Friday, December 26, 2014

An Inconvenient Christmas

Jingle bells
My fridge smells
Power’s out all day
Oh I wish I had a fan to blow my cares away…

A week ago Wednesday we came back in to Bundibugyo from a particularly tiring supply trip to Kampala.  We arrived weary to a dark house and a warm fridge, with a cooler full of food for the next couple months (and Christmas).  Today, over a week later the generator runs as we try again to get our fridge and freezer to reasonable temperatures as we battle with inconsistent power.  I am thankful for our mission generator and thankful for Josh who gets the gas and goes to get the machine multiple times a day, wheeling the heavy thing over to our house when it is our turn. But it's very inconvenient.  Christmas morning the generator wouldn’t start on as our freshly killed brining turkey was trying to stay cool. The blood pressure was rising with the temp in the fridge. But Josh got it going again.  This morning the fridge was just too warm and we had to throw out our left over bacon from yesterday and the milk was sour.

I have a basin of 90% dry clothes that I washed a couple days ago.  I have hung them out and taken them in 4 times now.  A haze has been hanging over Bundibugyo this past week.  Nothing is drying.  Inconvenient.

One of my prayers at the beginning to the advent season was to be awakened and stirred.  To be moved once again by wonder of Christ’s coming.  But the stirring wasn’t so wondrous, mostly inner turmoil of annoyance at my inconvenience.  Seeing my sin of self-centeredness that so quickly becomes apparent when things don’t go my way.  I want to question God, and demand things of Him.  Annoyance revealing I have forgotten His good gifts.   

Then I got to thinking about Mary, nine months pregnant, having to travel, in the dust, in the hot, uncomfortable.  What terrible timing for a census.  That’s inconvenient.  They couldn’t arrange for a place to stay.  They get to Bethlehem and it looks like every place is taken.  That’s inconvenient.  Mary goes into labor, away from home, away from her mother, away from anyone she knows but her fiancĂ© (that would be a little awkward too).  There wasn’t even a bed to put her baby in when he was born. That’s inconvenient.  

As I read again the scriptures it says that these “inconveniences” were God’s method of fulfilling prophesy.  God planned on using these events.  It is unclear how much the young parents struggled with the inconveniences or even if they understood all that, but we get a little glimpse at Mary’s response in Luke 2:19 “But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.”  The “all these things” of course includes the visit of the shepherds who had seen angles, but what about all the other things, all the challenges she just faced?  Did she treasured them too?  

As she held little Immanuel, God was with her, quite literally.  How could she not treasure these moments?  Believing what the angle had told her, that God took pleasure in her.  Loved her, had given her a gift.  The inconveniences never took away that gift.  Maybe they even encouraged her to hold Him a little tighter.

I know the savior is offering me that sweet gift too, in the midst of my cares.  I want them to blow away, but He wants to walk with me, through the inconveniences.  He offers the gift of joy in knowing that God delights in me.  He can delight in me because of the baby born to take my discomfort upon himself, that I might have eternal comfort with Him and the Father.  That is truly wondrous and truly to be treasured! I am thankful for the wonder restored.  And thankful for His choice to come and live that first inconvenient Christmas, that I might have the convenience of His presence with me always!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014


Usually this term refers a women's work, but making our house a home has definitely been a team Dickenson project!   A few posts back you got to see where we started, with no electricity, no working water inside the house and some crazy wall paint.  Transformation has definitely taken place!

Josh has coordinated and overseen the installation of electricity, plumbed a new toilet, 2 sinks, and the shower, tiled our shower area, and installed our sink and washing machine (yay for no more hand washing!) and so much more.  I have painted almost every square inch of the concrete walls as well as some furniture and doors, designed a few pieces of furniture, scrubbed and cleaned more cockroach poop and lizard skeletons than you would like to know, and scrubbed and cleaned again, hung curtains, and unpacked precious wedding gifts from friends far and wide.  How blessed we are!  So many of you have been a part of that!  Thought you’d like to see how it’s turning out.

Eating area...

... next to the sitting area

Josh, very studious in the office

kitchen with newly painted cupboards inside and out!

bathroom sink

throne room

awesome shower... first time on wall tile for Josh, not to shabby!


had to take a picture of this precious thing

seeds planted in September already flowering!

sunflowers too!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

"Hold On"

“Hold on,” Josh said calmly.  I held my breath as the back end of the car slowly slid off the muddy road into the grassy embankment on the side of the road.    We had been driving since 8 am and the rain was still coming down.  The paved road had been abandoned several hours ago. We had already passed an over turned, over loaded, lorry truck and were feeling a little on edge as we crawled along at 10-20 km/hour. Josh was exhibiting mad mud driving skills as we slipped and slid over the road on the way to Hoima.  A week ago we had received a call from our friend Edward, the headmaster at Christ school, that his 97 year old mother had gone home to Jesus.  This meant we packed our bags and left the next day to travel to his family’s home town for her burial. 

