Posted by: tonyalatorre | July 10, 2014

I have TWO teachers of humility.

At one point in my day I am solving complex international mission situations at the same time I counsel a teen about finding the right toilet paper at the grocery store. A boy with cracks in his voice tries in vain to manipulate me towards his agenda. That’s cute and futile. I can haul a horse trailer an hour away and load an unwilling horse into his confinement there all by myself. There is a fiery girl who sings and shouts with all her might at all waking times in our home. She just put a booger in the guacamole Kevin is making. Her teacher has informed me through the brother messenger that she is disruptive in class and would I ask her to please stop. Have I been doing nothing to manage her mac truck personality? She is taking ALL I’ve got to keep her half wild.

 

kira at the soda counter in Fort Davis Texas

kira at the soda counter in Fort Davis Texas

My dog tries to rescue me when I get in the pool. I’m the only one she gets frantic about when I take the plunge. If she is a sinker I must be too and in her mind she needs me more than anyone else. Poor girl. I cause her so much stress. She lives her days hoping for a ride in the front seat of my jeep wrangler. Nothing is cuter than the two of us heading down the road with the soft top removed, her ears flying and my red hair in the wind.

 

I have a cat that is really a dog wearing a cat suit. I decided this for sure today when I watched him chew through a bag of popcorn on the floor of the pantry and then proceed to eat it. Our sweet bulldog has never ever eaten through the packaging of food in this home. She’s never taken food that wasn’t offered to her. I could leave a steak on the counter all day and she wouldn’t touch it. That’s not to say she won’t beg if you are eating it. (guests give her reason to do that) But to steal in front of me as Jones did today? Never.

innocent Jones alseep in the tote bag at my feet in my office

innocent Jones alseep in the tote bag at my feet in my office

 

While my horse recovers from his ligament injury this summer I’ve been riding many different horses. Jack’s pony might someday become my horse because Jack will grow too tall for him. I understand this but I haven’t accepted it. He is a fancy dressage pony but so naughty. Biggie loves working for Jack and they have fun, but Biggie sees me as something to reject. I’ve been working on figuring out his buttons this summer. He’s the polar opposite from my horse, Bear. It is a good education for me to figure out how to ride Biggie. But. He has this naughty pony thing he does with me. The moment I give him the open door he takes it and gallops away with me. I don’t realize I’m giving it to him til it’s done. What’s my greatest concern with riding a horse? Not being bucked. Not falling. I don’t want a horse to run away with me. It’s unnerving. He’s done it now about six times. Today I had a lesson in the field with Erin, his former owner and trainer. As soon as I got him into the canter what did he do? He dipped a shoulder, twisted the opposite direction and sped towards the barn in a determined canter. He tried to buck me off. I sat back and said “not today”. I rode it til he calmed down and stopped. That’s at least one point for me.

 

This is Jack and Erin with Biggie the day we bought him from her.

This is Jack and Erin with Biggie the day we bought him from her.

My first question was, “what did I do to allow him to do this?” I knew it was my fault. Horses aren’t evil. They react. After my horror ride I took him back to work. I’ll ride him again this weekend. We’ll sort out this mess. But really? At 46 years old do I want this humiliation from a pony? I have to be honest and say yes. Who else in this physical world is going to hold up a mirror to ME? Jesus rides back on a white horse. Horses matter to him. Personally, I sit up and take note of that, or use it as a good reason to learn to ride on this side of heaven in case I get to ride up there. I happen to believe long ago everyone had a horseman education to be functional in life. Maybe we outsmarted ourselves from the use of horses by creating cars, but we’ve also cheated ourselves of a necessary education. I’m learning late in life what a horse has to teach us about life. I’m quite sure a horse education would put our president in the right place.(not to get political  but it is something I would love to see)

 

Oh I love this guy. I especially love the light brown above his nose and his awesome manly mohawk.

Oh I love this guy. I especially love the light brown above his nose and his awesome manly mohawk.

I have enough riding skill that I can handle a messy situation. What I resent is his premeditation. Biggie’s naughty is not honest. My Bear has spooked with good reason and bolted a few yards. But a quick whoa and he takes care of me. I understand a horse will react to an unexpected and sudden noise. I have to learn to be the kind of leader and rider so Biggie understands he can’t take advantage of me. That’s my challenge. That’s where I won’t back off. Who else in my life is going to humble me like this but a horse that does everything for my son? Seriously? It’s the ultimate humiliation.

 

Biggie was dressed up for Kira's fourth birthday.

Biggie was dressed up for Kira’s fourth birthday.

What is my favorite trait of Jesus? Humility. Next is gentleness. I also like it that he’s a great teacher using stories that require our thinking not the help of a three point sermon using alliteration on a power point exhibition. He didn’t need imax screens to show his outline. He showed up at the well. He drew a line in the sand. He overturned a table. He knelt alone. He walked on water. He rode through town on a donkey not his own. He has the power of God and yet he came to earth with the limitations of a human to show his ability to live a sinless life. Something not one of us will ever be able to do. He led thousands with gentleness and wisdom. He patiently endured the retarded learning of his chosen twelve. He loved me enough to die in my place for sins that should disqualify my admittance to heaven. My debt was paid by him. If I had a neighbor who owed $100,000.00 would I pay it off without a conversation? Would you? Jesus did more than that.

