Monday, December 30, 2013

Are you just going through the motions + another Uganda Update!


If you click on the Refuge 127 website www.refuge127.org you will hear the song by Matthew West "The Motions". I will never get tired of this song and each time I hear it - I am encouraged and motivated to Go. And Feed His Sheep.
 Here is Matthew West performing it live...



Man....how many times do I fall into this trap...Just going through the motions of life. Being a mom, a counselor, running a business, homework, soccer practice, bath time, clean house, and the cycle repeats and repeats! But, I don't want to go one more day - just going through the motions!! No not me! I don't want to spend my life saying / wishing I would have done more!! I don't want "what if's" in my life or my family's life - I don't want it!! God didn't design me to just go through the motions and he didn't design you for that either!!

My last blog post about Francis has really got me thinking. It's convicting. It's humbling. It's sad, but redeeming at the same time. As Americans we have so much - so much stuff - so many barriers that prevents us from really having a relationship with God. Lots of distractions. You see in Uganda this is one way they are blessed...they don't have the distractions we have.

I just got off the phone with Seth and was able to talk to him for about 20 minutes which has been the longest since he has been there. Because they are no longer in the larger city of Kampala and now at the orphanage site - which is such a remote part of Uganda - the communication is extremely hard. Seth and Shay got an international phone plan (basically renting a phone there) and even with that at times it is hard to hear him and everything is delayed (so imagine 7 to 8 seconds between each thing you say). "Can you hear me"....pause 8 seconds...."yes I can hear you"....pause 8 second delay..."how are you"...pause 8 second delay....LOL! You get the point!

So I am going to get real for a little while...really real...

We can't find time to read our bible, go to church, minister to someone, share the gospel....all because we are too busy....too busy on our ipads, iphones, laptops, and just keeping up with a life that isn't real any way. One thing the children and adults at the orphanage in Uganda have that we don't as Americans...No Barriers! They have very little barriers that prevent them from having a relationship with God. They rely on him 100%. You see in America we have gotten really use to relying on man not God. We are sick - a doctor will heal us not God. We have no money - we will go to the bank and borrow it - not pray to God to take care of the situation. We are depressed - we rely on things and people to make us happy - not God!


I complain because my house is dirty and takes hours upon hours to clean....after all I have a home and it isn't made of mud, bamboo, or thin pieces of cardboard. It's a mansion in Ugandan terms.


I complain because Seth keeps the house to cold (seriously, I complain about this all the time!)....after all I have electricity! The new orphanage buildings  that Refuge 127 is helping raise money to build will not have windows or doors because they have no access to electricity. In order for air to circulate windows and doors can't be put in. So yes, you can imagine what night time is like and bugs and insects and everything else does get in. 

Here are some of the buildings that are currently being built.

I complain because my stainless steal appliances always look dirty (with finger prints and what not...ya'll know what I mean?!)....after all I have a stove and a place to keep food cool. These orphans don't always know where there next meal is coming from. Seth said today to me that time and things move very slow in Uganda - he said it is really hard for the people to understand programs and the importance of having structure - he said "Babe they are just looking for food when they wake up in the morning...just trying to survive."

I complain because I don't have a new trendy outfit for the next social function in my life....after all I really have a closet full of clothes. When the team visits the orphanage yearly they often notice that the children have the same outfit on from the previous year. Yes. That means the only thing they own are the rags on their little bodies.


Here is my friend, Lacey Melancon with some of the orphans.

 Seth said approximately 5-10 years ago the gospel was first shared in this part of Uganda. So, learning about Jesus is something still new for them and they are extremely hungry to know more. But, remember how I said no sort of time there?! Yeah, well they have church for like 4 to 6 hours everyday! He told me today that they had to suggest to the bishop that the church services will need to be shorter because there is so much work that needs to be done while they are out there and they are on a time frame! You see in America we can't find one to two hours a week for church, but they want to spend hours upon hours in the presence of the Lord. While Americans are workers and know all about structure and implementing programs - Ugandans have no concept of that. So, that is where the team steps in and assist them in that.

At night after having attended church service and working the team travels back to there hotel near the orphanage. Seth said he is staying in a little room by himself and he currently doesn't have a sink, shower or bath tub. All he has is the spigot to get a little running water from. They will be at the orphanage until after the new year. This year they will celebrate the new year by having a church service at the orphanage at midnight tomorrow night! How cool will that be? Praising and worshipping God among 1000 orphans - all in one accord!


Update on Francis' wife....she is now out of the hospital! Praise the Lord for working fast in her life!