This was my second visit to Edward’s homestead.  I feel very blessed to have met this amazing lady who loved Jesus and loved her family and community.  It was so good to be with Edward, his wife Christine and almost all of their 8 children.  I have never been to such a large burial.  About 4 large white tents packed with hundreds of people trying to avoid the blazing equatorial sun (yes it finally did make an appearance).  Many more loved ones crowded under trees or sat in the sun on matts.  Josh gave a speech, along with many others.  And Mama Edward was laid to rest.  As we gathered around the burial sight I was near the smoking cook fires, with pots the size of kiddie pools full of rice, beans, posho, and beef.  All the guests found a place to sit and ate.  The family served graciously and we at a delicious meal, probably the best beef palau I have eaten in Uganda.  Ugandans have taught me how to morn well.  With your whole heart, out loud, with lots of tears, and a whole community around you. 

Just before dusk we left the family farm and drove back in to the the city center to find a hotel.  After driving around in the dark on such well marked roads, we found a place that was clean and comfortable, except for the mountain pillows (pillowcases stuffed to the max with little foam cubes).  I opted for no pillow.  And we fell into bed.  What a day!

The next morning Josh and I along with teammates Sarah, Pat, and Kym and 2 Ugandan friends thanked the Lord for the sunshine and hit the road to make the 8+ hour trip home to Bundibugyo.  We made great time on the much drier roads.  The windows were down and the warm Ugandan breeze blew in as green rushed by.  Lunch in Fort Portal meant we could eat at a restaurant that serves western food!  We were feeling refreshed and adventurous as we returned to the pavement and headed over the mountains to Bundibugyo on this clear beautiful day.  All those dirt roads must have made Josh nostalgic because he decided we should take the old dirt road over the mountains.  I mean, clearly we need a little more adventure in our lives.  “It’ll be fun” he said, “The views will be amazing” he said, “Sarah has never driven the old road.”  He convinced us!

And it was beautiful…  lush green, jungle vines, waterfalls, towering trees.  We rounded a corner and… stop.  A fallen tree was in the way.  Josh got out to inspect.  Someone had cut a few branches away to pass by on foot.  If only we had a panga.  Then Josh had the grand idea to use his truck to pull the tree out of the way.  After five large branches were cleared and only a few small boulders tumbling down the embankment, we could pass.  We hopped in, rounded the corner and oh man!  Stop again.  Five trees one of which had a diameter of around 2 feet had slid down the mountain right over the road.  If only we had a chainsaw… and a bulldozer. 

Sarah noted there has to be some metaphor to life here.  Just when you are feeling good about the branches you were able to remove by yourself, just when you are feeling like “I got this”…. you round the corner to a tree avalanche.  An absolutely immovable, completely impossible for you to do anything about in your own strength, log heap.  As we turned around and drove back to the new road.  I felt the Spirit kindly speaking, “Yep, there are many more “logs” ahead, but I have plenty of chainsaws.”  Through Me you have access to all the power you need for the road to which I have called you.  And if you wander on the wrong one, I can turn you back around.  I am so thankful for His leading, for the adventure… and for gentle humbling.  AND glad to be on the road that would finally taking us back home to Bundibugyo. 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

One year!

I woke up around five am yesterday, September 27th, thanks to the horn of the Kalita bus announcing it's eminent departure.  The power had been out all night.  I was hot and there was no sound of the fan to drown out the outside noises.  By the time the call the prayer came I decided to just get up.  

I woke up early last year on this day too, with a nervous, excited churning in my stomach...  I was getting married that day!  It is hard to believe that was a year ago.  What a year it has been!  We have lived in 3 different houses, been on the ground in 11 states, 4 countries, been on 12 planes, spent the night in 24 different locations (that I can remember) and driven over 15,000 miles, an adventure for sure.  I am overwhelmed by the blessing of having a partner in all these travels.  Yesterday we celebrated by taking another adventure.

When the road was paved the old pass up and over the mountain was abandoned for a more level option.  We love the ease and seed of the new paved road, but miss the beautiful view of the Semliki valley stretching to the Semliki river into the DR Congo.  We decided to take a picnic and drive up the "old road" to one of the beautiful look outs...

Loving the paved road!

Taking the road less traveled... into the jungle. 

First stop... first switch back with a great view of the steaming hot springs.

