Saturday, December 31, 2011

Farewell, DMC

We welcomed in 2012 in the capital city Kampala. The beauty of Kampala during holiday season is a decrease in traffic. It allows us to restock supplies and eat at real restaurants without spending too many hours sitting behind diesel taxi vans or dodging boda bodes. Being here also allows us to give our kids "eyeball time" in which our focus is them, not the million distractions or demands of life in Bundi. It has been a sweet time of family reconnection.

Though we have great hopes for the year (and a few resolutions too!), we did receive some sad news from our teammates back in Bundibugyo. DMC, our matriarch dairy cow, has died. We are all sad as she not only produced liters and liters of rich milk daily, but she also became a dear part of our life. Lilli learned to milk her. Daily, she and Patton would give her a head scratch on the way to school. DMC has served well, producing many, many offspring, several of which remain on the mission.

We will miss you, DMC.

Christmas Highlights

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
The Johnsons

Monday, December 5, 2011


Thanksgiving 2011:
So much for which to be thankful!
A real team effort: worship music led by Kevin, teaching by Akindele, sharing by all, planned by Amy, decorations by RMS teachers and students, food by Dutch and Ugandan kitchen crew, cranberries by Shellie, Christine' birthday cake by Pamela, visit from Pat Abbott and Michael Masso, memories by all!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Celebrating visitor 100 and 101!

I love in the movies when the unsuspecting shopper checks out and is surprised with confetti and a bevy of free gifts as they are the one thousandth shopper!

I wish that we had such amenities for our latest visitors, Shellie and Kevin Rees, for they win the prize for being our visitor 100 and 101!

While that number is dizzying to me as it reminds me of the many, many preparations for housing, meals, schedules, and meetings over the last 20 months, it also makes me smile to know that over 100 people have wanted to be here with us!

We met Shellie and Kevin when Travis did the prenatal care and delivery for their youngest child in North Carolina. A friendship was formed and fostered over the years over many different moves both in America and across the world. We were so grateful when they agreed to come to Bundibugyo and lead a Bible teaching conference for local pastors and a retreat for our team.

As I read their blog post recounting the events, I chuckled at how many "firsts" of their experience now are normal life for me now. I say this as I drink coffee that has sugar ants floating in it and it no longer bothers me. The link to their blog is

So, webele, Shellie and Kevin for being our 100 and 101 visitors. We are grateful for the way you led our community leaders and our team in worship.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Trying to find normal

While Travis was at a 5 hour Board of Governors meeting for CSB, the kids and I decided to surprise him with one of his favorite parts of the Christmas season: Christmas Cookies!

Now that the kids are all old enough to be actively involved, it was really fun. Of course, there are sprinkles all over the floor, it took four hours to make four plates of cookies, and Aidan ran around in circles on a sugar high. But the measure of success was their huge smiles and their pride in showing their creations to Travis when he returned home.

Baking Christmas Cookies is a normal part of the American Christmas tradition. But here in Bundibugyo where there are no convectional ovens, sugar is a luxury, and icing is unknown, it is not normal. I find myself often straddling these two worlds, two sets of norms, not knowing where or how or what to do. How do I handle the 5 knocks on my door requesting "assistance" in the short time I am baking with my children? How much of my home country's traditions and customs do I hold on to and how much do I embrace my host country's culture and norms. Sometimes I am baffled in my new "normal."

As I reflect upon the year 2011 for many of our friends, I remember that I am not alone in the struggle of new normal:

One family now lives daily with one son instead of two. Another has battled non-hodgkins lymphoma and this week celebrates that last chemo treatment. A doctor who planned for a glorious retirement, lost it all in the stock market crash and now is working at a walk-in urgent care at Wal-mart. A minister who dreamed of missions now wakes up at 4am to operate a fast-food restaurant. In one very traditional American family, the mother is now forced to be the sole bread-winner and the dad stays at home with two boys, with a third on the way. Others are adjusting to a new job, new child, new diagnosis, or simply a new stage in life.

In the middle of these reflections about change, struggle, and new norms in life here and in America, I am reminded to dwell on the character of God:

He is Unchanging in uncertainty. He is Mercy in the hard places. He is a Shepherd who gently leads those with young. He is Big when obstacles seem looming. He is Powerful when the darkness surrounds. He is Protector for the weak. He is my Joy when I am missing the familiar, the comfortable, and my old normal.