Meanwhile, at my home both of my kids have been diagnosed with the Flu now! My three year old, Juliette (we call her Juju) has gotten extremely sick and been severely effected by it. Today, I had to take her back to the doctor because the Tamiflu didn't help her at all and her congestion got so bad that she was having trouble breathing at night. She has been running really high fever also. Thank God for my parents. They always come to my rescue. Thank God for sweet friends who come visit and bring Starbucks to! Before today, I had stayed in the same clothes all weekend, didn't brush my hair, was lucky I had time to brush my teeth - basically around the clock taking care of sick kids. But, I had to go into my clinic today for at least a little while to get some work done before the new year - so my mom came watch the kids until we had to go back to the doctor! My office is next door to the pediatrician so sometimes that is extremely convenient to say the least. But, this round of sickness I see things a little more clearly. I normally get completely stressed out and moody. But, it's just different this time.

 I have lots of medicine for my kids, health insurance, the doctor's cell number if I have an emergency or need anything, and lots of loving family and friends praying and taking care of us....I am beyond blessed. I will not just go through the motions and take these things for granted. I am thankful. And I will give Him all the glory for it.



 Blessings to you and your family! Hope you all stay well during this crazy flu season!

Vera


Sunday, December 29, 2013

A Real Healthcare Crisis + Uganda Update!

Hey guys! First, I wanted to say thank you all who have shared my blog post, shared the message on facebook, instagram or where ever and second thank you for your prayers! Refuge 127 has become such a huge part of our lives, but especially the team that is in Uganda and I know they feel your prayers!

Today, I was able to not only speak with Seth - me and the kids were able to face time him for a little while this morning! They were at the hotel in Kampala, Uganda and had wifi (not the best connection, but hey it worked for a little while!) I was also able to speak with my sister in law Mandyand my friend Lacey! They were suppose to head to the orphanage today, but due to plane delays (by hours!!) they got pushed back a day. So, as I type this message they are headed to the orphanage (which is about a 5 hr bus ride from where they are).  


My husband teaching Francis & Geoffrey how to catch an American Football!!


Thank God for modern technology, wifi, and Facetime! Uganda doesn't seem so far when you can see the people you love!

Hearing Seth's voice today was really nice, but the change in his heart is pretty incredible already. It's all very humbling and I am not even there! Seth shared a story with me today on the phone and I wanted to share with you guys because it moved me to my core. Because the team are all Americans their is an unspoken rule that they at all times have African men with them. One it helps with language barriers, directions, buying things (apparently when they go to the market - they negotiate prices - I mean could you see us at Rouses Supermarket - "Yes, would you take $1 for these bananas?") and mostly safety purposes. One of the African men with Seth and the team is named Francis. Seth told me Francis is married and has 6 children of his own and has adopted 7 children. He is the worship leader at his church and also has a day job as a taxi driver. In the past he has owned his own taxi, but recently wrecked his taxi so he is now renting one from someone else . Because he is renting one now - it cuts a great deal into his income. He is paying close to 50% of his wages to just renting the taxi, so he told Seth he is saving up to purchase a taxi so that he can increase his income and be able to adopt more children. Right now he can't afford to take care of any more children, but once he can save up enough money he will purchase a taxi. In the United States people spend between $30,000 to $40,000 on average on a vehicle - in Uganda $10,000 will buy him a taxi and provide him with a decent wage which will allow him to adopt more children in need!

Last year's mission trip - my sister in law Mandy and a team member Ronnie.

He then told Seth today that his wife was in the hospital and they believed she may have Malaria. So, I get we think we have a healthcare crisis in America - but we have no idea what a healthcare crisis really is!! What we have is truly the best healthcare in the world!! We have the best doctors in the world with access to modern medicine and the latest greatest technology. The people of Uganda know all about healthcare crisis - their crisis you ask - NOTHING! There is no health insurance, covered services while in the hospital, routine check ups, access to good quality medicines at your finger tips - it is humbling how little availability is out there. If someone enters the hospital in Uganda, they have to pay out of pocket for all the services performed and medicine given. In Katie Davis's book Kisses by Katie - she writes about the healthcare system in Uganda and states that if you are unable to pay for services you are basically left to die in the hospital. The doctor doesn't make rounds and check up on you, food isn't provided for you, medicine isn't given - nothing! Seth began to tell me that Francis was only going to be able to keep his wife in the hospital maybe one day because he wouldn't be able to afford her continued care. I mean my heart broke - she is a mom with 13 children and possibly can't be treated for Malaria!! Well that is when God steps in - you see I believe it is no chance of luck that Francis and my husband crossed paths. None at all. It was a divine appointment. It was Seth's chance to bless someone who is sold out to God, but financially doesn't have the ability to continue to pay for his wife's medical care. She will stay in the hospital and Seth will provide him the money each day - because after all - $16.00 American dollars will get her the daily medical care that she needs to become healthy again. Can you imagine that? We live in a country that you don't have to work and you get free health insurance and someone across the world may die because they can't afford $16 a day for a hospital stay with the proper medications. God Help Us Americans. We have no clue! I have never taken healthcare for granted, but really won't now - not ever!!! Today, as I brought my little boy to Urgent Care and he was diagnosed with the Flu I thought to myself - Wow - in the matter of 30 minutes I will have medication for him (that was electronically sent to the pharmacy of my choice) and within 24 hours I will see many of his symptoms disappear. In Uganda that never happens. Never.

