Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Our 2017 Refuge 127 mission trip

Hey guys!

Thanks for following along on our journey to Africa and welcome to any new readers! My prayer is that I can convey in words, my experiences and my awesome teammate's experiences. I will be posting a series of blogs throughout the next two weeks to keep all our supporters, family and friends informed about our mission and purpose while in Uganda.



Just to step back a bit for any new readers or followers who don't know much about Refuge 127...let me explain a little. Also for more information, you can always visit the refuge 127 website at www.refuge127.org. I currently serve on the Refuge 127 board, as the board vice president, but years before this officially formed non-profit and now years of doing mission work in Uganda, Africa...God connected me and my sister in law Mandy in ways we didn't think were possible.

First, we grew up together as both our father's coached together at EDWhite, we sleep at each other's houses as kids, we went to EDWhite together, we may or may not have partied together and done things we were not supposed to, years later we dated and married the Holloway brothers, and God radically changed our lives. He saved us. She taught me my first bible study. Ya'll I said we didn't always do good things...but then God...God took someone I knew, had a relationship with, to reach me and show me something about God that I didn't know. Since then life hasn't been the same and it has been the best adventure.

As I sit here in Uganda on my first full day of this trip, I am just in awe of the amazing things God has done with Refuge 127 and our awesome team members. Guys when I tell you that God is so mindful of the details and simply only needs willing vessels...I ain't lying!! If he can take two sister in laws (me and Mandy), about 10 plus years ago on the floor of her tiny living room at the time and give us the idea to do Tour of Homes, which would years later ultimately be the first fundraiser for our Uganda mission and birth of the non-profit organization, Refuge 127, he can do it for you!



Last night after we arrived into the Ugandan International airport, which is located in Entebbe, Uganda, we met up with our Uganda family (more about them in future blog post because they are all awesome) and we loaded (oh, I mean stuffed) our 32 suitcases of donations, our carry-ons, backpacks, and ourselves into the vans for about an hour drive to the capital city of Kampala, Uganda to stay the night. On our roller coaster journey, ride of your life, don't know if you will live to see the next morning drive into Kampala (the driving in Uganda is something I have never seen until I first started coming here and I can say that I am happy to only have to experience it once a year....my God!!!), I was talking to my sister in law Mandy, Tee Delatte and Jason Delatte (which it is his first time here) about just being excited to be in Uganda and the initial shock of "oh my goodness we in Africa people!" kind of feeling. He said something that I believe we can all relate to, he said if you would have told me when I first married Tee, "you guys will be doing mission work in Uganda, Africa....I would have never believed you!". But, guys that is what living for God is all about and being a willing vessel! He will open doors you would never believe is possible. He did it for me. He did it for my husband. He did it for my sister in law, Mandy and brother in law, Shay. He did it for Tee and Jason and all the other teammates who have joined us and he can do it for you. No that doesn't mean you are called to Uganda, Africa, but we are all called to be the hands and feet of Jesus.

How can you do that where ever you may be today? 

(This is the bus that held 14 people...on top of all the luggage and look at all that luggage at the top! It seemed as if we were going 100 miles an hour around sharp curves and how we didn't lose any luggage is only a miracle! 


I think about the awesome people who are back home taking care of the team's children, my parents who are taking care of my children, the family and friends who have stood with us in prayer, my employees who hold the fort down every day doing amazing work, the people who have partnered with Refuge by donating their time, resources or money....these are all examples of being the hands and feet of Jesus.

We have so many things in store for this trip and I am happy to share that with you all over the next few weeks. Just to give you a little of an overview, so that you can be in prayer for our team in the next two weeks. We are going to be visiting multiple orphanage sites while we are on the journey. The first site is in the village of Kenkebu and this is the very first site that Shay and Mandy first visited many years ago, prior to Refuge 127 ever starting. The next site that we will be visiting, is in the village of Kachoma, which is the location that Refuge 127 has been involved with since the first time Mandy and Shay came to Uganda, Africa. On Mandy and Shay's first trip to Uganda, they prayed that God would show them the reason why they had come to Uganda. You see back then, Refuge 127 was not formed, it was the first time they stood on African soil, and they were part of a mission team they joined from Indiana for what they knew could be a one time thing. But, they were open. They were ready to hear from God and find their purpose.

