Today is the first day of 2021 and we praise God for a victorious 2020! We ended our year with mixed emotions but still filled with joy because of all that the Lord has done for us and in us.
We did hire a wonderful contractor to build our girls dorm and he is a humble man of God. The Lord showed him to me before I knew that he would be the one He would pick. He kept dropping in my spirit, “the man with the glasses”. In all our interviews and in comparing all of the bids, I could not remember which one belonged to the man with the glasses. After much prayer and due diligence in sorting out the comparisons, we decided on the bid that was in the mid-price range. When I called a close friend, who knew one of the builders and even recommended him, if this was the man with the glasses, it was! I meet with him tomorrow to work out all the details and we begin this week! The kids are excited to say the least. We have been living on one acre of land for four years now and with most of the children being teenagers, it is quite cramped, especially being stuck at home ALL year due to Covid.
No real schooling has begun here in Uganda since last March. We have hired teachers to come to us so that our children stay up on their studies and don’t sit idly. We find every nook and cranny to make into a classroom, building chalkboards, using benches and tables, sitting under bicycle sheds and mango trees, whatever it takes. Our kids are hungry to learn and don’t care where it happens.
Just before Christmas we received the news that one of our missionaries who has been with us since South Sudan has been diagnosed with cancer. She is remaining stateside and using natural treatment instead of the typical rounds of chemo and radiation etc…. We pray for her healing every week and know that God is the Healer. She has no plans to return to us so we have a big gap to fill. Also, just three days before Christmas my only other missionary fell and fractured her hip and is pretty much out of action for six weeks, mostly on bedrest and a bit of sitting. It is a compacted fracture which is much better than the other kind and the doctor here says she should be able to fully heal without surgery. Lastly, one of my staff tested positive for Covid and is married to another one of my staff. They have a family of ten. She has been in quarantine for almost three weeks and is doing well with treatment on her own. The husband tested negative praise Jesus. She had just returned from visiting her mother up north and was only home one day when she got the news after testing. Whenever any of our staff travel or our older children to visit relatives, they must take a Covid test before returning to us. We have five more coming back this week. God has surely blessed us with His umbrella of protection because people here rarely wear masks. Uganda is now up to 35,000 “reported” cases. This does not account for people who live in villages where there are no testing sites, which is most of Uganda. Also, the test costs $50 which 80% of the population these days doesn’t even make this much in three months.
All of these things came in the midst of doing all the things we normally do to celebrate the Christmas season with a big party and packing of presents and taking gifts to the neighborhood children, entertaining our own children with Christmas activities, shopping and keeping everyone healthy during this time. In all of this craziness we have had total peace and are amazed by God’s grace over us. God really does give so much grace to carry on and face every challenge with Him by our side. As long as we keep our eyes on Him, stay close to Him, in all these trials we are victorious and full of joy. It sounds crazy but it really is true. I have been given the answer to many long ago prayers, “God, I just want a godly team who loves and invests themselves in these children you have given to us.” I really do have such an amazing Sudanese/Ugandan staff that I could easily turn over all the keys and know that everything would continue in excellence. I thank God daily for them.
Oh, and did I mention how amazing our teenagers have been? They have stepped up to help in the kitchen, with the little kids, harvesting huge crops, caring for our animals, washing our cars and bus, and no one complains. Incredible. Sometimes I wonder how I could be so blessed to have all these amazingly wonderful kids! We haven’t had church for two weeks because of the staff Covid case. We decided to maintain social distance and wear masks when having bible study inside or school inside and to not gather any larger than 35 in the house. Yesterday the Lord said to have church today. The kids literally screamed in joy, screamed! We just had an all day fasting and prayer day on Wednesday and all of the children, from three years old to 23 years old sat under trees in a giant grassy field for six hours soaking to worship music, reading their bibles, writing in journals, coloring, and there was no restlessness, no complaining of hunger, no impatience. I told them that they can’t even know how amazing this is, for little kids to just sit for six hours.
I am just so thankful that these kids are growing in the character of Jesus which is my sole mission here these days. I count it a blessing that I get to keep them home for a year because we are really pouring into them and they are being fed rich food, the Word and attributes of God. Lastly, I just want to say thank you once again to all who have prayed for us, gave to us, stayed with us, trusted us with your gifts, and have just encouraged us even in the midst of all of your own struggles. Thank you for your faithfulness. We are so blessed by you, really, really!! With so much love, Carolyn and the Iris South Sudan/Uganda family!