Whitney Lassie • Marybeth Sudan • Macy Phenix

Whitney Lasse • Marybeth Sudan • Macy Phenix
Restoration Gateway, Uganda

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Hello from Uganda!!!

Hello Hello Hello from Uganda,

I really do not even know where to begin with trying to explain my time here in Uganda thus far… I first just want to begin with saying that GOD IS GOOD, ALL THE TIME. I am learning what this means to trust in His faithfulness even when it seems like He is so distant.

Today has been such an incredible day. Mary Beth and I footed (the African term for walking) to the nearest village, Karuma, which is about a 5-6 mile round trip. This is our third trip to Karuma. On our first trip to Karuma, Whit, MB, and I, were blessed to meet this really sweet lady named Beatress who owns a medicine shop in the village. She openly welcomed us into her store/house and talked to us for a couple hours about her life, family, and African culture. Ever since the first visit, we have been able to form a friendship with Beatress. We visited her last Saturday, and when we returned this week she was gone and her sister, Agnes, was there to run the shop for the day. After talking to Agnes for a few minutes we discovered that she is an incredible believer and follower of Jesus Christ. We also discovered that Beatress is a Muslim. We sat with Agnes for a little while and then felt called to ask her if she knew anyone that was sick who might need prayer. She answered yes and left to find her grandmother, but she returned with two people, Molly (the grandmother) and Joseph. We set up a little space in the back of the store and began praying over each of them individually. Molly was having pain in her knees and stomach, and Joseph was having pain in his ankle. We prayed, with Agnes, over each of them for about ten minutes, but there was no immediate healing that we were able to see, but God is at work. He opened up an opportunity to pray over two hurting people in the house of an incredible and beautiful Muslim woman who He desires to know and have a relationship with. He is at work in this village and He is at work in each of their lives. We are going to continue to pray that the Lord would heal them in Jesus name. This was such an answer to prayer because I have been continually praying that the Lord would open up opportunities to connect with the people here. I have been crying out that He would direct our steps and open up conversations about Him with these beautiful people. He did. He heard my prayer, and even if the result of our prayers for Molly and Joseph did not turn out the way we wanted or expected, He is still God. He still sits on His throne, and He desperately and deeply loves each of them. He loves Beatress, Agnes, Molly, Joseph, and me. God is so good.

Also this past Thursday evening, we had testimony time with some of the orphans. A few of them stood up to tell the stories of their lives before they came to Restoration Gateway. It was one of the most heartbreaking things I have ever had to listen to, but at the same time it was one of the most joyful moments to know that the Lord brought each of them here. About four of the kids stood up to speak, and each of the children gave thanks to the Lord for bringing them to this place. Each of them gave thanks to God for food on the table, for a pair of clothes, for a bed, and for people who loved them and cared for them. One of the girls who shared her story is named Gloria. She is one of the most joyful girls that I have ever known. Gloria ALWAYS has a beautiful smile on her face. She is one of the leaders in the orphanage among the girls. Gloria’s parents died of AIDS, and after they passed away Gloria didn’t have anywhere to go. She would move from place to place trying to find food, shelter, and water. Other children would taunt her because of the death of her parents. She described being beaten by older girls for taking up too much space in their hut or asking for more food. She also described never being given clothes. When all of the older girls would get new dresses, they would say “why don’t you get your parents to buy you a new dress.” Gloria is only one of many. Each of these children has such a heartbreaking story behind them, but they are so joyful for the little that they have been given. God has His hand on each of these kids. They have been brought from a place of desolation to a place of love and restoration. How great is our God that He cares and provides for His children in this way.

So, here I am in Northern Uganda. Everyday brings new challenges and struggles, but I am learning that God is faithful and that He is always near even when I cannot feel Him there. He is using me even when I feel purposeless. I am learning to take one day at a time. I am learning that He will sustain and provide exactly what I need for each day. When I look at the big picture, I literally am overwhelmed with my own inadequacy and weakness, but God says that His power is perfected in my weakness. I am praying that everyday. One thing that He has continuously spoken to and over me during this past month is Isaiah 61 (especially v 1-3). It says:

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach the good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn and provide for those who grieve in Zion – to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor.”