A few switch backs up the mountain and another great view, a good place to park.  No cars yet to be seen. 

Anniversary selfie
Lunch with a view...

... and handsome husband.

Semliki River and Mountains in the DRCongo... I don't think I have ever seen it this clear!

Wild Life...
Red tail monkey sightings.

Didn't have the presence of mind to take a picture of the giant forest cobra I saw
slithering/leaping from the road... gross! I screamed,  but you probably don't was to see that anyway.

Grasshopper doing the splits on our windshield for oh, maybe 45minutes.

No fancy restaurants, so candlelit enchiladas and passion fruit G&Ts will have to do :)

Thankful for a special day, a great year, and an amazing husband!  Can't wait to see what the future holds!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Slowly by Slowly, Transformation Comes

One of our primary tasks getting resettled into Bundibugyo is to rehabilitate our future home on the mission.  It's a home that's not been lived in by a family for a long time and most recently was used as a school for the children on the mission.  When we arrived, there was no power, no running water and the walls were painted the deep purple and bright teal of a fun elementary school.
Here's the main living area before (wow those are bright colors!)
Here's the old shower room

And here's the shower room in progress - painted and primed walls with a new sink and shower outlet

Here's the paint master at her work

BECS (The power coop) came and installed power by hand. It took three and a half weeks from payment to working power.

By hand.

I had to do a little tree trimming for the power lines.

Working with some guys to rework the shower soak pit outside the house.

My friend Kiiza doing his best to repair a REALLY OLD metal water tank.  The verdict is still out on whether or not we will be able to repair it.
Both Anna and I are really eager to be in our house so that we can spend more time in in the community learning language and preparing for transitioning into working on the community water systems (Josh) and working with local, marginalized women (Anna).  We have completed about 60-70% of the work that needs to be done before we can move in, so please keep praying for endurance for long and tiring days and for often not having the right tools to complete the job.

Saturday, August 09, 2014

The Last Leg

It is hard to believe that we are finally back!  And boy did we hit the ground running.  We have been greeting our friends, moving around Nyahuka and working on our future house all week.  (More to come on that soon.)  I had written this list of memorable moments from our drive  from Kampala to Bundibugyo several days ago (the last leg of our long journey from Jacksonville to Nyahuka).  But I haven’t had the time, electricity, and internet connection simultaneously to post it.  Sorry for the delay and here it is…
  • Waking up on Saturday to the car already packed with ALL our bags (they all arrived in time). What a great husband I have.
  •  Pavement… yes ALL THE WAY to Nyahuka, Bundibugyo.  Making a once 8-9 hour trip 7 hours!
  • A flock of mongoose crossing the road.  Or is it mongeese? Come to think of it, what do you call a group of mongoose (mongeese) moving together? a Gaggle… a pod… a pack?  Anyway, it was pretty cool to see them all crossing the road.
  • Almost hitting a cow.  No really, we almost hit him.
  • Great signs like “New life butchery”.  Is this proof that animals go to heaven?
  • Beautiful canopy trees, and picking out the ones we want to plant in our yard.
  • Mubende.  A small town we pass through that is rightfully nick-named the “in your face chicken place”  Uganda’s only drive through (that I know of) where vendors swamp your car and shove their goods in your cracked window.  But I have to say their chicken on a stick is delicious!  And the roasted bananas were wonderful too.

  • Buying my favorite variety of mango on the side of the road.  A shopping bag full for less than a dollar!
  • Colobus monkey sightings.
  • The amazing view coming around the Rwenzori mountains with a storm coming in.

  • Seeing Bundibugyo from a new perspective.  As happy as I am that the bumpy dirt road is paved.  I thought I would really miss the romantic nature of driving through the bushy jungle to get to our village.  I was sad that more trees would be cut to widen the one lane dirt road.  I couldn’t image how much more of Bundibugyo could be seen with trees removed and the road leveled in parts.   This place is beautiful.  It took my breath away.
  • Being greeted and warmly welcomed by our team and Ugandan neighbors in the exact spot Josh and I met almost 3 years ago.

It’s good to be home!  Thanks to everyone who prayed us here!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

"We have reached"

... as they say in Uganda.   Never have I been so happy to land!  I have been taking some medicine that has been upsetting my stomach, throw in a little anxiety and motion sickness and it is not a pretty picture.  When they added an hour detour to our 8.5 hour flight to go around a massive storm, I wasn't sure I was going to make it. Discouraged and miserable, I looked out the plane window at flashes lighting up the billowing clouds beside us.  It was pretty awe inspiring,  and I immediately felt the presence of the Holy Spirit, assuring me that the all powerful creator was carrying us through.  Thank you for praying for His presence.  

