My Lord, My Strength

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“I love you, O Lord, my strength. 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 18:1-2

As I laid there on the bed, wasted from the fever and pain, these words from Psalm 18 rang in my ears and filled my prayers.

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your Word. Thank you for your Spirit, the Comforter, who applies the sweetness of your Word to weak pilgrims such as myself. Thank you Father for your earthly messengers of grace and mercy such as our clinical staff! They have diligently and graciously cared for my needs at odd hours and done so cheerfully. Thank you for Christopher Verdick (and his faithful and supportive wife, Chloe) and for his endless efforts in managing the clinic. Thank you for our missionary associates, through whom you have provided for me child care, supper, and support. Thank you for Pastor Okken and family for their constant care and support for our family. Thank you for my children. They have hovered over me like butterflies, checking on their sick mama, making meals and doing other household chores to keep the family going. Thank you for the prayers of Karimojong friends and friends and family all over the world.

I am especially grateful for my dear beloved husband, whose tender care has nursed me to health over and over again these last eleven years. Father, thank you for this gift. The older and weaker I have gotten the stronger and deeper his love has grown for me.

Thank you Lord for sickness, for through this stressful and dark valley you have carried me in the palm of your hand and shown me all the ways I have been blessed. I bless your Name. “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from You.” Psalm 16:2

I walked to the clinic myself today for my second antibiotic injection. Although very tired, I am beginning to feel much better. I have been able to eat and drink and even do a few things around the house.

Father…. thank you for restoring me back to health again and being my strength!

~ Rashel

Bread

It’s the dry season here in Karamoja. Lots of wind, lots of dust. The days are warm. Fires consume the parched fields. The harvest was poor; food is scarce. People are hungry.

“Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?”

Jesus said these words, testing Philip; but “he himself knew what he would do” (John 6:6). Then he took five loaves and two fish and fed five thousand men. It was a sign.

At times, we also feel tested by Jesus’ words. We have so little to give. But we remember: “…the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” (John 6:33). The Bread of Life, our Manna from heaven, took flesh to feed the world and give us life forever. He came to us, was born for us, was placed in a feeding trough for us, was finally broken for us. Man does not live by rice, posho, or chapati, and definitely not ngagwe, the local beer, alone! Jesus is the Living Bread that our neighbors need, and as a mission, it is our great joy to share Him freely. The Christmas season provided us with various opportunities to do that and to enjoy the fellowship we have in Christ.

Things change when you move to another country, and our family Christmas traditions were no exception. But it was fun to discover that the missionaries who lived and ministered here before we came kindly left us a Christmas tree! (Thank you, Tricaricos!) The kids and several of our young friends had fun decorating it.

The excitement begins:

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Beside the tree are Alebo Moses and Sagal David – Emmanuel is in the chair:

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Here are Angela (ahng-EL-ah) and Louse (low-OO-say) with a couple of large nutcrackers that, in the joyful scramble to decorate, nearly made it onto the tree:

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And finally, the finished product:

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After decorating, we shared a meal with these young men. They are dear friends. Please pray that the Lord would continue drawing them to himself and make them very useful in his kingdom.

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Some of our wonderful MKs also set up a festive Christmas corner in the common room where we eat lunch during the week. Left to right are Megan, Caleb, and Jacob Okken; then our Emmalene, Joshua, and Hannah.

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Young ladies making cookies with missionary associates Angela and Heather:

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…and eating them!

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Friday last was market day in Namalu. The church Mercy Committee arranged to give Christmas gifts of food to some people in need, so Pastor Dave, Omena, and I went to buy the things that were needed. So many people!

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Here Omena is helping fill the caveras (plastic bags) with posho:

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And here are some of the members of our church Mercy Committee: Omena, Lomilo, and Joyce. I’m thankful for their love for the church, their generosity, and their desire to share the love of Christ.

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Our Christmas Eve worship service was very well attended – as was worship on the Lord’s Day, which fell on Christmas. We thank God for the privilege of serving others with the Bread from heaven!

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After both services, some of the ladies broke into songs of praise to the Lord:

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Our mission station usually gathers to eat together on Saturday evenings, as we did again on Christmas Eve. We were immensely blessed to have many good things to eat. Here are a few of the cooks with some extras:

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Our missionary associate Angela has been teaching the MKs piano, and after dinner, they gave us a lovely recital of Christmas music:

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The piano is such a blessing! Thank you, dear Whitlows! Now to figure out how to tune it!