When Travis brought down our one box of Christmas decorations from the attic, he reminded me that we used to have eight boxes of Christmas lights, ornaments, wreaths, angels, garland, etc. I laughed in remembrance as this one current box not only held our decorations, but our whole tree too! After we put the lights on it, Patton looked at it glumly and said "I don't like it." We took a moment and all sat on the ground to acknowledged that it did not have many ornaments on it and it was small, but that we get to make new traditions, new ornaments and make it however we want it to be! So, this year's Christmas tree hosts paper snowflakes, an origami duck, and photos of loved ones. And though it will never be on the cover of any magazine, it is okay with me because this is a part of our new normal.

Welcome Ann!!!

The week before we moved to Africa, we got a call that a fellow Grace Community Church member was interested in serving with us in Uganda. Excited to hear this, we met with Ann Kieser and looked forward to her vision trip visit in June of 2010.

And now SHE IS HERE!

We welcome Ann to service here and pray with her as she begins language and culture learning and working with visitors, interns and apprentices.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Well Done, CSB!

We are grateful to announce the end of the school year for Christ School Bundibugyo! The students took their last exams today. Travis and Headmaster Edward have had 10 hour budget meetings. Edward met with parents this morning. A board meeting is scheduled for the morning. All students have now gone to their homes. So, to end the year well, we celebrated with the teachers over a homemade pizza dinner!
Scott Will, longtime Bundi friend and WHM Sudan teammate visits us this week.
Travis is sporting his new wood fire oven safety goggles!
Good friends bring good laughter.
The oven was hot tonight...and needed to be to feed 50 people!
Newest teammate Ann Kieser shows Eunice and Peter how to make their first pizzas!
Aidan is a pizza making professional at the age of 2.
Headmaster Edward and wife Christine lead the teachers in prayer.
Eunice is proud of her first pizza!
For most, this was their first time to make or eat pizza.
Ann, Vincent, and Akim
The kids' table.
Edward versus Alex in table tennis.
Justine and Juliet, two wonderful women teachers, beautifully make pizzas.
Travis thanks Kataramu Francis for his hard work this year.
And also appreciates Masereka Godfrey.

We are grateful for the hard work of the teachers and staff of CSB. We are also are humbled by the generous response of donors who support the school as it has struggled to make up the unexpected 28% inflation rate here in Uganda this school year. As we come to a successful close, we are filled with thanks to God. We will rest well tonight!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

An update on the local Bible translation project

This project was started as a joint WHM and Wycliffe venture over 20 years ago. At that time, the local language was not written down. The first 10+ years was filled with combing through the villages asking people to spell words based on the Bugandan language and alphabet. They used their findings to come up with an alphabet that fit the Lubwisi Language. They found that there are no Z's!

They then spent years learning local stories and proverbs to gain a grasp of how words and phrases are used. In the process, they have helped preserve the culture and language from being overran by larger and more economically advanced cultures! They have also made literacy more reachable for the thousands women here who do not speak English, the official language of Uganda. Most importantly, they are now beginning to teach the hope of Love, Grace and Forgiveness of Jesus in their own language!

The project continues under the guidance of SIL and through the hard work of several local pastors and community elders. They are among our closest friends here.

Click here for the latest update from our SIL friends.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Shirts I Wear

Last Wednesday I wore 4 different shirts. Sometimes I wear three shirts because I have sweated through each of them by the end of the day, but the changing of shirts last Wednesday was for different purposes.

I woke up in the morning and put on a nice golf shirt that would look sharp, but not be too hot, for my meeting with the Christ School Head Master. I am so grateful for the great job and much needed friendship that Edward has provided. We met for 3 hours discussing the past year, the re-hiring of personnel and strateged different plans about how to meet the financial needs of the school based on the amount of support and school fees that we might receive. After praying together, I left very encouraged and hopeful that the school might make it to the end of the year!

When I returned home to have lunch with Amy and the kids, Jessica came by to say that Dr. Sam, our new Ugandan physician at the Nyahuka Health Center needed help to surgically repair an obstetric tear. I am very grateful that Dr. Sam is here and that our health center has a constant presence of an Ugandan physician. He is hard working and eager to do what is best for the patients. He is also incredibly overwhelmed with all the demands, especially since he is just 24 and fresh out of his internship. So, to show some moral support, I pulled out my surgical scrubs from the bottom of my drawer and ran down to the Health Center. I found Dr. Sam and we discussed how we would repair the deep 4th degree wound. I then followed him to the theatre and was shocked to discover that the “woman” was a 10 year old girl who had been raped. I pulled Sam back out and we talked through the more important issue of caring for her as a person and not just her physical wounds. We then prayed for her and called together the surgical theatre team to set up for surgery.