The story continues...While in the market today Seth and the team noticed child after child roaming the busy city streets of Kampala, Uganda - completely homeless, orphaned, starving, dying and ALONE! Parentless! Imagine driving through all busy city in the United States and seeing 3 year olds roaming the streets - would you not stop dead in your tracks or possible notify police?
 Seth noticed a child who was around the age of 3 and he only had a shirt on - no shoes, no underwear, nothing but a shirt and people just continued to pass this child by one after another. You see this is a regular sighting for them - they have become so immune to homeless children wondering and living on the streets that they don't even stop any more. Why stop? What can they offer them? Well you see this is where Francis steps in - he wants to open his home and adopt more, but is limited on income now and wouldn't be able to provide for there basic necessities. How many more good Ugandan people like Francis are out there, but are limited due to such low levels of income. Well this is where Refuge 127 steps in - its our heartbeat and I hope that it can be yours. Not everyone can be missionaries - God didn't call us all to be missionaries - but he did call us to be his servants. We can all serve in different ways, but no service goes unnoticed in God's eyes. None too small - none too big! Let's go and take care of his sheep.

If you want to know more about ways you can support our work - go to Refuge 127 and you can become a monthly sponsor. But, we don't just need money to keep this going - we need prayers, laborers, and willingness to be used in any way possible! I am praying about a medical mission that I would love to see take place - Refuge 127 has been in contact with Thibodaux Regional Medical Center and I would love to see a medical missions take place in 2014!! I am praying for doctors, nurses, and any medical professionals who feels the burden to come forward in 2014!!


This little girl that Seth is hugging - her name is Praise. Her father is the Bishop (pastor) and director/owner of the orphanage.

Thanks for reading!
Vera

Friday, December 27, 2013

Willingness is the only job requirement!


So, I wanted to share with you all a book I have been reading - Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis.

It is about a 22 year old girl - who abandoned her extremely comfortable life in Tennessee and moved to Uganda, Africa! She is now 25 years old, has adopted 13 girls, and is the director/founder of an amazing non profit organization Amazima . Her writings are real, bold, and awe inspiring! I am truly inspired by her great works, but I am in love with her total surrendered heart for God and his will in her life. She was just a willing vessels - to the human eye she was not equipped for this adventure, but to God she was just the person for the job!

You see often times we feel as if we are not good enough, we need just a little more schooling, a little more experience, a little more money, a little more of this, a little more of that and once we have just a little more - maybe we can do something for God - well that isn't the case at all!! I have fallen into this trap so many times before. His best job candidate needs one thing - willingness!! Willingness to have courage, willingness to be bold, to be submissive, to be uncomfortable, to be hurt, to be criticized - and the list goes on and on! You see when you have willingness - you have everything that God needs and he will do the rest!

Here is a part of her writing that represents true willingness :  "I am like Peter who made many mistakes, but I am Peter for who God had great plans, whom God established to do his work. Peter is the rock on which Jesus built his church. The very night when Peter foolishly jumped out of the boat, Jesus reinstated him in the presence of the other disciples.  "Do you truly love me?" He asked. "Then feed my lambs." "Do you really love me? Take care of my lambs." "Peter, do you love me? Feed my sheep, and come follow me." Katie states, "For each time I deny God the glory that is his, for each time I follow my will instead of listening to His, for each time I jump ahead without first consulting my Lord, He asks "Daughter, do you truly love me?" and I DO. "Feed my sheep". And I will. And I do. "Come follow me". And I am, or at least I am trying.

You see we are all like Peter - we mess up - we make mistakes - we worry - we are far from perfect, but God still wants to use us - if we are willing!!! As Katie states:  "You are Peter. God already knows that you will make a mess, but His plan for you is great. Go. Feed His sheep."

So when many people read about Katie Davis they sometimes think she must have the most perfectly rewarding life! Well no doubt she is extremely blessed and she is blessed so richly because she was willing to allow God to bring her to unknown, uncomfortable, scary places and because of that she is greatly blessed.

