Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Hi everyone,I arrived home on Sunday evening.
Here's an update on the most exciting things I've done since I've been home:
1. Drank an ice cold can of diet Mt. Dew on the way home from the airport! (thanks Dad!)
2. Used my washer and dryer to clean my clothes!!! I've never been happier to do laundry in all my life!
3. Taken several hot showers...the last few weeks, at the choir training academy, we didn't have a hot water heater so now I REALLY appreciate my hot showers!

Here's an update on Choir 30 news
1. The 26 children and 3 African Chaperones will arrive in Chicago on Sept. 12 or 13.
2. I will meet up with the Western Chaperones on Sept. 11 or 12 to get prepared for the children.
3. Our first concert will be Sept. 19 in Iowa.

Thanks again for all of your prayers. I look forward to seeing many of you before I begin tour!Love, Jenny

Monday, August 20, 2007

Emails from Africa

Saturday, August 11 (e-mail from Jenny)

Hello everyone, I am just now realizing that my Uganda time is runing out. I begin my journey home 1 week from today.

I have really "settled" in at Makindye at the Choir Training Academy. It is such a happy, fun place that is full of music about 75 percent of the time! The other morning I went for a little walk up the road and on my way back I could hear the children singing and drums from blocks away. Today I sat on the porch of the little house I am staying in and watched them practice drumming and dancing under a palm tree. I must admit it made me wish I could stay forever!

It is very interesting to be able to be right in the middle of the children's life here at the Academy. This afternoon (Sat.) instead of naps they worked on ironing clothes and shining shoes for church tomorrow. (By the way - did any of your kids do that for tomorrow?) If you don't believe that 7-11 year olds can do it... I have the pictures as proof! :) They are also responsible for washing dishes and clothes, cleaning floors and possibly other duties I haven't witnessed yet. The most amazing thing to me is bed time. The children bathe before supper. After supper they work on memory verses and then we have devotions from 7:30 - 8:30 with lots of singing, praying, and a Bible story. At the conclusion the Auntie or Uncle says, "you can say your good nights." Then I get 26 hugs and the children disappear outside to use the latrine then file upstairs and crawl into bed and sleep. The African Uncles and Aunties have done such a wonderful job loving them and making them feel secure.

After the kids go up to bed the Aunties and Uncles sit around and chat or watch TV. It seemed pretty funny to me last week to be sitting in the middle of Africa watching the American show "The Bachelor" with the African Aunties! (for the record... I don't REALLY watch that show! I was just trying to be social!) :)

Tomorrow the children sing at church for the first time. They are very excited!

Monday - Tuesday our Chaperone Team is going to Jinja for a little overnight sight seeing trip. We will see the source of the Nile River and see some falls. We will also stop in to see the Baby Cottage... so I will get to see "my" babies one more time before I go home.

Next week the organization is applying for visas for the children. Please pray that it goes smoothly. If all goes well they will fly out on September 11th.

I am looking forward to catching up with many of you before I leave for tour. If any of my little groups of friends around home want to begin trying to plan a time for us to get together that would be great. I know just finding a time that works for each of you is a challenge so you can begin now if you want!

Miss you all!! Lots of love, Jenny

Friday, August 3 (e-mail from Jenny)

Hello, Greetings from Uganda! I had my first truly hot shower yesterday at a place called the American Club. It is run by the US Embassy. I went with Karlene, who is running my chaperone training, and Beth, one of the African chaperones. We went swimming and had some yummy American food. It was a nice break which I appreciated since we had been working so hard at camps the last weeks.

I have now moved into Makindye, the choir training school. The other western chaperones arrived yesterday. They are Vic, from Canada, Amanda from Texas, and Terese from Washington. I am looking forward to getting to know them more along with the African Chaperones, Beth, Rosette, and David. My first impression is that we will all get along just fine. This is Amanda and Terese's first visit to Uganda. So it will be nice to kind of show them around (cause my Uganda knowledge is so huge) :) Here is a picture of all of us:

Before I tell you a little more about Choir 30 and training let me catch you up on the past few days.