 

Who keeps me grounded and humble and remembering a Savior who suffered more than I ever will? A short paint pony with one blue eye and one brown eye, an incredible loft in his trot and a nasty twist and run. Also a generous 19-year-old thoroughbred, former race horse, former eventer, present dressage teacher who gives me more than I deserve. He’s lame, he’s got glaucoma and will one day be blind, but he is teaching me to ride and lead in a partnership only possible between horse and rider.

 

Am I going to give up?

Did Jesus give up on me?

What do I have to gain?

 

…perseverance…patience…forgiveness…leadership…determination…humility…and a daily opportunity to overcome my fears.

 

What do I hope for Miss Kira? That child needs more time on the back of a horse. Then her teacher won’t tell me to fix her naughty ways. The horse will do that. (Some day Kira will tell Biggie what’s what. And I will chuckle remembering this day when that stinker ran away with me.)

Kira and the first pony she rode, Applebutt

Kira and the first pony she rode, Applebutt

Posted by: tonyalatorre | June 24, 2014

A man after God’s own heart.

The Kirabo Seeds children’s home is an active and noisy place. You won’t hear screaming or crying there, only the happy laughter and squealing of children. The chatter can be heard from a distance. Curious types are found high in trees peering into our compound while attempting to understand what it is all about. Construction workers on the fourth level of a structure nearby are often found bouncing to the music during devotion. By now most neighbors are familiar and accustomed to the activity within our walls. For many months there’s been at least one mzungu coming and going. Unfortunately this draws attention from the unwelcome sort who prefers to assess the material possessions that could be lifted away if timed just right.

robert

God has definitely blessed our ministry with useful and valuable resources. We have many computers, a sound system, generator, medicines, toys and books. At night Samson our trained German Shepherd is out on the compound guarding. He knows by the reaction of everyone if a new person is friend or foe. If he sense foe he would shred the person like a sheet on the laundry line.

 

Robert with Christine

Robert with Christine

Sunday is the only day when no one is at home. Everyone goes to church together. As they pulled the van out of the gate this week there were five idle types who appeared to be up to no good lounging around our place, walking back and forth and looking over the wall. Robert slammed the brakes of the van while all the children were inside, jumped out of the driver seat, got right into the faces of these men and took their pictures! He said, “if anything happens here I will take these pictures to the police station.” The men were so angry that he took their picture. They shouted at him and gestured then ran off. Robert returned to the house and let Samson out just in case they weren’t deterred.

robert

After church Robert visited the police station anyway and reported that there were these characters loitering at the children’s home. They agreed to patrol our area more carefully and often to protect the children.

 

All of this impressed me. Robert is not only courageous but he has that fierce sense of protection over the children and women in our home. When you meet Robert he is quiet and stands back to observe. He does not draw any attention to himself. However whenever he has been asked to speak he has surprised me over and over with his eloquence and passion. The first time I met him we were helping at a hospital and I asked him to preach the salvation message to the children in Lugandan. He stepped right in and gave an impromptu animated sermon leaving the children cheering! Along our journey I have had Robert by my side in difficult and tense meetings, at the police station and in intimate gatherings with jjajjas. He is well spoken fair and unemotional in his approach to all situations yet tender and sensitive.

 

Robert with a jjajja

Robert with a jjajja

When our sweet Boniface spent his last few hours alive Robert held his hand at his side and offered any sort of hope to keep him with us. At the burial sight there were no men available to help with the burial, so Robert had to dig. He also had to hold the family together in the great pain of grieving our loss.

 

robert cuts the hair of the kids! He's good with the clippers.

robert cuts the hair of the kids! He’s good with the clippers. This was Boniface.

This is a man God called to help in orphan care. It is his job, but it’s more importantly his passion and ministry. When God promises to take care of the orphan in his word, this is how he provides. He takes a man like Robert and sets all his talents and abilities loose for the good and protection of the most vulnerable children on this planet. Thank you God. Thank you Robert.

 

 

Posted by: tonyalatorre | June 20, 2014

Man Points in Uganda

Donny and Jordan are now half way through their adventure in Uganda. They are learning to do everything from slaughter chickens, administer discipline, organize 17 children for school, cook on a charcoal stove, tutor school work, manage chores, teach bible devotions, lead staff meetings, and this week they are building a goat shed  and chicken house on our land.

Team work.

Team work.