Little did they know what God had in store for the future. During that first trip, Mandy and Shay were brought to the village of Kachoma, where the Bishop John Wayabire oversees (Bishop holds many positions, but in a nutshell, he is a cultural leader here in the villages in which we stay, a pastor, and has also started these orphanages). God connected Bishop John Wayabire and Shay in a mighty way over the years, but during that very first trip, they were able to view the property that was purchased in the Kachoma village, which would eventually house an orphanage and school for the orphaned and vulnerable children from that area. When they arrived on the property, all that existed was the shell of 4 buildings with only some basic walls. The bishop showed them the plans for the future site and explained the work that would need to be done in order to have the site up and running properly. After that visit, Mandy continued to pray about her purpose and she recalls God spoke to her loud and clear, "I just showed you!". She knew in that moment of prayer, exactly what the purpose was for her and Shay. The purpose to see this property. See the needs. See how long it had taken Bishop to simply build the shell of just 4 small buildings. She needed to see all of these things with her physical eyes so that her answer to prayer would make sense.


Since that very first trip so many things have happened, well first Mandy and Shay came back to Thibodaux and shared with our family just what God had done for them in Uganda. She knew that our fundraiser, Tour of Homes, was not just for orphaned or vulnerable children in our community, but also for the children of Uganda. Initially, it was a world wind, but things started forming and God started opening doors. Refuge 127 was formed and became an official 501(c) 3 by 2012. Now Mandy and Shay are leading teams to Uganda through the non-profit and we have done some amazing work in the village of Kachoma at the new orphanage site. Over the years through the donations that have come through to Refuge 127, we have seen the completion of 4 school classrooms, furniture for the classrooms, we have purchased 1.5 acres for future farming, built a girls dorm and just added bunk beds so every girl living there has here own bed to sleep in, dug two deep water wells for the orphanage site and also the people of the Kachoma village, and also built complete restrooms (and in case you wondering, basic buildings are not equipped with restrooms necessarily).

The purpose of us providing these facilities is because we want them to ultimately be self-sustainable, have adequate living quarters for children who are orphaned or vulnerable (meaning needy children, children without one of their parents, or without a family who can provide for them), have a place in which they can also attend school, and lastly and most importantly a safe place in which they can hear the gospel of Jesus Christ being taught. We have not completed all the work there, meaning all the facilities on the grounds have not been completed at this point. We currently need to build a boy's dorm because the boys are currently sleeping on the floor of their classrooms. So yes, they go to school there during the day and also sleep there at night. We need to build a common place or multi-purpose building which can be used for various purposes and also can be used as a church on Sundays. We desire to see the land be farmed, so they can reduce cost in food and truly live off of the land. We want them to be trained in Farming God's Way, which is a program to teach them proper farming skills by learning how to farm the way God designed. It's an incredible program and we have been lucky to be connected with some friends who are missionaries to Uganda doing this exact type of work, so we look forward to when we can use their calling. We also desire to build a fence around the property of the site to secure more safety for everyone there. This is just some of the projects that are in the works for Refuge 127.

 If you want to know which way you can help, consider becoming a monthly sponsor through the Refuge 127 website and we can promise you your money will be used directly in Uganda. You can also do one-time donations through the Refuge 127 website also. We currently run a non-profit with very little overhead cost, using the majority of our donations directly on project specific needs. We all have full-time jobs and do this on a volunteer basis, so anytime you are desiring to help please let us know!
www.refuge127.org

More to come!

Vera



Thursday, May 26, 2016

Summer 2016 Bucket List! Fun ideas for your little ones!

At the beginning of each summer, me and my children set out to make a bucket list of activities that we would like to accomplish for the summer! It really gets me excited (probably a little more than them) and it ensures that we have a plan for the summer. I often have great ideas, but if I don't make a solid plan....let's just face it....this Momma won't get it done! So, this is my plan and I wanted to share with you all...Enjoy!


THE GREAT OUTDOORS 
1. Ride bikes and make sure to discover new trails. For an amazing day trip for biking visit the Tammy Trace

2. Discover a new zoo! 

3. Take a nature walk or hike through a state park. 

4. Visit a U-pick farm. This year I will be bringing my kids to a U-pick Blueberry Farm (this is an annual summer tradition for us). Check out the Blue Harvest Farm near Covington, LA. I have visited various U-pick farms throughout Louisiana and here is a list of farms throughout Louisiana

5. Go camping (even if it's in your back yard!) and have a family game night. 

6. Move it Monday! Or actually move it any day! Pick an exercise for you and your kids to do together! (yoga, swimming, biking, backyard races, obstacle course, game of soccer, etc.) 

7. Try Geocaching. If you haven't done this before...give it a try! Download the Geocaching app and beginning exploring your community for hidden treasures. 