On Monday, the rest of our team dropped Andrea and I off in Luwero at the school we did camp at last summer. We were very happy to be back with the children we remembered from last year. The school is out in the country and Andrea and I stayed in town at a hotel and road bodas out to the school each day. The school has about 900 students and 400 of them are boarding students. We got to visit each class for about 40 minutes each. Andrea told a Bible story and I did my puppet with the younger kids and a memory verse game with the older ones. You should have seen the little ones with Baby, my gorilla puppet! So cute! He brought a lot of smiles and each child gave him a hug. I was also happy to find one of the girls from last summer. Her name is Janet and she is one of the older girls. She remembered us and immediately put on her camp shirt from the summer before. She is a boarding student. The social worker said that she used to stay during the breaks because they had "lost track" of her family. Thankfully she has a sponsor so she could continue school. Now they have found her Grandmother and she stays with her during breaks. Janet has a huge heart to serve others and she is always helping with the younger children. I will show you her picture when I get home! Here we are:

One of the most enjoyable things about Luwero was Uncle Rommie and his family. Uncle Rommie is the social worker at the school and has been there 15 years. He was also an African Chaperone for ACC. He and his family live in a small house right at the school. They were our hosts for morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea, and dinner. His wife is named Mary and they have 1 boy in Choir 29, two kids in 1st grade, and then a baby named Praise. We really enjoyed the family and were also thankful for the good and also safe food. Thank you for praying for safe food! God provided it! This is Uncle Rommie, Mary, Paphra, Priscilla, and Praise:

Another wonderful highlight was devotion time in the evenings. This was also a favorite last summer. The 400 boarding school students sing, pray, and have a Bible lesson before bed. The praise and prayer lifted from this school in the middle of Africa is truly indescribable. All I can say is that God is MOST DEFINITELY smiling down upon that place when those kids and staff praise and pray. The last night we were there for devotion I got to share the salvation message. It was a wonderful feeling to tell the children about how I want to see them in heaven someday even if I never return to Uganda.

The rest of the camp team people went home yesterday. This included Andrea who has been here since May. I will miss her and I know she will miss Uganda.

As I said, it is wonderful to be at the choir training school with my Choir 30. I can even pick out these kids: Halima, Jane, Favila, Peter, Enock, Christine, Wausho, Joseph, Daniel, Harriet, Bridget and Jacob. I am working on the rest! Please pray for Jacob. He is having surgery tomorrow for a hernia.

In the next week and a half we will be visiting schools supported by ACC, training for specific chaperone jobs, and doing home visits. We will also be going to Jinja for an overnight visit to do a little sight seeing. I might actually go see the source of the Nile this time! I am hoping we will be also visiting Amani Baby Cottage so I can kiss my babies!

It seems strange for the schedule to seem so "loose" after packing in so many activities during camps. It sounds like there will be lots of time to just hang out with kids and maybe even go out and about with some of my African friends. Hope you are enjoying my stories! Thank you so much for your support and prayers! I love you all!

By the way, I can't sign off without telling you about the most interesting thing I've eaten since I've been here... FRIED GRASSHOPPER! Notice how I said grasshopper and not grasshoppers. That's because one was enough for the rest of my life! It didn't taste bad but it still had it's eyes and the idea of it all grossed me out. But anyway... I guess that's my claim to fame now!

Love, Jenny

Saturday, July 28 (e-mail from Jenny)

Hello, Hope all is well in the US! It has been a great week in Kampala, Uganda. The weather here is so very perfect! I would guess the high has been around 85 degrees tops and it gets down in the 60's in the evenings. When I have a few extra minutes I like to sit out on the balcony at the guest house. The view is beautiful. You can even see Lake Victoria in the distance. I will take a picture but I am convinced a photo just doesn't do it justice... so that means you all have to come visit sometime!?