This is what He is doing in Northern Uganda. This is what He is doing at Restoration Gateway. I don’t know why the Lord keeps speaking this to me, but I know that I have no power on my own to even get through one day. God is at work. He is raising up these children for the display of His splendor. He is calling them by name to be the next generation of leaders in this country. I pray that I even get to see a glimpse of it. I pray that I am a vessel in His hand to be used here. Even though the enemy daily whispers lies of inadequacy and thoughts of my time here being purposeless, I know God is at work in this place and in me. I pray that I am clay in His hands. There is a song called, “Nothing I Hold Onto,” that I have been listening to on a DAILY basis. It says: “I lean not on my own understanding. My life is in the hands of the maker of heaven. I give it all to you God, trusting that you will make something beautiful out of me… I will climb this mountain with my hands wide open, there is nothing I hold onto.” This is my daily prayer and desire for this time. Thank you so much for all of your prayers, encouragement, and support. So blessed in SOOOO many ways!!! Love Love Love ☺


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Portraits from the Nile


TIA: This is Africa

infront of the Nile

'TIA' is an acronym that we use often, here are some instances:

TiA, when a boy pulls up to you on his bike and has 10 live chickens hanging upside down from the handlebars
TIA, a naked baby being put on Macy's lap
TIA, when clothing often has holes in it, causing fingers to be in places they shouldn't be when holding a child
TIA, when bats sleep on your mosquito net 
TIA, when a truck appears at RG in the middle of the night and we hide in fear of the LRA
TiA, when a rooster regularly walks into your room
TIA, when you are allotted one square of t.p. for #1 and two squares for #2
TIA, when every question you ask to a person is replied with 'yes'
TIA, when you are walking down a dirt rode and come across a woman with a shovel on her head and a live chicken under one of her arms
TIA, when a pig is tide to the back of a bicycle
TIA, beans, cassava, cabbage….every day
TIA, mice…everywhere
TIA, never expect a shower curtain
TIA, when a prayer is said before any foot is set off RG, praying against: baboons, pythons, spitting cobras, nile monitors, and cape buffalo
TIA, when you go to sleep sweating and wake up in the same state
TIA, when you take the kids fishing in the Nile river
TIA, when that means to watch out for crocs and hippos
TIA, when you spend your day hoeing (by hand) an acre of land
TIA, when children are pushing each other in wheelbarrows filled with machetes
TIA, when hair and fingernails are cut with a razor blade
TIA, when peanut butter and fish are made into a soup
TIA, when anything is carried by your head rather than hands
TIA, when your feet will never be clean
TIA, when your shower is lit by flashlight
TIA, when you handwash 12 pairs of your underware in the same small bucket 
TIA, when you havent washed your pants for 3 weeks and continue to wear them
TIA, when you smash honeycomb by hand and make your own honey
TIA, when the presence of a spider the size of my palm is NBD (No Big Deal)
TIA, when sitting under a tree drinking a 16oz Coke for three hours is normal
TIA, when life is one million and one times slower

……….and I'm loving every moment of it!

this is no tan line....just the everyday dirt line
honeycomb ready to be smashed

Friday, March 4, 2011

Beauty for Ashes...

Today I had my favorite Uganda moment so far...actually, I had two
favorite Uganda moments.

In the past week, Restoration Gateway has received 4 new orphans.
These kids come to this place with nothing except for the clothes on
their backs. I wish that we spoke their language, Lwo, or that they
spoke English, because there is so much that I want to ask them. They
must all have so many stories--good stories and terrible stories both.
Even though I can't listen to them, I hope that my being around them,
playing with them, teaching them, and hugging them can somehow squeeze
out of them the stories that have been painful and bring eternal hope
to their lives... but this can only be done through His work through

Today, I was given the job of going to get new shoes for the new
orphans. Their poor little feet are completely scuffed up and dirty
(which, I suppose, is how all feet are here...TIA). So, I collected
the new kids and brought them up to the storage room in the church
building. I had them try on different shoes that had been
donated...lots of crocs and flip flops. It took awhile to find shoes
that fit each of them, but when we found a fit, I put the shoes on
them and sent them on their way. I didn't think it was that big of a
deal, but...