EXPLORE YOUR COMMUNITY 
8. Take a road trip for the day! Louisiana has so many great places to discover...do a little planning and surprise your kids with a fun day!  

9. Visit a historical site. This summer I want to explore the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park which is near New Orleans. They have some nature trails that I know my kids would like to explore.

10. Pack a picnic and discover a new place in your community to have a picnic lunch. 
I guess it is time to use those vintage picnic baskets that I have been collecting over the years! 
11. Visit a Spray Park near by! We actually have two spray parks near by....Bayou Black Rec Department just opened up a new spray park and you can find them on facebook! There is also another great spray park in Bayou Vista. These spray parks are both $5 or less to get in and it provides lots of fun for the kids! 

12. Go tubing or canoeing down a Louisiana River. Check out the Tiki Tubing along the Amite River. 

13. Visit a Farmers Market. I love that the city I live in has a farmers market every Saturday morning and we also now have a farmers market every Thursday afternoon. Stopping by the Rienzi Market is definitely worth it! 

14. Visit the State Capitol in Baton Rouge. Did you know that our state capitol is the tallest state capitol building in the United States? Go to the observation deck on the 27th floor and check out the beautiful view. If you are not into historical buildings, but in the Baton Rouge area go and visit Mike the Tiger at LSU! 

15. Take a visit to Laurel Valley in Thibodaux, LA. My kids spend a great deal of time here each summer! My son, Jacques started going to Laurel Valley weekly in the summers when he was just a little boy. One of his favorite things to do was to meet up with "Uncle Danny" (as he would call him...and he still does!) and retrieve eggs. Now Jacques is almost 9 years old and he is still going to retrieve eggs and hang out with "Uncle Danny". They truly have the sweetest people who work and volunteer there...they will make you feel at home! 

16. Visit Insta Gator Ranch & Hatchery in Covington, LA. How about holding a baby gator? Well I know for sure my kids will love this place! During our day trip to the blueberry farm, we will stop at the gator farm also! Its all in the same neck of the woods! 

17. Visit a children's museum. Discover a new children's museum in your community. Louisiana has some great children's museums and one I would like to check out this year is the TREE House Children's Museum in Alexandria, LA. We have a little cabin in Tioga, LA (which is near Alexandria) and when I bring the kids to the cabin this summer...we will check out this museum. One of the things I love the most about our local children's museum is the awesome summer camps they offer...be sure to check out Thibodaux's Bayou Country Children's Museum summer schedule. 

18. Complete a project at your local Lowe's , Toys R Us, Michael's, or Home Depot. Did you know that many of these stores offer free or very low cost activities for kids during the summer? Check out their websites for more information! 

19. Visit a garage sale and purchase some books for summer reading! 

20. Go to a Dollar Movie! Did you know that the Movie Theater in Morgan City offers super cheap movies in the middle of the week / during the summer time! 

21. Bowl for Free! Check out Kids Bowl Free website for more information. 

22. Career Day for kids! If you can make it happen...see if your child can explore a career they are interested in for the day! My son wants to be an architect when he grows up (just like his grandfather!), so one day this summer I will arrange that he gets to visit his grandfather at work and go out to a few job sites with him. 

IN YOUR BACKYARD
23. Swim a lot! If you don't have access to your community pool or a neighbors in ground pool...figure out a way to get your kids swimming! Making sure your child can swim and getting them experience around water is truly one of the greatest gifts you can give them!

24. Glow in the dark hide in seek or glow in the dark dance party! They have lots of glow in the dark ideas on Pinterest....Just do it...Have fun...Your kids will never forget this! 

25. Plant flowers or a garden. 

26. Do a science experiment! Allow your kids to search online for a fun science experiment that they would enjoy doing outside. 

27. Host a summer time party for friends in your backyard. 

28. Fill the back of a truck with pillows and blankets and go star gazing! 

ALL ABOUT THAT FOOD 
29. Make Sand Pudding! Yes...try this recipe

30. Take a Doughnut Tour! Yes...you heard me correctly! I actually just took my kids to the Krispy Kreme Shop in New Orleans and they really liked it! They were able to watch the doughnuts coming off the conveyor belt and being glazed. As my son says, "Rob's still has the best donuts though!" Truth is....we sure do have an amazing doughnut shop here in Thibodaux and I really haven't found a place that compares! Well, Mr. Ronnie's in Houma runs a close race! 
31. Have an ice cream cone or snowball from a unique place. One place that is on my list this summer is Hansen's SnoBiz in New Orleans...after all in 1939 Mr. Hansen was the first to invent the ice shaving machine! This place is a staple in NOLA and a must try! 