This week we had camp at Music for Life School. This is where choir kids go after tour. It is a boarding school in the city. There are just over 100 students. Currently they have 1 group of 20 over in Australia doing a short tour so we had camp with the 80 older students. The difference in communication from last week, at the literacy slum school, was huge. These kids have great English and we could have real conversation. All of them have been to more US states than me! They are great kids and I enjoyed doing some more challenging art projects with them. Yesterday was our busiest day yet. We had camp classes in the morning, lunch, football (soccer) at the pitch (field), swimming, a special dinner, and a campfire!

What a GREAT day! It was wonderful to be able to treat the kids to these special activities. Most of them had not been swimming since they had been on tour in the US or Canada. It was a lot of fun... but boy did they make me look WHITE!

This morning we went to the craft market and came here to the internet cafe. This afternoon we are going to a football match between the "uncles" (former MFL students and some teachers) and the varsity team. I guess the boys usually win but the Uncles feel they may have an advantage since we tired them out at camp this week! I plan on cheering them on but also going to a Chapati stand to get a Rolex. Rolex is my favorite Ugandan food (apart from mangos). It is a Chapati, which is flat bread, with an omlette rolled up inside of it. All for only 500 shillings... which is about a quarter! Yummy! I think I may move here and start my own chapati stand! I could also be a boda driver in the evenings! It would be quite a novelty!!!! Muzungu girl driver and chapati maker!!

Thanks so much for those of you who are wanting more information about sponsoring a child at Bungalobi school. I will work on getting more details for when I get home. I want to tell you about one boy there named Peter. He was one of the bigger boys being 13 years old. He actually asked one of our team memebers to help him find a sponsor. I remembered Peter from last summer because of a prayer he prayed. He said, "Thank you Father, that I am alive today." Through the past year his prayer has reminded me to never take life for granted. I loved getting to know Peter more this year. He is so eager to please and loves to help even though he was one of the older kids. In our final performance I chose him to show a craft and tell about it. During our practice Peter was having a hard time with his English and one of the African University students that is helping us wanted to replace him with someone else. I could see his shame and sadness immediately. I quickly became determined to have Peter have a successful experience so I insisted that he still speak along with the other student. I practiced with him and he did great! I am so thankful that God has the same attitude with us! He loves us no matter our mistakes! This is a picture of Peter and I:

Tomorrow we have church (where I get to see my choir 30 kids again!) and then we have a special dinner dance performance to go to. Monday morning Andrea and I leave with the Safari team and they will drop us off at the school we were at last year. It looks like we aren't going to be able to stay at the school after all, but we will still be eating there so please pray!

On Thursday I will transition over to my Chaperone training at the Choir Training Academy. I look forward to more time with the kids!

Love you all!! Jenny

Sunday, July 22 (e-mail from Jenny)

Hello again! Camp went great last week. We fell in love with the kids, the school, and the teachers. Our group feels really convicted to find sponsors for the 88 students that don't have one. They are wonderful and each day we arrived they would run out of the school to give us hugs! What a way to start the day!

Prayer Requests: A week from tomorrow (Monday) Andrea and I go to Luwero school for 3 days. I am slightly concerned about the food situation there since I have already experienced some sickness. Please pray. We will be staying at the school... no real toilets or showers either! Needless to say, we are looking forward to seeing the children we got to know last summer. Pray for Andrea's favorite little guy at Amani Baby Cottage. His name is Adam and he is maybe around 2 or 3 months old. He is very sick. He arrived at Amani with malaria and pneumonia and they just found out he has TB. The treatments will be very harsh. Andrea was heartbroken to leave him since she had cared for him since he had arrived. I cried right along with her. This is Andrea and Adam:

Saturday, August 11 (e-mail from Jenny)

Here are the names of my choir kids:
Girls: Prisca, Harriet, Sarah, Faulanta, Enid, Julian, Bridget, Halima, Jackie, Jane, Margaret, Christine, Anna, and Washo
Boys: Jacob, Peter, Ibrahim, Enock, Jerome, Joseph, Martin, Hudson, Chigambo, David, Marvin, and Daniel

I can't wait to get to know them so they are more than a list of names!

I miss you all. I hope to be back here at the internet cafe in the next 2 weeks, but not sure.