Several elderly folks joined us for Christmas lunch, which was a real delight. Here are Loyep Daudi (a church member), Peter, and Alice (another church member).

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The Christmas holiday here is followed immediately by Boxing Day. We took part of the morning to visit our friend Louse John Bosco and his family in the nearby village of Naturum. Everyone crowded around to see the muzungu visitors, and I was able to briefly explain Matthew 1:21 (“you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins”) and to pray with them.

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Here Louse is reading the text from his own Bible. He loves the word of God.

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Our family began celebrating Boxing Day some years back. Our tradition is to have “feats of strength and games of skill,” sometimes goofy, sometimes serious. Here Joshua attempts the javelin throw (using a broomstick with a rock taped on the end):

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As everyone knows, a solemn parade (with fanfare) is the perfect addition to these types of events, so we always have one at the beginning and one at the end:

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It was a lovely time.

God is drawing the year to its close. We expect the rains will begin again in a few months. Seeds will be sown, plants will grow, there will be a harvest. People will eat.

But that bread will not last. The only unending, sufficient, satisfying supply is the Word of God, the Son who became Bread for our faith. May you eat – may we all eat, and live forever!

A Feathery Friend

Today, my friends and I were playing a game of soccer when all of a sudden some of the boys started to shout, “Acule, acule!” (“Eagle, eagle!” in Karimojong). I heard a noise and turned to look. I saw what they meant. There was a juvenile yellow-billed kite flapping around in a thorn tree like it was entangled in the thorns. Then it fell to the ground. It could not fly because of a bad wound in its wing, probably from the thorns. My friends and I caught it and we took it to my Mom. She and Dad were amazed!

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Dad suggested that we take it to the dove coop to let it heal. So we put it in the coop, and Mom cleaned its wound. We gave it some water and put it in a box with a towel in it. We’re keeping it there for now, and we’re planning to feed it live rats and maybe some lizards until it recovers.

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– by Joshua L. Robbins

Sick-ation

“The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps” (Proverbs 16:9).

In early June, we felt we were ready for a little vacation. We planned a trip to Jinja, famous for being the source of the Nile. Jinja is west of Mbale, and the drive was only 5 hours or so from Karamoja. The kids did great.

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The first thing to greet us at the resort was this magnificent tree, filled with very excited yellow weaver birds going in and out of their nests! It was really something!

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As dusk was falling, we walked down to Lake Victoria. From here you can rent a boat and go out to the spring that is often identified as the Source.

That night, Rashel started to get hot. Really hot. We suspected malaria.

Early next morning, we took her to the emergency section of the Kym Nile Hospital. Sure enough: it was malaria – 10 to 100 count. (Not sure why they couldn’t give us more detail.) That’s pretty high even at the low number.

She had to be put on an IV to rehydrate and to give her some high-powered medication. Because the antimalarials had to be administered every 12 hours, she had to  stay in the hospital overnight. It was a trying time.

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When it was finally time for her to check out, the kids and I went out into the parking lot to get some wiggles out. This goat (or is it a sheep?) wandered onto the hospital compound and tried to head-butt Joshua! Here he is leading it back where it came from by its rope.

After Rashel was released, she still had to take the standard Coartem medication. She was really, really sick for several days, and we had to prolong our stay at the resort several days because she wasn’t in a condition to be moved.

While Mama was trying to rest and recover, I was busy caring for kiddos (I really don’t know how Rashel does it! she is amazing) and trying to encourage them with some play time. The resort scenery is spectacular…

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Two beautiful flowers! And another –

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We also had a lot of fun playing in the pools:

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When we were finally able to move, Rashel still wasn’t well. We decided to return to Mbale. We were planning to get another hotel, but our teammates in Mbale – the Jacksons and the Tuiningas – coordinated things so that we could stay at the home of the Jacksons.

It would be impossible to tell you what an incredible blessing it was.

Mama Connie made chicken noodle soup for Rashel and cared for her in every way. We miss our mothers in the US, but Connie took care of Rashel like her own mother would. The Tuiningas did our laundry, and together with the Jacksons, they played with our kids and entertained them and in the end, the kids really had a fun time. We praise God for our teammates and their generous, hospitable love!