So the team has touched down in Uganda (praise the Lord!!). Here are there travel adventures - my super organized brother in law sent me a little map weeks before they left (note to self: If you are strained on a deserted island or in a third world country you most definitely want Shay Holloway with you!) Tonight they stay in a hotel in the Capital city of Kampala. If you are reading my blog from your computer - I have put a little timer on the side of my blog - so you can know what time it is in Uganda as you read this. If you are reading this from an iphone or ipad - make sure to scroll down to the bottom of page and link on the little red link "View web version" and you will then be able to view the time clock also!



 So getting back to my brother in law, Shay - he is always prepared - I mean both physically and spiritually (he could hands down win any reality show competition that required you to live off of just the things in your backpack!) But, my husband on the other hand - is the exact opposite!!! The spiritual side - he was prepared - the physical side - ummm I don't know but can't wait to hear! A few days before the trip I was talking to Seth and asked him - "Babe are you bringing a laptop, ipad, earphones, books, etc...(you know all the things the average person would pack on a two day long plane ride!) .... his simple response "Nope!" I am like "What will you do for that long!?" Well I got a video from my dear friend, Lacey Melancon who is also part of the team traveling to Uganda! Poor souls who had to sit next to him for 24+ hrs - I know they were ready to pull their hair out!
video

I haven't been able to talk to anyone yet and if I had to guess I would probably hear from my friend Lacey or my brother in law before Seth! I mean after all he didn't bring any technology with him (other than the iphone) and didn't get the international calling plan like I asked him too! Once I do hear something - I will update! My friend Lacey Melancon will also be blogging about her adventures while she is there (given they have internet access!) Click here to view her blog.

Meanwhile at the Holloway residents the kiddos are continuing to ask for Papa and if he has made it to Africa yet! Jacques is a champ and rarely complains, but Juliette on the other hand could just about win an academy award for the most dramatic performance of "Missing Papa". Yesterday in the car, I had heard about 45 minutes of all I could take whining about "Papa" - it was enough and I needed a break - I said "Juju - papa is coming home - he is just in Africa for a few days and then he is coming home...please stop crying and whining!! Her three year old response: "But, Mommy I am trying but the crying just won't stop coming out my eyes!" I was like - that would be the tears that can't stop and second Mommy is having the same problem too!

So we got an ice cream, chick fa la ("chick a lay" as juju calls it!), and a new stuffed animal to make her smile!

When Papa is gone - some rules go right out the window! First one - we get to stay up later (well it is the holidays and the kids are out of school) and Second one - the kids are sleeping in bed with me! For some reason, when Seth is gone it seems as if our house is 10 times larger than what it really is! Having the kids next to me just seem to make things better - well that is until I get kicked and elbowed in the face 65 times in the night (I believe my kids are some of the wildest sleepers!)

Thank you to all who have shared my previous post - you are feeding his sheep - you are spreading the message and I am humbled!

My love,
Vera


Thursday, December 26, 2013

Goodbye, Papa! Hello Uganda!

This year I really haven't blogged much, but I did want to make a point to blog while my husband was on his journey to Uganda, Africa. I wanted to share my heart beat, his experiences, and our experiences back home while he is gone. I also wanted to share a little bit about how this all came about and Refuge 127 the non profit organization that has developed as a result of having an open heart and willingness to serve!


You can find out more information about the Christian based non profit organization that I have the privilege of working with and serving on there board at the above link! Refuge 127 began in Jan. 2008 as an outreach to children living in our local Juvenile Justice Facility. To make a really long story, a little shorter - basically the Christmas of 2007 me and my sister in law, Mandy Holloway wanted to do a Tour of Homes in our community. We had spent hours upon hours decorated our homes and we wanted to do something fun for women in the area and raise a little money for a local charity or group in need. That first Tour of Homes turned out to be a success and we prayed about finding a place to give the money to - my sister in law Mandy discovered the JJC (Juvenile Justice Facility) in our community. Little did we know that our small town of Thibodaux was home to a facility that housed children and teens who were in state custody due to prior abuse, neglect, or lack of safety. That Christmas was the catalyst of change and we didn't even know it then! No one ever dreamed the work would go beyond our little community of Thibodaux, Louisiana - but God knew other wise! I am excited to say we just finished our 7th annual Tour of Homes and it has grown to be a huge fundraiser now for orphaned children half way across the world! It is humbling how God will move when you are a willing vessel!