I am also wanting to try these super stuffed snowballs that can be founded at Brooke's Sno World in Houma, LA or at The Crawfish Boss in Lafayette, LA. 
This is a Chantilly Snow ball from The Crawfish Boss and it is stuffed with cheesecake, strawberries, blueberries, soaked in wedding cake cream syrup and topped with whipped cream! I mean....people!!!!! Too good to be true!

32. Allow your kids to prepare dinner and serve the parents! For added fun...invite the grandparents over or cousins and have dinner outside. 

33. Make root beer floats! Oh so yummy! August 6th is National Root Beer Float Day (who would have thought it had it's own day!) 

34. Have a Family Fondue Night! Yum!

35. Treat your kids to a Soda Night! Make sure to purchase various glass bottles of different types of soda or pop from the store...and allow your kiddos to have a taste testing party! And don't plan to get much sleep that night! Ha! 
36. Visit a Candy Shoppe! 

37. Make a summer time drink or homemade Popsicles. I plan on making raspberry lemonade slushies for my kids this summer. 

BUSY @ HOME
38. Start a collection or continue one. My son collects baseball cards...my daughter collects shopkins....so I am sure this collection will get organized and continue to grow further over the summer. 

39. Set up days to just do arts in crafts! 

40. Make a memory book or scrapbook of summer memories. 

41. Have a family sleep over in the living room. 

42. Have the kids write letters to family members and put them in the mail! Yes...that is correct...snail mail! 

43. Teach your kids how to properly set a table and actually let them use fine china! Yes...dig out your china and let them use it! You only live once...use the china! 

44. Pick an activity or craft from Pinterest and actually complete it! 

45. Make a 4th of July craft. 

46. Buy journals for the kids and give them fun writing prompts. 

47. Play school! Allow your kids to set up a classroom under the carport or somewhere spacious, take out the chalk board, print some worksheets from online, and just go all out. 

48. Play truth or dare...Kid Style and all G rated! For great ideas on truth or dare games with kids check out Pinterest. 

SPREAD KINDNESS 
49. Have your kids participate in weekly acts of kindness. It can be as simple as bringing the neighbor a desert, ordering food for a busy family, writing cards for children in the hospital, paying for someone's coffee, etc. 

50. Come up with a family service project for the summer! It could be putting together a care package for the troops. Having a garage sale for a family in need. Cleaning out closets and donating items to a non-profit. Be creative, but challenge your family to go above and teach your kids the importance of giving of oneself. 

I really hope you have enjoyed the ideas. I hope you feel inspired to go out and do! Go make memories and have a wonderful summer! 


Vera

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Red dirt stains...

I have so many red dirt stains...


Stains on my heart. Stains on my mind. Stains on my clothes. Stains on my shoes. Stains on my backpack. Red dirt stains everywhere. I never want them to leave me. I want them to stay forever. 

On Saturday, January 3rd we met up with the rest of the team in jinga as they were passing through and heading to Mbale! It was great to finally see them, but I was so sad to say goodbye to our missionary friends in jinga! But, I know I will be seeing them again soon!

Our team consists of 12 people (including me) from the thiboduax / Houma area! Some are medical people, some here to teach and preach, some here to minister in prayer, some to play with the children while medical missions are going on, some to work on the new buildings that have just been built - but all of us share the heart for the orphan and the needy with the main purpose of sharing Jesus with them! 

It's honestly humbling and I just don't know how to quite put everything I have seen into words! I don't know how I will ever do it justice! But, I will keep trying! 
I pray I can explain these red dirt stains for you all. I pray my message can convey the huge needs here. It will take a few blog post to explain everything, so consider this only part I !!! 