While they were setting up, I ran home to put on a button down collared shirt with nice trousers to go to the Christ School Chapel. This was the last chapel of the year for many of our graduates who were finishing their national exams. I had the privilege to give them a going away message. I challenged them to take what they had learned here at Christ School and bring it to their family and friends at home. They have seen that God does love them. Because of this love, they have learned to love each other, despite their different backgrounds, families and tribes. When they go back to their villages, they will face many struggles, but they do not need to struggle alone. They need to run to Jesus and run to each other.

After the chapel, I put my surgical scrubs back on and returned to the Health Center. There, Sam and I repaired the wounds of the girl and discussed with the family how to care for the child. The horrible wounds and sparse equipment to fix them led to many nightmares that night. Please pray for complete healing of “Sara’s” heart and body.

Finally, I came back home and put on my favorite Navy Seal t-shirt and jeans with holes to romp around the back yard with my 3 favorite little people. There is nothing better than kid therapy!

We have been studying Colossians as a team this past month. In it, we are challenged to put on the clothes of mercy, tenderness, compassion and love. These are not something we wear naturally. We have to put them on. They are not something we own. They are given to us from Christ. On days like last Wednesday, I feel like I sweat through these shirts just as fast as I do my real ones. I am plum out of mercy by 9 am and I have to ask Jesus for another shirt of his to don before I can meet the next challenge. Thankfully, He is faithful and we toil daily with His strength! (Colossians ch2-3.)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

new friends, old friends and mud puddles

Josh welcomed to dinner new friends Caroline and David, two church leadership teachers who were working in a nearby village.
Aunt Jess is a big hit at the "kids' table" (which you might notice is a travel trunk)
We are thrilled to welcome for the month our old friends from our Harvard School of Public Health days, Akindale and Dorcas with their cute little girl Iye.
Friday night Dinner together with new and old friends
It's rainy season!

Aidan and Iye, only a month apart, are dear little friends.
I think he is smitten!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Welcoming Josh and Pamela!

Today marks the One-Month-in-Bundibugyo anniversary of two new teammates, Josh Dickenson and Pamela Stephens.

As our flight from Chicago to London was cancelled (after 5, yes, 5 hours of sitting on the hot plane on the runway before a middle of the night cancellation!!!), we missed our connection with Pamela in London. The brave soul who had never been to London or Africa, happily took a tour around London and then trusted the driver whom we sent to pick her up in Uganda. A day later, we met her. Aidan must have imprinted on her as she held him during his jet lagged nap as he LOVES her and goes running to see her! Pamela comes from Virginia and was a dolphin trainer before she became a teacher. Her enthusiasm and love for teaching is evident and the kids adore her. She is diligently learning Lebwisi (not an easy task) and taking all of the nuances of life in Bundibugyo in stride. We are grateful she is here!

Josh joined us in Kampala just a day later. He was a champ as we did a sprint through the grocery store, stocking up on things he would need for his new life here. Having just completed his PhD in water engineering, Josh is the go-to guy for all things technical. After only one day here, there was a water crisis. Bundibugyo does not allow one to have time to acclimate slowly! Each morning, he can be seen working diligently learning Lebwisi and then working on a project in the afternoon. Today, I asked Aidan, "who do you love?" He replied: "Josh!" Though Josh has many skills and talents, our kids think that his best quality is that he can give a great puppet show!

If Pamela and Josh have made it here one month, they will do just fine!

A conversation with a missionary kid

While in Charleston, Lilli and her cousin spotted a small lizard on the wall.
Cousin: Hey, Look! A Geiko!
Lilli: What's a Geiko? That's a Gecko!
Cousin: Huh? What's a Gecko?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Happy Birthday Little Man!

Aidan Birch Johnson turned 2 years old!
Named "Aidan" for the Saint Aidan who is credited for sharing Christ in Ireland; meaning "Light"
Named Birch for our friend Dr Birch Rambo, missionary to the DRC for over three decades, a modern-day saint.

Man, we are thankful for this little dude and we sure do love him!

Aidan shows that he is two!
He is quite the artist.
While waiting on me to come outside, Aidan closed the front door and pulled the bolt closed, thus, locking me and friend Gladys inside! When we told him to unbolt the door, he just laughed and laughed. It took a while to find an extra set of keys to let us out of our side gate. This photo is from our front window as I looked out and he looked in! What a trickster!
Aidan appreciates the chocolate pudding mixes that are sent in care packages.
We spend much time doing housework.
He especially likes to help Gladys.
And more cleaning!
The team enjoys the sunset view from atop the community water tanks.
Aidan is ready to roll the dough for pizza.
Pizza making time!
So proud of himself for blowing out the candles!
Aidan opens a special gift from Patton.
Happy 2nd Birthday, Aidan!