In 2012, my brother in law and sister in law, Mandy & Shay Holloway had the opportunity to go to Uganda, Africa. That was the second catalyst of change. She needs to write a blog/book about all that, but all I can tell you is I am pretty certain they didn't imagine things would continue to evolve the way they have! From that first trip, Refuge 127 was put into existence. The work had begun many years before as I stated above - 2012 was just the birth of the non profit! It was through there work with children at the JJC who were abused, abandoned, and orphaned - that there hearts changed. The name is based on James 1:27 which states: "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world."





Since that first trip in 2012 - many things have happened! A new orphanage is currently being built and is named after Refuge 127 - it is the Hope Refuge School which is located in a small village called Kachomo, Uganda. Refuge 127 is committed to helping in 4 major areas: Buildings, Farming and Food, Medical, and Education.



This year, my husband Seth decided to make the trip to Uganda! There is a team of people he is traveling with (his brother Shay, sister law Mandy and many others from our area) - willing to give up there holidays and travel to the other side of the globe - for truly one purpose and one purpose alone - to be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ.

To be honest, when I first found out that Seth was leaving on Christmas Day - I was so upset (for way too many selfish reasons!!) This is an amazing cause - and I don't want you to think I have lost sight of that - but I am human and these were my first thoughts ("Who is the person who did the scheduling of this trip...they must have no family!!" "Why can't they leave the day after Christmas?" "Our kids won't have there Papa on the most important holiday of the year!") And then God kindly reminded me - we have a healthy happy home with a loving Papa 365 days a year - we could share him for 2 weeks!!

As I type this and listen to my 3 year old daughter cry for her Papa - my heart hurts so badly! My kids are beyond spoiled for there "Papa" as they call him! He is more than your typical dad - he is superdad to the highest degree and any day without him is too much!

Today I was off of work so I took the kids to New Orleans - they are always up for an adventure and I knew it would be good to get out the house! The kids wanted to take Papa's truck today to New Orleans so I agreed - I guess it was there way of having him with us in spirit! Our papa is a very gifted singer - if you have never heard him sing you are missing out - he really is that good! Seth has a day job and doesn't sing for a living, but he leads worship at our church and has grown up singing in church. Because he is always practicing or learning new songs - Jacques and Juliette while riding with him after school and every where else - also practice! They also sing at the top of there lungs while in Papa's truck! So today when I turned on the truck and heard this song....
("Great are you Lord" by All Sons and Daughters)


and heard my kids singing there hearts out - my heart was so full! It brought tears to my eyes...and then they didn't stop! It is because of Papa that my kids are also worshipers! The one thing I would love to see is him singing in Africa - I could cry as I type this - knowing I won't get to see that in person! Some of the words in this song states - "and all the earth will shout your praise" "You bring light to the darkness" - for a moment Seth will get to hear another part of the earth singing God's praises - what a beautiful thing!

Today, was a hard day for me and the first time in a very long time I cried like a big ole baby! If you know me, I am not an emotional person - never really have been, but today you would have thought over wise! I guess it all hit me today - and as I was praying in the car and listening to my kids sing - I was completely over come with sadness and a fear of death. If you know me - another thing is I am not a worrier! I counsel people for a living who battle with anxiety - I practice the cognitive behavioral techniques I use, so most of the time my anxiety is low! So I quickly prayed for God to release me of the fear of death (my husband is traveling into Ethiopia and then Uganda today, so I assumed that was my reasons for thinking about death?!) But, as I prayed God showed me why death was on my mind. There is a death that is taking place - Seth is dying to his old self and a new person will emerge from this experience in Uganda. Same for me - God is preparing me for something (what it is I don't know), but a dying of myself is also taking place. It really isn't about us at all - and the moment you think life is all about you - you have it all wrong!


This is how the children currently sleep in the orphanage. With the building of the new site - beds will be made for each child to sleep on.


So, I am certain by now - God is safely delivering my husband and the team to Uganda, Africa. I will anxiously await what is next in store for them!

Many people have asked if I was worried about Seth going into a country that was unsafe - of course I am - this world is completely unsafe, but I know the God we serve and I know that his hand is on him and I have no doubt that he will arrive and return safely. Remember that fear of death that came on me today - as I was driving to New Orleans today - of course my mind went straight to the fact that my husband was flying into a third world country, but as I drove home I was passed up by probably 10 racing cop cars - right before I got into Thibodaux I passed a house that was flooded with cop cars and ambulance - I knew right away something really bad had happened - I get home turn on the news and learn that 3 people were killed and others injured. So miles from my home people are killed and someone said it was unsafe to travel to a third world country? No place is safe, but when you have God you have just the right armor for protection!

Be Blessed!
Vera

 
 
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