Loving parents sending us off

a ton of luggage... 3 bags didn't make it, pray they arrive by Friday so we can take them to Bundibugyo with us!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Samaritan Missionary

As a missionary, I am in constant wonder that God chooses us to be the vessels by which His Kingdom is proclaimed and through which His Kingdom advances. I once heard a story in a sermon that likened our participation in ministry to a child helping his father pump gas at the gas station.  The father certainly doesn’t need the child to help accomplish the task of fueling up, but the participation is essential to deepening the child’s relationship with his father. In this same way, God certainly has many options at His disposal for proclaiming His Glory and His Kingdom, but – mystery upon mystery – He chooses our participation.

This past Sunday, I was asked to preach at Christ Community Church, in Gainesville, FL.  When Rob Pendley (the senior pastor) first asked me to preach, a million excuses popped into mind about why I would rather not.  But being asked to do things that are uncomfortable and unexpected for the sake of the Gospel has probably been the most reliable constant since I moved to Uganda in 2011.

As I prepared for the sermon on John 4, I found myself identifying more and more with the woman by the well. Ill equipped. Broken past. A poor candidate to carry the Gospel.  Yet, I had had this encounter with Christ, just as she did. And it completely changed my life.

Here’s a link to the sermon on the CCC website:
(Click on “Launch Sermon Player” at the bottom of the page – you can either listen to the sermon in the player or select download audio to download a MP3 to your computer)

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us – 2 Cor 4:7

Thursday, January 30, 2014

A Joyful Reunion

Oftentimes on the mission field there are many new hellos as well as a lot of goodbyes.  We are transient. And we find that over time we begin to measure our friendships in thousands of miles instead of just a few.  We find that when we are in Africa, we dearly miss our friends in the US; and that when we are in the US, we dearly miss our friends in Africa.  This past weekend was one of those rare oasis moments where our African friendships and US lives overlapped in a beautiful and refreshing way.

Last Friday, Anna and I hopped in the car and drove to visit the Johnsons and Ann in western NC for a mini Bundibugyo team reunion.  The Johnsons have relocated back to the US and Ann was visiting on HMA (Home Mission Assignment).  Travis and I spend the afternoon building an IKEA bed for Aidan, while Anna visited the kids at school with Amy.  Ann came over for a yummy chili dinner and we stayed up late playing games and talking.  All very normal things. But so refreshing when so often our life feels transient and not normal.


The next day we headed out to a state park to see the partially frozen waterfalls that we had heard about.


(I tried to convince Aidan to give me a piggy back ride up to the top)


(the partially frozen river was so beautiful…and so cold!)


(ice on the trail is just a new kind of slide)


We loved the day, we loved the hike, we loved the hot-chocolate, and we loved the deep fellowship with good friends.  We are thankful to God for this time.

Monday, January 20, 2014

On Sabbath and traffic tickets

My stomach lurched when I saw the blue lights in the rear view mirror.  It continued to sink as the siren flicked and I pulled over.  I wasn’t sure the reason, but the officer quickly informed me that I had not completely stopped at the stop sign a while back.  But something was different.  My heart wasn’t following my stomach in this downward spiral.  Usually at this moment I’d be on the brink of tears, flustered, with all kinds of worries.  I sat there while the police officer made his verdict in the car behind with an overwhelming feeling that it would be OK.  I was hoping that he would let me go with a warning, but even when he brought back the ticket with a hefty fine I felt a certain kind of peace.  I was bummed for sure about the amount of money I have to fork over, but I didn’t cry or try to defend myself.  I couldn’t even think of any questions to ask.  Strange!  As I reflect on the event, it’s as if I hear the voice of my Father in heaven saying, “I’ve got you, I’ll provide what you need, You have a perfect record in my book.”  But why was it so loud and clear this time?

Josh and I have been reading a book called Keeping the Sabbath Wholly by Marva Dawn.  We have been reading about all the things we are to cease from on Sabbath.  Two weeks about we read about ceasing anxiety, worry, and tension.  This past week we were reminded to cease our trying to be God.  During the week we are going to have worries and cares, things to think on, hard work to do.  Dawn makes the point that when we take a day to lay aside our troubles we are better able to do this in the week.  It’s like Sunday is a day to practice without so many distractions.  Sunday is a day to cease providing for ourselves and trusting God to take care of us even if we can’t “get it all done.”  We acknowledge that He is God on Sunday, we thank and worship Him for taking care of us,  and our hearts are more equip to do this throughout the week.  It hit me!  That’s what was happening in my heart!  Just two days ago I was practicing, I was taking time to surrender control of our schedule, our time in the US, our funds for return to Uganda, our relationships with friends and family.  I was encouraged as I took time to remember and be thankful for His working in our lives and faithfulness to provide for us up to now.   When I got pulled over and things seemed out of control, the Spirit helped me surrender this too!  The thankfulness was fresh.  Memories of his faithfulness were fuel for the Spirit.

