Saturday, January 31, 2009

Sunny Houston...

I just updated about our time in San Antonio (see below post), but here are some photos from our time in Houston last weekend. The downtown aquarium had a ferris wheel outside, so we rode it at sunset. The view of the Houston skyline--as the sun was setting--was stunning! My little camera doesn't do it justice.

Zurufah, Maria, and me with our Houston host family.
Someone tell me why there's a tiger at an aquarium!?

Too cute for her own good! (She was 4 year olds which made me miss my kids from this summer!)

San Antonio, TX

I'd love to experience one big, fluffy snowfall this winter. But the chances of that happening are slim. I can't complain though, because while my friends and family in VA/PA are dealing with ice, I am in Texas where the weather was almost 80 degrees last week! I wish I could share some warm weather with you northerners :)

Yesterday was Neha's 12th birthday. She insists that she is only 11 years old, because she doesn't want to get older. I thought only 30+ year olds did that?! ;)
Beautiful Nepali girls: Neha (on left) and Yeshoda

Last weekend, we were in Houston. Then we drove 5 hours to San Antonio. And now we're back in Houston for tomorrow's concert. Gotta love it ;) The kids usually do well in the bus. Lately we've been playing a lot of Uno; "Auntie, can I sit with you?" I heard that A LOT last week, especially from Gift, Isaac, and Ezera. It's mainly because they like to beat me in Uno and feel good about themselves. You'd think a 21-year-old college graduate would be fairly good at a simple card game. But you've never played Uno with our kids! They play it constantly--in the bus, in the costume room before concerts, and in the host family homes. I think 8-year-old Isaac beat me six games in a row the other day. Yesterday I played with four of our boys, and I actually beat them all. They congratulated me and were excited, because they know it's rare when their Auntie wins :P

How cute are Zurufah and Maria in this photo!? We had a tea party with a host family a few days ago. The girls loved acting like princesses! (As if miss Zurufah doesn't do that enough ;)

Last Wednesday, we were together as a team all day until our evening concert. So we took the kids to downtown San Antonio. We saw the Alamo which was awesome! And then we took a boat ride on the "Riverwalk" which was better than I had pictured. It's more of a canal (not a river) running through San Antonio, and the architecture and trees are beautiful. Who knows if I'll ever return to San Antonio, so I appreciated the sightseeing.

What a cute bunch of kids, eh? :) In front of the Alamo.

Two weeks ago was my monthly day off. It was fun to hang out with Prava, Kory, and Alan as we enjoyed our Saturday in Midland, TX. I explored a used bookstore and added three more Nicholas Sparks novels (my guilty pleasure) to my collection. I think I'm only missing "The Wedding." I looked for some classics like "To Kill a Mockingbird" and "Wuthering Heights," but I had no luck. :/ Alan treated the four of us to a movie that night; we went to the theater to watch The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. It's the strangest love story I've ever watched. I absolutely loved it.
I spent one night with a host family in Midland, TX, and they took me to see the home where President G.W. Bush grew up. He spent many years of his life in Midland (in fact, he didn't move away until his two daughters were born). It was neat to walk through his childhood home and even touch the dresser he used as a young boy.

President G.W. Bush's room as a young boy

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Holding nothing back...


I'm not good at it.


But Lord, can't I try to do it on my own?


How about I try to handle things for a while, and if it doesn't work out--THEN I'll surrender? 

I don't purposely have those conversations with God. But it just happens. That's often my attitude, as I offer my struggles to God, only to snatch them back two days later.

I miss the worship times at Liberty; I really do. We sang this song, and it was always moving. I have it on my ipod at least. Lately, I've been reminded about the importance of surrendering our desires and our plans over to our Savior. He knows the desires of our hearts, and it might not always work out the way we WANT it to, but when has He ever failed us? 
All I’ve got 
All I am 
All my dreams and 
All my plans 
I’m holding back 
I’m holding nothing back from you 

I surrender it all 
I lay it before you 
For all of my days 
I’ll give you the glory 
You caused me to see 
My heart is divided 
Lord, take all of me 
‘Cause I have decided 
...I'm holding nothing back from you.

-According to John//Nothing Back

Saturday, January 17, 2009


The past 2.5 weeks have been a whirlwind. My poor, neglected blog is finally being put to use tonight :)

I have been blessed with many incredible host families since I last updated, and I wish it wasn't 1am right now, or else I'd take time to write more. For now, I want to share a neat "God thing" that occured this week. [Sidenote: I use the term "God thing" to explain an instance which is undeniably God at work. I discovered that terminology at age 13 while reading The Christy Miller series, in which the characters are constantly referring to "God things."]

Earlier this week, our team found out that we were in need of housing for Thursday night. It was incredibly last-minute, but World Help managed to set us up with a church in Wichita Falls which we had visited back in October. On Thursday MORNING, the church called around and found host families to keep us that same day!

The minute I met L'rona and Michael, I could sense their genuine excitement to have us. I soon discovered why: (here's the God-thing!) Michael is going to Africa on a short-term missions trip NEXT WEEK. Because of that, Wednesday night they prayed that God would SOMEHOW give them an opportunity to be around some African children (so that their two little girls could better understand the people whom their Dad will be witnessing to next week.)

Their prayers were literally answered the following morning when they woke up. L'rona received a phone call from a friend. The friend mentioned that two African children needed a house to stay in that night--and asked L'rona if she wanted to house them.

