Monday, August 15, 2016


Early last week we marked a month back on the ground at our home in central Uganda. The process as a whole has proved relatively seamless. Except that it seems like we've actually been here for months already!!!

Navigating traffic on our way to Entebbe recently. Gotta love the free-for-all driving style!!!!
We fluidly jumped midstream into a swiftly advancing school year and active community as we greeted friend after friend and children dear to our hearts. Less than four days following the opening of our front door, plastered with welcome back signs, we celebrated our annual New Hope Uganda Thanksgiving service with hundreds in attendance. Indeed, we are thankful.

Even the unpacking of our guest room where we had stored various items, combined with the emptying of our trunks and suitcases took only a couple of days. Apparently, we have finally become adept at this transcontinental shuffle. Miracles abound.

But, so what! Are we settled? 

Answering requires deeper examination. 

It is difficult to fathom that is has been about five weeks since placing our feet firmly again on Ugandan soil. Our activities have already been enough for five months as, among others, we helped ready and take Nabukeera to her apartment near her new university which she will call home for the next three years. When we were still stateside we encouraged her regarding her need to search for and secure a room for rent before we arrived back. Last Tuesday we loaded up all the furniture she recently accumulated and the rest of her belongings and moved them and her into the newly found 10x10 space—AFTER we thoroughly cleaned it out because the landlady, knowing she was to arrive, still hadn’t lifted a finger to dust a cobweb, clean the bathroom or empty the storage area of a bazillion spider and roach squatters or old tires, suitcases, broken shoes, open paint cans, tools and abandoned motorcycle parts. Two hours later we took her 5 km further down the road in Entebbe for some KFC lunch. Thankfully, she is now settled. But, are we?
Nabukeera on the day we loaded up her things and headed off to Entebbe
Sam’s birthday was last Monday. We attempted to shower him with the traditional New Hope dousing, but he cleverly begged the kids to let him change his school uniform first. Against my urging to ignore the uniform change request they allowed him to enter his bedroom where he quickly locked the door and proceeded to take a nap. Mr. Clever avoided the soaking tradition this birthday go-round. I promised him that next year we will throw water on him fully dressed! We had started the morning early by decorating the house with special lights, singing Happy Birthday and sending him off to school (and an exam—bummer on your birthday!) In the afternoon I spent most of my time preparing his favorite chicken pot pie and preferred lemon cake. He was all smiles and joy as we sang to him, ate cake and opened presents. This past weekend we went to Entebbe to enjoy some time out and to treat him to a movie.
Nabukeera joined us for lunch and the movie last Sunday while we were in Entebbe for Sam's birthday!
overlooking the botanical gardens while we waited for the movie start time to arrive
We are ecstatic to be back together again after six months separated by oceans. There is noticeable deeper relationship between us all. It’s the little things—he speaks up when he talks with us instead of mumbling as he has done so often in the past. He checks the chores rota for his part of the family responsibilities and completes them before school instead of floating out the door as an adrift island. He arrives home on time—boom, almost to the second—instead of ignoring family organizational structure by strutting in whenever. At the end of his birthday I expressed my sadness that his biologic parents couldn’t be here with him, but thankfulness that we have the privilege to parent him. He smiled and and said, “yeah.” He seems settled. But, are we?
We loved celebrating Sam's life!!!
Already in our short time back, we have ferried Toby back and forth to Kampala twice to spend a few days with his friend Joel Brown whose father helps run the Investment Year program piece from town. Toby has most definitely not settled yet and these visits have helped smooth some of the rough edges of him not even wanting to fit into a circled hole when he feels like a square peg. Joel’s family arrived in Uganda in 2006 within two weeks of us and though their friendship has waxed and waned over the years, it seems they are again picking up ties that bind those who navigate the challenges of two worlds. Toby is not yet settled and truthfully neither are we. 
Britton and Brown kids together again!
A lunch feast along with a little card playing 

I have picked up again with the young ladies that I mentor and Geoff has also begun to meet with the young men whom he mentors. Many evenings are spent hosting others for dinner or being hosted. We’ve celebrated staff birthdays and hosted department fellowships. We’ve begun a new year of homeschooling, launched 14 of our young adults into the next stage of their lives and have already navigated some big job position changes—Geoff and Uncle Mulu stepped in to share the responsibilities of overseeing the ChildCare Department when the previous head needed to step down. We’ve welcomed new babies to the community and are gearing up for weddings in the next few weeks.
Geoff entertains sweet little ones who came to celebrate staff member Kate Tolhurst's 40th!
Kate, Reuben and Mary Tolhurst on Kate's 40th
Kanakulya (L) shares his gratefulness to New Hope for shepherding him through his schooling and spiritual growth over the past ten years. He frequently had us filled with laughter as he told stories of his time here in school and in relationship with teachers, mentors, staff and other students. He recently graduated in clinical medicine and already is working in Kampala. 