The kids and I got to play a little football (aka soccer) at the Jacksons:

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And they enjoyed some exploring:

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In the few days we were there, Rashel was visibly gaining strength.

Then, just as we were thinking of returning to Karamoja, Emmalene developed a high fever…

It was malaria.

Emmalene was a trooper. It definitely didn’t hit her as hard as it hit Mom, but it wasn’t easy. She recovered pretty quickly, though.

We returned shortly after. Since then, Rashel, Emmalene, and I have all had mild cases of malaria. We just learned tonight that Joshua has come down with his first case. It seems like it will be mild.

Please pray that God would restore our health and keep us from sickness. We’ve been sick a lot lately, not just with malaria, but with other things, too. The last month and a half has been a very difficult season; it seems we have battled illness almost constantly. This is our biggest burden right now.

Martyr’s Day

Uganda celebrates Martyr’s Day as a national holiday, and there are lots of festivities. We drove down to Namalu to see what it was all about.

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Lots of people came out, so it was a great day to sell things!

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Local cuts at the butcher…

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Everyone was really dressed up! Aren’t these traditional dresses colorful?

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After walking through town, we arrived at the celebration, which was held outside the Catholic church.

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There was lots of music, lots of Scripture reading, lots of dancing, and many unusual costumes as well.

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Emmalene had a pretty good view from the shoulders of Miss Joyce… But then somehow we were urged to move to the very front (displacing some other people! we felt bad), and one of the nuns took Emmalene by the hand to sit with her on the front row:

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It was quite a day!

Please pray with us that the good news of the Gospel would come to our friends and neighbors with such power that they would not just remember the martyrs of the past, but daily take up their cross and follow the Savior!

An Evening at the Clinic

Two months and no posts! We’ve been so occupied with other things that blogging has fallen by the way. Let us try to bring you up to speed with a series of rapid-fire posts.

One evening, a friend’s wife was sick, so I took them to the clinic.

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“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1).

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These young men were hanging out by the road while I waited, so we improvised a little baseball. They were fantastic!

Giving Thanks in Malaria

I’ve not quite felt like my normal self lately. From unusual tiredness things progressed to a light headache and some mild achiness, then a day of mostly naps, then such exhaustion that I decided I couldn’t preach yesterday. Just getting out of bed was a challenge.

I knew I needed to get to the clinic for a malaria smear; but that was going to be difficult – the little river between us and the clinic was impassible because of a heavy rain we had in the night. It was higher than I’ve ever seen it.

I did finally make it to the clinic and got tested. Sure enough, I have malaria; about 8-10 parasites (p. falciparum) per field, which is high for a first case. I’m on an antimalarial now and getting huge amounts of sleep, and hope to be better soon.

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The Apostle Paul tells us to give thanks in everything (1 Thessalonians 5:18). No circumstance is greater than the goodness of God. I can see his merciful hand so clearly in this situation! I give thanks –

  • Malaria isn’t so bad. At least, it wasn’t this time. It feels like a minor flu that requires a lot of sleep and comes with some serious chills. (That has actually been the hardest part for me.)
  • Our clinic is within walking distance; our clinic staff have the ability to detect malaria; and we have drugs that can treat it.
  • Bob Wright, our deacon, drove me through the river in his truck. I didn’t expect a ride. What a blessing! The water was high and the roads were really bad, but Bob took me there, went to pick up the laboratory technician, and brought me back home again.
  • Pastor Dave just got over a case of malaria himself, but was up for the challenge of taking on my Lord’s Day responsibilities at the last minute.
  • Rashel has patiently cared for me through my sickness.

But much more than this –

  • Being sick teaches me the love of God, for he sent his Son to suffer for me.
  • Illness is part of God’s plan to draw me closer to my Savior. Being united to him, I should not expect to avoid suffering with him – nor would I want to do that.
  • I’m humbled to remember that God’s wisdom is so much better than mine. His holy will is always worthy of praise, simply because it is HIS will.
  • I look forward to the blessed fruit of Jesus’ death and resurrection: a renewed heaven and earth, filled with righteousness, without sickness and death, at the very center of which is the Lamb I long to see.

“Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!” (Psalm 107:1)