Needless to say, L'rona and Michael jumped at the opportunity and were astounded. "You and the girls were an answer to our prayer," they told me on Thursday afternoon. You can understand why I got goosebumps! Wed night, when they were praying for an opportunity for their daughters to interact with African children, they had never heard about us (Children of the World choir) and had no idea we were in town.

Zurufah, Maria, and I were incredibly blessed to stay in their home. They're an amazing couple, and I wish we had more time with them. Before I tucked the girls into bed, Michael pulled out his guitar, and we all sat in the living room and worshiped the Lord while singing, "Blessed Be the Name," "We Fall Down," and "Shout to the Lord." It uplifted my spirit, that's for sure.

God had us at their house for multiple reasons...It was amazing to see His fingerprints all over it! To top it all off, L'Rona put me on the phone with her older brother who started an orphanage in Kenya. We discussed my passion and desire to spend some time in Africa in the near future. Before hanging up the phone, he offered to pray for me. It was a prayer that completely reminded me that God wants nothing but the BEST for His Children.

Sometimes Africa feels so far away, but I felt renewed after the time we spent with L'Rona and Michael. I know that if I continue to trust the Lord, His timing and purpose will blow my mind. As my friend, Aaron, told me the other night: "It's as if God was telling you: 'You know that dream you have to go to Africa? I haven't forgotten...."

I'll leave you all with lyrics to the song, "Yours," by Steven Curtis Chapman. Christi played this song for me (knowing about my love for Africa) this summer when we were driving in North Carolina. This was before I even knew that I'd be spending nearly a year taking care of orphans from Uganda!

I walk the dirt roads of Uganda
I see the scars that war has left behind
Hope like the sun is fading
They're waiting for a cure no one can find
And I hear children's voices singing
Of a God who heals and rescues and restores
And I'm reminded
That every child in Africa is Yours

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Holiday merriment

I hope each of you have had a wonderful holiday season. I absolutely love the anticipation of Christmas, and I’m disappointed it’s over so quickly. But hey, it’s a new year. A clean slate. Make it the best year yet….why not? Take risks and don’t hold back. I look forward to what 2009 holds: the new faces I’ll meet. The many cities I’ll visit. The new adventures waiting for me.

Before I dive into a recap of our holidays, I have to share a funny moment between Martin and I on the bus yesterday.

Me: “Holy smokes!” (I don’t remember what I was reacting to.)
Martin: “Auntie, what is the meaning of that? *pause* The Holy Spirit smokes!?!?”

The mental image made me laugh so hard. As you can tell, we have some quick-witted individuals ;)

On a more serious note, I have some exciting news to share! Sarah (age 9, from Uganda) became a Christian!! It is so awesome to see God working among our team. Taylor led Isaac to Christ in October. And now Sarah has asked Jesus to be her Savior. Two weeks ago, Sarah and I were hanging out in my room at a host family’s house. She brought her Bible in to me, and I felt lead to read her the story of Jesus’ crucifixion. I gave her a simple explanation of the gospel and asked her if she knew where she’d spend eternity if she were to die. She shook her head, not knowing the answer. I encouraged her that accepting Christ into her heart is the best decision she could EVER make but I would not force her to make that choice. She would have to decide on her own.

(Not so) coincidentally, several hours later, the entire team was waiting in the costume room at our concert. Alan presented the gospel to the kids. As they listened, I prayed silently that Sarah would truly understand.

Two weeks passed, and last night as I tucked Sarah into bed, we had the following conversation:
Me: Sarah, have you thought about what I talked to you about several weeks ago? About Jesus?
Sarah: *nodded with a smile on her face* as she whispered, “yes.”
Me: Really?! And what have you thought about…?
Sarah: *a huge smile broke out on her face as she said, “Jesus is in my heart!”

I rejoiced with her, and we prayed together. I wanted to make sure she asked God to forgive her for her sins.
I can’t even express my excitement as I told Sarah that now she’s my sister in Christ. She is eager to go to heaven with Him. I pray that even when she returns to Uganda she can be surrounded by people who will help her follow the Lord.
Needless to say, that was an awesome ending to the year 2008 : )

We’ve enjoyed New Year’s week in Kentucky, visiting Taylor’s family and hanging out as a team. After driving from Houston, TX to Louisville, Ky (an awfully long 20 hour drive. I don’t recommend doing it with 13 children ;) we arrived here on Monday night. The highlight of the week was taking the kids to an aquarium near Cincinnati yesterday. I love the Baltimore aquarium and was also very impressed with this one. The penguins provided great entertainment, as did two exotic birds fighting each other for a bit of sweet nectar. And “petting” sharks was also pretty nifty. I’m glad we all left with both of our hands still in tact!

And last but not least, Christmas day was so special. Words can’t sum up the energy and emotions in that living room on Christmas morning. The kids walked out to the Christmas tree in awe, saying “woooooow!” as they saw the presents and stockings. They truly appreciated receiving new clothing, watches, and toys. (Thanks to the many host families that gave—making it all possible.) It was a unique once-in-a-lifetime Christmas, and I’m so thankful for the memories we made that week.

All the "Aunties" and "Uncles" Christmas Eve after putting the presents under the tree (while the kids were sleeping and excited for Santa to come)

Thanks, mom, for sending some goodies for the kids' stockings! (Jimmy, Suresh, Isaac--all smiles. Too cute!)

All our kids first thing Christmas morning

With Yeshoda after she had a mini-makeover from Taylor

Jimmy--look what he caught!

Enjoying the peaceful lake (behind the house where we stayed for Christmas)