Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Aunt in Training

Before I moved to South Africa almost a year and a half ago, it had been a long time since I had really been around young children. I hadn’t realized how long in fact until I arrived and it was a little awkward and shocking at first to have kids everywhere. I’ve fallen in love with children all over again and have come to cherish their presence in my life.

Within the team I work with, there are six small kids. They are a big part of my family here and below I’ve posted some pictures. Aren’t they adorable??

Emma Grace

Joshua and Emma Grace

Arielle and Emma Grace



Emma G and Me

Arielle and Emma G


[Photo by Jen Price]

Monday, June 29, 2009

Change in Seasons

When I first arrived here in March of last year, I was surprised at the weather. It was still warm at that point, but not nearly as hot as I’d expected. As fall faded into winter and the months passed, it began to get cold. And I mean cold. July and August are the coldest months here in South Africa, which is a hard adjustment in itself, but I hadn’t expected or planned for the weather to get as cold as it does. Now this year, I thought I was better prepared, but the cold has snuck up on me again and while during the day is nice and sunny, I freeze at night.

Africa just isn’t prepared for cold weather. No one seems to have central heating and the houses are built to contain the cold during the summer so the buildings stay freezing all day long in the winter. The only place I feel I can truly warm up is in my car with my heater on full blast.

Summer months here means rain, lots and lots of rain. Everything is green and lush during those months. Wicked hot and the sheer amount of bugs completely terrifies me, but it’s absolutely beautiful. Winter is another story. Everything dries up, the green turning brown and ugly. Still, I enjoy these months. I may look like a marshmallow with all of my layers, but it’s better than sweating buckets with bugs the size of Texas crawling under my door.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Kickin' it Ugandan Style

During our time in Uganda, we spent most of our ministry time with children. Before we left on outreach, we had planned games, dramas, and songs to share with the kids. Below is a video of us doing a song we called Ezekiel that was a hit where ever we went. We danced our hearts out and had a blast doing it!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Stories from Uganda

“Why does God allow bad things to happen to innocent children?”

The topic was forgiveness and the question was murmured in a soft, embarrassed voice from the small group of women sitting on the floor in front of us. I was surprised the question had come from Carol. She had hardly looked up from her beading since we had entered the room and I hadn’t really thought she was paying any attention to the discussion.

Our team looked around at each other or stared at the floor trying to come up with an explanation that would make sense through a translator without ‘dumbing’ it down. Before we had even begun to formulate a response, Carol spoke up again. She told us a story none of us will forget.

Carol grew up in northern Uganda, right in the heart of the civil war and its bloody conflict. She told us of her escape from her home village with her baby sister after witnessing her parent’s violent murder by the rebels and hiding in the forest with the other refugees. The rebel army came close to their hiding spot and her little sister started to cry, causing them to be discovered by the soldiers. As punishment, they took the baby from her arms and using a machete, sliced her in half. They took the rest as captives to the rebel camp where Carol was abused daily and served as a slave for many years.

One day, Carol was sent with a friend to procure water from a nearby well. A young soldier was sent to guard them, but he was only a child and became easily distracted. Carol seized her chance and struck the guard over the head, allowing her and her friend to escape. She eventually made her way down south to Jinja where she was forced to survive by any means possible, including selling her body on the streets.

Not once had she looked up at us during the story. Her eyes remained cast down, her shoulders were hunched protectively over her body and she seemed to have herself under tight control. Again, she asked the question. “Why does God allow bad things to happen to innocent children?” The years of deep anger and resentment contained in her question were palpable.

Our hearts were breaking for her and the child she had been. I looked around and saw the open emotion reflected in all of our faces. We began quietly, but our responses became passionate. We spoke of God’s grace in allowing us choice and how that freedom was constantly abused. How God could use the evil choices of humans and turn it around for His good purposes. We told her of Jesus’ love for her and her family and the grief He feels for all of her pain and loss. Our words felt inadequate, but you could feel the presence of God in the room as she began to weep openly.

None of us will forget Carol or her story. Over the next few weeks, we saw a significant change in her demeanor, a lightness that hadn’t been present before. We watched her dance, sing, and laugh with a newfound joy. She had only just begun to heal, but was running toward the process with open arms and heart.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Boda Boda

My friend Laura and I riding a motorcycle taxi [Boda Boda] at night in downtown Jinja, Uganda. Crazy fun.

Untitled from Brittany Deniston on Vimeo.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Relaxing in Kruger

A short, fifteen minute drive from home brings me to one of the gates of Kruger National Park, South Africa’s largest game reserve. Tourists visit the park from all over the world and I am blessed to live so close.

I’ve had two weeks off after our two month outreach to Uganda and Mozambique and one day I woke up early and went into the Park on my own. Driving my car with my window down and my music up is one of my favorite, most relaxing things to do. And when I go into the Park I can have alone time and yet see giraffes or elephants crossing the road or a lion in the distance. It’s pretty fantastic. The only downside is taking pictures of myself is a little weird and awkward, but somehow I managed.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Outreach '09 Part Two

I don’t honestly know what I expected Uganda to be like. Every African country I’ve been to so far has had it’s own unique atmosphere and flavor. Mozambique is very Latin. South Africa has a very strong European influence that is especially evident in the cities. One of my first thoughts on the long drive from Kampala to Jinja was how very African Uganda seemed. Even at midnight, the streets were bustling with bicycles, motorbikes, and taxis and the beat of a thousand radios was the city’s lullaby.
From Blogger Pictures

Physically, this wasn’t an easy outreach. Unless we went to down and found a western restaurant all we ate was Ugandan food, which meant that for breakfast we had two dry rolls and sweet, milk tea and lunch and dinner usually consisted of rice, beans, and grisly meat. Oh, and possibly Matoki which was a very popular mashed green banana, but not sweet at all. The mosquitoes were vicious and the humidity unrelenting. Also, they have this red dirt that stained everything. Your clothes, feet, skin, shoes, sheets. Everything. At the beginning of the trip we walked everywhere and dehydration was a problem.
From Blogger Pictures

That all makes it sound like a miserable trip, but in reality it was the best outreach I’ve ever been on. Yes, there were tough situations, but everyone on the team handled them beautifully and without complaint [or at least not too many complaints!]. We spent most of the outreach working with a YWAM ministry called Orphans Know More. Their goal is to place orphans in family situations, rather than institutions. We would visit a family every day and some of these homes had almost twenty children. We never quite knew what we would be doing exactly, but for the most part we would play games, do bible studies, crafts, and pray for the family.
From Blogger Pictures

Jinja is located just on the edge of Lake Victoria and right near the source of the Nile. Unfortunately, you can’t swim in either as there is some kind of deadly bacteria in the water, but just being able to float down the Nile was amazing.

You’ll be hearing more stories from Uganda in the near future! At the moment, I am on vacation and enjoying relaxing and taking it easy before I start back into the regular swing of things.