I am also happy to report that God has provided an attorney at our church to represent me.  He IS looking out for me!  My heart is full of thankfulness again.  Grateful for provision in this matter and grateful for Christ whose perfect record I have.  Grateful to be loved by such a gracious God.  Grateful for his Spirit who reminds me of this truth over and over.

Monday, January 06, 2014

On the road... AGAIN?!

In 3 months of marriage Josh and I have put about 5,000 miles on our car!  Our first trip was to Gainesville, FL to attend a missions conference at one of Josh’s sending churches.  I remember thinking, “Yes! A road trip!”  The 7.5 hour drive to Jacksonville for the first leg was a breeze!  The roads were SO smooth, traffic was SO organized and we there were SO many choices for lunch stops and clean bathrooms along the way… Yay America!

When we got into the car to make our SECOND trip to Philapelphia, I was less than thrilled.  We were however armed with snacks, sandwiches, and The Fellowship of the Ring audio book.  Had we been the seasoned road warriors we thought we were, we would have also checked the weather report before we left.  While the miles ahead of us did not excite, I was looking forward to the week at World Harvest.  After interviews we hoped to be reappointed to return to Uganda as a couple.

The trip was smooth until we hit Richmond VA.  The snow was coming down, but the salt was doing it’s thing and we pressed on.  Snow was falling heavily as we neared DC.  Apparently this had been going on for quite some time, evidenced by abandoned cars facing strange directions on the shoulder and in ditches.   At this point we were considering alternate options and came pretty close to calling my sister Rachel to see if we could ride out the storm at her place in DC.  But with our optimism and Josh’s steady, determined driving we decided to continue.

As we entered Maryland, snowy precipitation continued to fall.  The windshield wipers starting to complain about being made to work under the extra weight of accumulating ice.  We rejoiced as we entered the tunnel taking us under Baltimore’s harbor.  Somehow being under all that water was not as alarming as the roads covered with the slippery winter mix.  I always cringe at the high toll prices going through Maryland.  On this day of travel we got our monies worth!  You couldn’t drive 10 miles without passing a snow plow faithfully driving the snow off the roads and scattering salt.  Josh and I marveled at the fact that we could actually continue in this frosty mess, comfortably in our little heated box.  In Uganda people stay home if it rains; it’s just silly to move about.  Perhaps lack of technology has made them wiser… 

We started to make better time, maybe even 40 miles an hour, then the fateful sign “Traffic accident ahead, all traffic lanes blocked”  we slowed to a stop and waited… and waited.  People started to get out of their cars for smoke brakes and chatted with other travelers, pretty much a parking lot.  By this time Josh and I both needed a pit stop and had eaten through most of our snacks.  Hunger pangs were setting in.  Fortunately Maryland toll money seemed to be work its magic, the accident was cleared and road opened again.  The closest service center was closed for remodeling, next stop 20 miles!  Wendys and a busy rest stop were a welcome sight.  I stepped out in my little flats.  Immediately snow went over the side and started melting on my bare feet. (Oh how I wanted to be back at the equator!)  

Recharged by food and encouraged Maryland’s snow removal we decided to try to make it all the way to Philly.  Things continued to go well until we hit the PA border.  There was an immediate change in road conditions.  The roads were heavily covered with snow.  The only “help” was large signs over the road saying, “Warning, dangerous conditions, drive with care.”  One would think this was obvious, yet some lunatics disregarded the signs and pretended that it was like any other night.  I am sure that Josh’s hands were starting to cramp as he gripped the steering wheel a little tighter.  We were so close at this point.  We signed with relief as we drove up to our host’s house and saw the warm glow of her lighted windows.  What a start to the week! 

Our car resting after the journey
While we will most likely never encounter a snow storm in Uganda, this trip seemed to be another preparation for life as missionaries.  You never know what each day will bring.  We were reminded that we are constantly living at the mercy of our Creator.  Life isn’t safe, but our faithful Friend is constantly beside us.  I am happy to announce that our trip was not in vain.  We WERE reappointed to return to Bundibugyo with World Harvest!  This news was all the more sweet as we considered the journey to get to this point.  We are thankful for another chance to trust Him and thankful for the safety He provided with every snow plow and in the absence of them. 

snowy Philadelphia