Love, Jenny

Sunday, July 15 (e-mail from Jenny)

Hello, I have so much to tell you all! First of all my luggage is here! Thank you for praying! I will spare you the details for now, but it did take 2 trips to the airport to find it. But now I am so thankful because I have not only MY clothes and toiletries but also all of the gifts and donations I brought for the missionaries here and the Baby Cottage. I am also totally thankful to have my favorite hair gel again... talk about some WILD hair days! I am so spoiled... so used to having everything I need or want at my fingertips. Actually, not having most of my stuff helped me to "walk in the same shoes" as the people I will be serving. The difference is that they have no lost luggage. A good reminder to be thankful for even the small things.

Next, I know some of you have been praying for my health. THANK YOU! I was so very sick last week on Tuesday (my last day at the Baby Cottage). I was achy, had a fever, and the BIG "D". I went to the international clinic (a convenient 5 minute walk) for a malaria test because that is what they do for those symptoms. Thankfully no malaria but just some sort of bacterial infection... from who knows what. So I have been taking an antibiotic and was really only down for a day. Wednesday was the day Andrea and I left Jinja to go to Kampala. It was a great day!!! We met up with missionaries we know from last year, our friend Adrian who is from London who was on his way to Sudan, and I GOT TO MEET MY CHOIR!

Before I tell you about MY choir I have to mention dinner on Wednesday night... It seemed amazing for an American, Canadian, and a Brit to be in Uganda eating at an Ethiopian restaurant together! So very unique! I love how God makes us brothers and sisters in Christ no matter where we may be or where we are from!

Andrea and I went to the training school to see MY Choir 30. They are SO completely cute! They have been there for 3 months and many of them have not gone to school before. They are half from Kenya and half from Uganda. I think that their English was actually really good and some of them were even reading us stories. They are all 7 - 10 years old. They already sing and dance wonderfully! Yesterday our whole camp team got to go to meet them. They remembered my name and little Jacob said, "Welcome back, Auntie Jenny!" You can begin praying now that I will learn their names quickly!! :) I also got to meet the 3 African chaperones that will be traveling with us. They seem very nice and it will be a joy to spend time with them. Today I got to worship with the children at church. Words cannot describe the experience. God is so good! I feel so priveleged to be able to be a part of their lives! Here is Choir #30:
a href="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_pdFLpPt1S9I/RuIcWVchLJI/AAAAAAAAAM8/Fxl2X3Zn8HA/s1600-h/Uganda+2+2007+018.jpg">

The rest of the people on my camp teams arrived last Thursday. There are 12 of us... all women. :) We range from 18-47 years old and none of us (except Andrea and I) knew each other before this adventure. We have been spending the last couple of days getting to know one another and planning for the camps. We visited the 2 schools we will be at next week. At Bugalobi school, where I was at last year, the children remembered me and my puppet (Toto).

I was especially excited to find one of my favorites named Winifred. She has grown tall in the past year! Here she is:

So this next week our team splits in 2 groups and goes to 2 schools for camp. Pray that the children would see God's love in us and that we would work together well as a team. We also have 6 university students helping us. They were in ACC when they were young. I look forward to building a relationship with each of them also.

Next weekend our group will go to Jinja to go sightseeing and visit the baby home. I will be excited to see Violet and Elizabeth again. Now that I have my lost luggage I can dress them in cute outfits I brought and do a photo shoot!

Oh! Another praise: The 3 moms that traveled with me from London to Uganda got to take their kids to the US home last Thursday! Check out paripeople.blogspot.com or do a search on "raw Christianity" to find their blogs. I am so thankful little Jay, Judah, and Angela got to go home to their forever families.

I keep thinking of more and more things to tell you all! One really cool thing was that (maybe you don't want to read this mom....) I did just a little traveling in the city ALL ALONE. This is a major accomplishment considering the traffic, language, and culture! I am so proud! I took a taxi, which is a small mini bus stuffed full of Africans, to the taxi park, which is this CRAZY parking lot jammed packed with taxi after taxi and tons of people, and met my friends downtown. I didn't even let the "conductor" overcharge me! Way to go Jenny! It is a completely different experience to travel as 1 muzungo (white person) versus a whole group of muzungos.