David Family launched Mabel, Agnes, Kiweewa and Justine. Here we are with those four plus Kakande and Uncle Clive.

Amidst all the activity there remains a peace that we are where God has ordained for us to be at this moment in history. But, are we settled?

Is a journey without ripples possible? in many ways an emphatic, no. At the very heart of our existence is relationship. And regardless of the continent, we miss loved ones. Never able again to be fully at home in the states since we began ten years ago to find God’s place for us among the people of central Uganda, we still find ourselves missing U.S. family when in Africa and missing Ugandan family when in the U.S. 
My sister Amy with Kevin and me during our last weekend in the states

However, is there any common denominator to be found, any true peace to be had? Relationally, yes—but, for Christians only. 

A vibrant, thriving relationship with Father God and His Son, Jesus, is the ONLY relationship available everywhere in this vast world, admittedly made smaller with airline travel and communication technology, but still not close enough for real human intimacy. God alone fulfills us. As long as you permit me to loosely paraphrase C.S. Lewis, let me offer his thoughts that the very existence of our longings that can’t be filled by this world proves we belong to another world. And might I add that only our current and active connection to the world in which we truly belong is the Author Who cultivates within us a living relationship with Himself thereby offering real fulfillment.

So, settling has more to do with our God inside us working out toward the world around us than the environment which surrounds us working anything in us of fulfilled longing. Is it a statement then against us that I say we are not settled? Perhaps, but we are on a journey and though our relationship with our Father God ultimately fills and saves us we still are a work in progress. And often this work is painful.  

“Be content with what you have, for He has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?’”  (Hebrews 13:5-6) And this man he speaks of includes ME. When I long for something other than what I have am I not settled? It is true that when I am in Uganda, when I am in the U.S. and anywhere in between God is with me. He is my helper and my remembrance of His constant presence crushes fear. 

But sometimes I let my mind wander to places that stir fear. What if I don’t have anything to say to the one who comes to me for mentoring? What if I say the wrong thing? What if I fail my kids in their homeschooling? What if I offend someone culturally and it pushes them away from God? What if God has something for me to do and I’m not hearing His direction? What if God moves us away from Uganda—will I be ready to go? What if we’re to stay here FOR-E-VER — will I always be willing to stay? This is just a small representation of the things that run through my mind in a day. These things come when I allow myself to believe that I must always be ON. They come when I fail to remember that God is God and I am not.

When I find myself too often churning “what if” thoughts, one of the passages I challenge myself with is I Peter 5:6-10, “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.”

I think it is fair to say that living in this imperfect world is suffering. And also fair to say that this suffering, whatever shape it takes, moulds and changes us—we become either closer to or farther away from our Creator. 

So, when I say we are not yet settled it is because we are in process of moving ever closer to the One who is our ultimate lover. As He works in me I become able to “settle” though things around me are imperfect and not yet complete. The results of my mentoring others? Will I ever fully know how I’ve done? No. But, I can be settled knowing He is establishing and strengthening me along with them as we walk together.
praying a blessing over the young people during the launch service

I live in this imperfect world, but I am settled within its imperfection because God never leaves me and has called me to “His eternal glory by Christ Jesus.” This side of Heaven is not eternity—Thank God! But He is this side of Heaven and He is grace, strength, security and settling.

So, are we settled? Yes and No. Is that unsettling? I aim to keep an active hunger for the next world as I maintain connection to Him, ultimately looking forward to being forever in the next.
Acacia and Kambo with her new goat, Mohi. Mohi is the granddaughter goat of our beloved Holy who died just a couple of weeks before we arrived back in Uganda. Mohi came from Kambo's flock.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

My Journey from Point A to Point B Was Not a Straight Line

I got the call around 7 a.m. when I was not yet fully ready for the day. Yeah, I’d been up since 5 a.m., but basic daily hygiene had not yet happened. 

“Now? Today? Ok, I am on my way. How long do you think she has?”
“Twenty minutes.”

Hmmm, not enough time for a shower. Priorities. Brush the teeth and put on something decent for village public.

I made it to the front gate within 10 minutes, but instead of heading on out the gate and down the road I stopped when I saw Medi walking from the main road toward me. I was confused. 

I stuck my head and my arm out of the van window and gestured, “Whaaaat?” 

“She decided she’s not ready yet.”

I gave him a quick tutorial in the progression of labor pains and how to know when to call me again. I emphasized that this is her 5th pregnancy and she could quickly progress. That coupled with her tendency to wait until the very last moment before heading to the hospital could mean I might have to deliver a baby in the van. Not planning on doing that today. (The first time I ever transported Medi and his wife to the hospital for delivery was about eight years ago and she had a brand new baby girl within 20 minutes of our arrival to the maternity ward.) 

