stood in awe. I soaked in every moment that I could, as these beautiful souls sang at the tops of their lungs to their Creator. I closed my eyes and allowed myself to be immersed as the 72 Ugandan students at The Amazima School worshiped our Lord in a language I have yet to learn. As I did so, all I could think was, “This. This is what Heaven will be like.” Only times, like, a million.

As I get to know these students, I am blown away by how much they have learned and understand about the Gospel in the 8 months that they have been attending The Amazima School. I was floored by some of the deep responses the girls were giving to the questions we were asking in the small group I help lead. They are comprehending beyond just a surface-level understanding of the Good News.

Please pray with me that these students would continue to grow in their knowledge of and love for the Lord and that they would go forth and proclaim the Gospel!

In Love,
Claire

Props to my roommate, Kirstin, for getting this second video!