Jacob. Jacob is a new orphan that has been here about 5 days. I tutor
him each morning in English, and I have seen him stay after class to
work on writing his letters. But I have never seen Jacob smile. I know
there is so much behind his stern face ... I want to know his story.
Today, when I put his red crocs on him, I said to him, "These are
Jacob's. You can go back home. These are YOUR shoes." Right then, I
saw the biggest smile come over his face. Jacob hurried down the
stairs and out the door, where I heard him running and giggling all
the way back to his orphan home. Not only did Jacob finally smile but
he LAUGHED with delight.

"To all who mourn in Israel, he will give beauty for ashes, joy instead of mourning, praise instead of dispair."

My second favorite Uganda moment happened this evening after dinner.
Two orphan boys showed up at Restoration Gateway with a police
officer. We have been expecting these boys for a while, but they
finally came tonight. Their names are David and Christopher. David is
5, and Christopher is 3. Though they are different ages, the brothers
are the exact same height and weight due to the intense malnutrition
they have experienced during their short lives. They are true
orphans--they came from a town where they wandered the streets looking
for food. They ate off the ground and would split what they could find
everyday. The boys were brought over to us, and I picked Christopher
up. Macy handed them each a biscuit...and they ate it so fast. We held
them for awhile. There were no words exchanged. The only sound that
came from these brothers was the sound of them chewing their bread. We
carried them to their new home where Mama Lillian greeted them gently
(though she was so excited to have them!) We introduced the boys to
their new "brothers and sisters" who welcomed them and held them
immediately. Orphans welcoming, loving, and caring for other orphans
is one of the greatest sights to see...

Holding Christopher in my arms was my second favorite moment thus far
in Uganda. Christopher and David now have an earthly home. They will
be loved deeply here by their new mamas, their new siblings, their new
teachers, and by us. They will also be taught that more than any of
these, they are loved abundantly by their Heavenly Father. Love reigns
in this place. Keep praying for us as we learn more about Love that
redeems nations and orphans. Keep praying that each child would find
that Love to be their hope and joy. I can't wait to experience more
moments like this here...

To all who mourn in Israel, he will give beauty for ashes, joy instead of mourning, praise instead of dispair."

Praise our Redeemer, JESUS.


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

We are Here!

Well, we made it to Uganda! Our travel went so smoothly, and we are
now settling into our new home for the next season of our
lives—Restoration Gateway. Praise the Lord for getting us here safely!

We are slowly getting acclimated to the Ugandan lifestyle. Uganda is
so different than America—such a slower pace of life, but one that is
so much more intentional in relationships. People love each other very
well here. The kids already call us “Auntie” and all of the workers
refer to the older women as “mama”. The family dynamic that is woven
into all relationships here is so beautiful to see and experience—and
it is only day 2!

The children here are so fun to be around! They have a love for life
and a passion that I have not often seen anywhere else. Tonight we got
to participate in a worship service with the kids, and it was
absolutely incredible. They danced and sang their hearts out without
any shame…they raised their hands and cried out to God for His Spirit
to fall on this place as we worshipped. The service tonight, though it
was geared towards the kids, was so encouraging for our hearts. We
loved getting to see and hear them worship their Daddy, and it was fun
to worship with them.

We have also been assigned daily tutoring sessions with small groups
of kids. The children don’t know very much English, so we will be
teaching them very basic phonics so that they can catch up in the rest
of their lessons. After tutoring, we will be teaching art classes
during the afternoons to the kids. We will also be spending a lot of
time discipling and encouraging the house “mamas” and the other
workers at RG.

Please pray against satan’s attacks on us as we are working here. Pray
that we will not believe his lies or be tempted by things that he
throws our way. Also, pray for our team as we are transitioning so
much from our normal lives at home. Pray God will be our refuge and
joy as we meet with Him throughout the day. He is our only hope and
only strength—we desperately need y’alls prayers for His nearness!

Thank you for praying for us and fighting with us in this journey!
Praise God for what He is going to do, because we know that it will be
so good.