We parted and I returned home to shower and to begin working on school with the kids. I only had time to shower before he called, “We’re ready now.” Off I went.

From home to the hospital was a straight shot. I pulled directly in front of labor and delivery and walked with them into the labor “suite” in time to hear the nurse announce that because they hadn’t brought their own Kavera (large garbage bag) that they would have to pay 3000 shillings. She spread it out on the bed and Joyce prepared to climb up for examination. 

Medi suggested I leave, with comments regarding something about a mazungu’s (white person’s) presence being a detriment to smooth interaction with the nurses.

Happy to be already heading back home and potentially able to accomplish much for the kids’ school I left with a smile. 

My first detour was just a few feet past the exit gate when I saw off to the left a wave and a holler in my direction from inside the hospital fence. My friend Florence lit up excitedly as I stopped and we did our best to catch up on the past few months while my van boldly blocked the small dirt road leading from the hospital to the village center. Aaahhh, what a joy to see long time friends again!

With the van moving again toward point B I dodged potholes and maneuvered away from loose rock contemplating whether or not to stop to buy some local bread. While pausing to check my empty wallet a shadow filled the drivers’ side window and I startled to find the smiling face of another long time friend and former co-worker. We spent a few minutes sharing news and tidbits of our families before moving on. 

It seemed I now might make a sure straight shot home. Nope. I noticed one of our young adults walking to work at our Musana FM radio station. I offered a ride and made a U-turn back to the radio.

Another U-turn sent me homeward, but only a 1/4 km up the road I saw the woman who gardens next to our plot coming from her land. I hadn’t yet seen her since we returned from the states and a quick visit was in order.

As she and I finished speaking a pedestrian passed by—I had driven past him no less than four times already that hour and we laughed that I surely could have given him a ride at some point during my journeys.

Moving again I miraculously clipped off most of the balance of the winding road to New Hope before I came upon one of our girls who grew up with us, taught for our primary school for awhile and was now on her own in Kampala. Her sweet demeanor encouraged me to not worry about time or agenda, but just enjoy those God puts in my path.

Finally arriving at the main entrance I informed the watchman that I had taken Medi and Joyce to the hospital and told him there would soon be a new baby to rejoice over. I then proceeded past the gate.

Not even two minutes from my front door,  I still wasn’t home without one more stop. Rounding the corner toward my driveway I glimpsed a big smile and hands full of builder’s tools slowing to greet me. It was our dear Kambo heading to a job for the day. Every encounter with Kambo brings a smile and I didn’t want to miss receiving such so we talked for a few minutes.

Thinking I was now assured of completing my trek to point B, I rolled forward only to be flagged down by Kakande who wanted to know if I was going to take him somewhere. Honestly, I was tempted by his oversized, expectant smile, but no. It was home for me.

I love that it is pretty much NEVER a straight shot from point A to point B in our beautiful village community.
Thanks for reading, Mary

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

One Minute Off and Other Firsts

We’ve just finished what many along the way have termed the “road trip of a lifetime.”
Most said such because of the historical sites we were privileged to see. Some who called it that were rangers working for the National Park Service, which celebrates its 100th birthday this year and hosts millions annually to famous sites where America’s future was shaped. To stand with my children on Jamestown soil, in numerous battlefields of the revolutionary and civil wars, on the floors of today’s house of representatives and of Independence Hall where the paths to our freedom have been discussed, debated and decided, and to tour the capitol of our nation, brought our studies of American history to life. We were moved, amazed, awed and impacted together.

Yet, friends and family members brought even deeper enjoyment to our three week journey.

It was a journey of firsts! First time for the kids and Geoff to meet some of my relatives; for the kids and I to meet some of Geoff’s relatives; to see my College friends Geoff and the kids hadn’t known; be with former New Hope missionaries we’d never seen in their homes this side of the globe and to experience together 24 states in this great union.

Thank you to those who have continued to support us while we’ve been stateside. Your faithfulness to us through prayer and finances enabled us to take this social, historical and educational tour!!!!

We ended our longest road trip to date on Sunday and as we set off from Illinois headed to Denver, Geoff predicted we’d arrive at his parents home at 8:15 p.m. There were times during road work delays and thunderstorms that we all wondered if his time would hold true, but we entered the driveway at 8:16 p.m. He called the arrival time of a 16-hour road trip only one minute off from the actual! I think he's superman!

We realized our kids had NEVER had bubblegum! We remedied that on this trip!

Visiting with the Mitchell's in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. Sweet!!!

We went a little bit off the main trail and spent an evening with cousins I hadn't seen for a bazillion years. We thoroughly enjoyed our time with them and they certainly know how to host!

We all signed a piece of the copper that will be applied to the USS Constitution as it is refitted during its current dry dock session in Boston, MA. The kids were enthralled at the USS Constitution Museum and the ship itself.