Anyway, thanks so much for praying. Once again, I have to say, God is so good! I am so happy! All of this is a GREAT start to my adventure of traveling with the choir. I wish I could describe accurately the way I felt when I first saw my choir! You are going to LOVE them! Next e-mail I will hopefully list their names so you can begin praying for them.

Love to you all, Jenny

Sunday, July 9 (e-mail from Jenny)

Hello! Please keep praying for my lost luggage! I am hoping that when I go to the airport on Thursday to pick up the rest of my group! I just e-mailed my travel agent hoping she can help. I am real tired of the one pair of pants I have!

I have done lots of things with the babies since I've been here! The volunteer house I am staying at is just down the street so it is easy to spend a lot of time there. Since my visit is so short I am not on the volunteer schedule so I have enjoyed roaming in and out of all the different rooms. I have spent most of the time in the Preemie Room... they are not necessarily preemies, just the youngest babies in the orphanage. I think my favorites are Elizabeth (pictured above) and Precious who are 2 sweet little girls. Precious smiles quickly and shows her toothless mouth. Elizabeth is much less animated... she was born very early and has some developmental delays. Today I did get a little smile out of her though! If I were staying longer I would focus any extra attention on Elizabeth... which makes the Mama's (African workers) call Elizabeth my "daughter." Thankfully Amani is full of loving volunteers and workers who love the babies very much. I will be sad to leave on Wednesday.

This is Jesse (left) and Victor (right).
Yesterday Andrea and I took kids on several "outings." Volunteers are on a schedule to take children out into town or back to the volunteer house. This is a chance for the babies to get out and about and see their Country. In the morning we took Victor and Bobby out to breakfast. They love to have pancakes. They are both in the toddler house and are 3 or 4 years old. We road on a boda (a bike with a seat on the back) and the boda drivers were careful to ride slow because of the boys on our laps. They looked so cute holding on so tight!

Yesterday I also got to take baby Violet (my baby from last year at Amani) back to the quest house to stay the night!!! Andrea took her "son" Jonathan who is about the same age as Violet. They are both around a year old. Despite 3 VERY poopy diapers from Violet, I loved it! She was so precious sleeping next to me! She was SUCH a wiggle worm and I had to rescue her twice from falling in the gap between the bed and wall. Violet's adoptive parents will be coming to get her in the next few weeks... Lord willing. I am thankful for the chance to see her sweet face once again before she goes home to her forever family. Above are pictures of Violet and I last year (left) and this summer (right). She is wearing a cute little strawberry dress I brought to Uganda for her.

Tomorrow will be my last day at Amani. Andrea and I leave very early on Wednesday to go to Kampala. We have arranged to go see my choir at the training house! I am excited but maybe a little nervous about meeting the 3 African Chaperones and the children I will be somewhat "in charge of" as the Tour Leader. It will be an awesome experience to meet them the first time!

Thursday, July 5 (e-mail from Jenny)

I have made it all the way to Jinja, Uganda... although one of my three bags did not... too bad it couldn't be one of the bags full of school supplies that I do not need for another week! Instead it's the one with my clothes, toiletries, and flashlight. Oh well... I did get a nice cold shower when I arrived so at least I am clean even if my clothes aren't! Pray that my bag arrives on the next flight in.

But that aside, I'm here and it is wonderful and just as beautiful and unique as I remember! I haven't been to the Amani Baby Cottage just yet but one of the workers met us (me and 3 Moms that are adopting from Amani) at the airport and had the 3 kids being adopted with them. It was wonderful to experience the reuniting of the kids with their new moms. Please pray for a positive court time on Friday, July 5, so these kids can go home with their families soon!

My friend Andrea met me at the airport also so we got to spend the 3 hour drive catching up. She has been volunteering at Amani since the beginning of May. I'm counting on her to show me the ropes...like changing a cloth diaper... :) I'm sure I will have lots of baby stories for you when I post next time... somebody please drink diet mountain dew for me! Love you all!