So, as I walked onto the grounds of the Kekebu Village in the district of Budaka and I heard the sounds of the African children and village people singing in their native tongues in an open air brick church house - tears filled my eyes and my heart leaped in joy. I couldn't get off that bus fast enough. I looked around the bus and noticed one of our team members - Ronnie Mablie eyes completely full of tears! The feeling is so unexplainable - it's something no pictures or stories could ever prepare you for! It's something that is personal for each person and I know now what my husband and family has been talking about! The sounds of the children singing to us as they greet the Mzungas (that word is Luganda for white people), the intoxicating smell of stinch, the sight of the children's faces as we got off the bus, the touch of the first Ugandan child to my hand, oh every sense was on over load for me. My heart was on overload - you can't possibly come to this place and not fall to your knees in prayer. They treat our team like we are royalty and it is a common practice for them to bow down and kneel at your feet whenever they greet you. First of all I am not anything special. I have a heart for these people so I raise money all year for them, but that doesn't make me a celebrity in any means. But, to these beautiful Ugandan people they want to show how thankful they are for us - so they bow down to us! At that moment I wish I spoke their language because I would have told them "it should be opposite - I should be bowing down to you." When you have people in such great need and they bow down to you - that just does something to your heart - well at least mine. It made me think of God - and when we are in such need and all we know is to bow down at his feet and pray - it brings him such joy and an overwhelming since of pride, love, and desire to bless us even more! That's how I feel - they appreciate us so much - it makes me want to work harder, fight harder to spread the message of refuge 127, and never complain that I am too busy to make a difference in these great people's lives!! 
(When we arrived we had church in here! In Africa - you dance and sing in church - and nothing like what us Americans do in church! Basically, you get down!! The children sing and dance and then the adults get up and sing and dance! Even the African men can move and grove their bodies - it's really something to see! Lol!! Me and my sister in law Mandy have been practicing, but can't seem to move our bodies like them!) 
All the village kids and orphans piled into the front of the village church! God is ever present here - you feel his presence in every place you walk!! 

Each day of the mission our days are split  - first part is prayer and church service and second part is serving the needs to the village and orphan children. The site we are at is the original site Mandy and Shay (my brother in law and sister in law) visited many years ago when they first traveled to Uganda. It's in the middle of a village, surrounded by small huts, small brick houses, a village church, various buildings for the orphans to live in and eat in, and some school houses for children of the village and orphans. 

After church service, I have been working with the Ugandan doctor refuge 127 hired, another team member - Paula who has been a nurse for 30+ years, and Elijah who is one of the Bishops sons who is currently in medical school in Uganda. I will need to do a blog post about the Bishops family - because they are all amazing people and I have fell in love with them all! The bishop is over various orphanages and boarding school sites and is a pastor to multiple churches throughout east Africa. I have been dispensing medicines, working with a translator and listening to the needs of the people. My heart is to serve people. I never get tired of serving people  because Jesus doesn't. The lines of people waiting to be seen never seemed to end. They came early in the day and waited and waited and some were not able to be seen the first day. That was heart breaking, but we are here all week to serve. The first afternoon - I made it a point to learn all the Ugandan medicines that were being used - another language - completely different medications than America - but with God he makes all things possible! I was in a very small closed in room with no air condition and medicine all over! It was a hot mess - literally!! So, two team members helped me organize everything in alphabical order so when the doctor spoke to me in Luganda I would know what medicine he was referring to! Also, the way they write scripts are completely different than in America! So, I had to learn that to! It was a crazy first day, but I learned an incredible amount that day. Before long - I was starting to see the same patterns of illness in Uganda - the same complaints over and over! Sadly, they didn't realize that the majority of their medical problems are due to the lack of clean water intake and improper nutrition. Their is no sanataization what so ever!!!!! They have no access to toilet paper so you can imagine how bathroom time goes. Then they go and eat and they have no forks or spoons - and everyone in the village eats with their hands!! 

The pharmacy! The small hot room where I meet with hurting people - not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually also! 

I can write a post about all the needs of this place, but I can't get caught up in the American ways of doing things. Because in America we have access to everything - a doctor when we need, medicine when we need, clean water, clean clothes, food - so naturally we don't go to God first because we don't even think twice about these things - we just have access to them! This experience has taught me that just because god has blessed me with access to so many luxuries - I should never put that before God. He must be my first consultation before a doctor. 

Today I got to speak to the village people and the orphans and I told them that - when the medicine runs out, or the money runs out, or the food runs out - they have to remember that God is the great physician, he is the great provider, and the supplier of all things! 

I know this place has stained me forever, but those stains will be a reminder of why I have to keep pushing and why I have to keep working harder and harder to raise money for refuge 127. 

The next few post will be more about the work we are doing here and what God has been doing over this trip! 


Psalm 63 "oh god, you are my God; early will I seek you; My flesh longs for you in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water." Mandy read this one morning before leaving for the orphanage - she had opened her bible and this was the first thing she had read. Water is something you can't live without and so many adults and children here don't get enough. They do have a water well, but it's questionable on how clean the water really is from there! Another stain to my heart, but another purpose for refuge 127 to look into! 
Thanks for following along! Love y'all! 

Vera
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