Making our way towards Lexington and Concord we were pleasantly surprised to find Louis May Alcott's Orchard Home in Massachusetts.

You know you're getting old when you're nephew and his family take you out to dinner and not only pay for it, but also treat you with specialty coffees and other gifts to take back with you to Africa!!! I am so proud of Seth and his wife Delilah and their son Judah. I praise God for His work in their life.

Acacia and I pose with our ancestor's statue in Haverhill, MA. Story goes that she took matters and a hatchet into her own hands and gave her captors a dose of their own medicine when she scalped them. Don't mess with the women in our family!

Geoff gets his inner gangsta on at Faneuil Hall in Boston during some African American street performers' antics. He was chosen to be a part of the program complete with dancing and lots of humor at the "rich white man's" expense.

Toby was sincerely loved on and treasured by Sonya Hoover. It was fun to watch her follow him around.

The Britthoo school members revisited! Being with the Hoover's in PA was therapy.

The boys car was full of fun on the way to the Hershey Chocolate Tour!
Our Sunday dinner with the Hoover family was a Rolex fest in which everyone played a part and we all ate well. Geoff and Saraiah put together the Rolex's, while Sheldon fried the eggs, Acacia and Hosanna rolled out the chapatis for Toby and Hadassah to fry while Kevin, Mindi and I cut veggies. Yum.
Hosanna and Acacia rolled out the Chapatis for our Sunday dinner.
Creek Stomping in PA with the Hoovers kept the kids smiling for a LONG time!
Hoover and Britton family kids at the Hershey Tour
Toby and Acacia driving the boat on the Duck Tour in Boston

Everybody pose before we take the Duck plunge! It was a great tour of Boston!

Selfie with "Josiah Quincy" our tour guide on the Freedom Trail in Boston. I highly recommend taking one of these walking tours. He shared so much history and did it in an interactive format.

At Independence Hall in Philadelphia. George Washington's chair is in the far right of the picture. The chair of the "Rising Sun" so called by Benjamin Franklin for the sun rising on our freedoms.

In Washington DC we walked!!!!!!!! Literally between 8 and 10 miles one day! And while our feet were overwhelmed with ache, our hearts and minds were taken with the sacrifices made on behalf of our lives and freedom.

Geoff, his cousins and aunt in Fredericksburg, VA. They were sweet hosts and it was great to catch up.

Our favorite pose--the selfie! In Washington DC near the Washington monument.

And . . . a selfie at the White House. This is as close as they were letting anyone get on the day we were there.

The boys investigate one of the Yorktown, VA battlefields. The site of a decisive battle in the Revolutionary War.

The Liberty Bell was an inspiration to us all.

Toby was  so excited (as you can see) for this Lincoln Memorial selfie.

Silence at the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  We were in awe.

The chamber in the capitol building where early congress debated and decided our futures. The book on the desk signifies Charles Sumner's position in the room. We have never forgotten his story from our studies. Sometimes the debate on slavery became so heated that violence broke out. It deeply impacted us knowing that he was beaten so badly as he defended abolition that he was debilitated for four years.

The kids at the desk of one of our Colorado Representatives.

Acacia in front of the words for the Gettysburg Address which she memorized three years ago.

The Washington Mall was a fun walk!

We connected with my YWAM Switzerland roommate, Elizabeth, and her husband in Alexandria, VA. She and I found a lot of common ground as we discussed the happenings of the years we've spent apart. Neither one of us felt very good the night we visited, but it didn't matter--we loved catching up!

A peculiar road side site in the Montgomery, AL area.

Feeding the ducks and turtles at Linda and Jan's was a favorite activity.

At Martin Luther King Jr.'s Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. Wanda gave us a tremendous tour and we loved being with Jan and Linda as were heard about the triumphs of the civil rights movement.

It was moving to seeing this original Confederate Flag in Montgomery, AL, at the First White House of the Confederacy.

Uncle Jan brought us teriyaki grasshoppers from Japan!

The Triggs. Loved seeing my dear Pepperdine friend and her family in SC!

In the cockpit of the C130. Our private tour was beyond our wildest imaginations! Thanks Uncle Jan!

In Alabama we ATE and ATE and ATE and it was Good! Linda is a wonderful sister and fantastic cook!

Love the bathroom sign at the BBQ restaurant!

Yup. He wore this shirt on purpose for eating BBQ!!!!

Posing with the staff at Champ's BBQ

Uh, Oh! somebody is in trouble in the south!

With my childhood friend, Mark Crawford, and his family in Nashville, TN, who fed us well and treated us to an enjoyable evening.

Checking Kevin's bullseye

Geocaching! it made the road trip an adventure.

We are now in the throes of the final couple of weeks of our stay stateside. It has been rich and full. We fly on July 5th and will sleep in our home in Uganda on the 7th.