I love this picture. Of course Jordan’s tshirt says “I am a Bison” and where it is cut out he got a nasty mzungu sun burn. One scar bubbled up and he had to go to the doctor. I failed as mother to teach my kids to use sunscreen. I guess I should be thankful they eventually began to use soap when they showered. I am sure Robert is enjoying having my sons with him to finish this work. We’ve had a change of staff at the land. Eddie had frequent disappearing periods when he would leave unannounced for a month or so and return to his village where there is no contact. His final missing act resulted in one of our twin kids (baby goats) drowning in  water on the land. Someone could have stolen the rest of them and they are not only valuable but hard working people have generously donated these resources to us so we can begin to grow a herd and feed the family. One child in California collected recyclables all year long and donated the $150 to buy a goat. Needless to say, I wasn’t happy about the neglect and irresponsibility. I felt mostly bad for Robert who invested much of himself in mentoring Eddie both spiritually and as a counselor. But Robert made the final decision to let him go. This shows excellent leadership skills. He also requested two weeks pay to send him along, demonstrating his gentle heart.

this is our new breeding male

this is our new breeding male

A family in Norway recently gave us this handsome guy. He’s the best quality breeding male we can get. We also bought another female. In Uganda goats aren’t used for milk but mainly for meat. The boys are grown big and slaughtered either for a family feast (Christmas) or for sale. The females generally have two births a year, and if we are blessed they produce twins. Judith, our assistant cook at the home, knew a guy in her village who was looking for a job. He had a reputation as a hard worker so we sent for him and he arrived this Monday with one sack containing a shirt and pants. Robert was going to provide for him out of his own pocket, but I said, let me talk to my boys. So Donny and Jordan helped stock the man up with some essentials and then they got involved in the outdoor work on the land with him. This week they have been helping build a goat shed.

labor

I never told Donny or Jordan that there was a slain black mamba found on our land. (That would be the most venomous snake on this planet.) This old mud hut was Eddie’s house until it collapsed from the rain. He said he would build his own house so I sent the funds to buy bricks and mortar. He disappeared so Robert had to build the house himself. Our new man has a good house now and the old one is being transformed to house the goats. Nothing is wasted in Uganda.

jordan

Our land is producing food, housing the goats, and now we are moving the chickens. We bought fifty more chickens and the boys helped build a chicken house and fenced it so they remain in their area. We can buy little chickens cheaply and then they grow fat for our soup pot! It’s the way chicken ends up on the plate in Uganda. During my last visit I simply had it with the chickens in the yard. They stink, they drive the dog crazy, they attract numerous unwanted flies, and they really don’t have the room they need to get fat. I asked Robert to please help me understand what it will take to get them over to the land. So another man will help on the land to manage all our animals and our crops. We are so thankful God continues to provide so we can grow! At the land the chicken droppings will be harvested as fertilizer for our plants. I meant it when I said nothing is wasted in Uganda! I look forward to looking outside the girl’s bedroom and not seeing or smelling the chicken coop!

I’m thankful the boys are lending their strength and hard work to the cause. I look forward to hugging them and hearing all the stories. I know when I look into their eyes I’ll see they met a turning point in life and followed a journey they never knew possible. That’s what time in Uganda does for me. It settles me down, gives perspective, reminds me what is important here in this life. Priorities are easy to arrange, and gratitude erupts for the smallest gift God places in our day. That’s how I want to live. I hope to create relationships with a few university programs who will put Kirabo Seeds on the intern list for missionary students. I can see by the work available here that it will be a great opportunity to continue to offer students. I am thankful for Kirabo Seeds because it gives me the opportunity to help others, make a difference in lives, give opportunities to learn and experience, and know for sure I am within God’s will for my life. That’s the sweet spot. It’s the only place I need to call home.

Posted by: tonyalatorre | June 19, 2014

Rest.

Last week: A Wedding… fourth child missing at camp…whirlwind college tours in Manhattan with Kevin… horse nursing…horse babysitting for missing child…kirabo seeds work… tooth extraction… sons in Uganda earning man points… with all that I experienced last week, I pleasantly  looked at my empty calendar today and I feel like my cat:

Jones is always found exposed this way. In fact it is often an invitation for a belly rub. I have the most unusual cats. They are more puppy like than cat.

Jones is always found exposed this way. In fact it is often an invitation for a belly rub. I have the most unusual cats. They are more puppy like than cat.

Posted by: tonyalatorre | June 10, 2014

Parenting

It’s quiet in my house. Where there should be five offspring now there are only two. The quietest, Kevin, and the noisiest, Kira. On Sunday Kira and I drove Jack to west Texas so he can have his “social binge” at Prude Ranch for three weeks. We put his trunk at the end of his bed, he kissed me, and he was gone in search of the frisbee game with his name on it. The parting took mere seconds. We’ve homeschooled together for two years now. I think both of us need this break. He is my partner all day every day and we share a lot of good times at the stables with the horses. At home I chase him around to make sure he isn’t wasting too much time. I’m always one to poke and prod anyone too comfortable around here. I generally take it easy on the guests, unless they stay too long, in that case I put them to work as well.

one way to get the van started… there's always van trouble...

one way to get the van started… there’s always van trouble…

Donny and Jordan are settling into their new routines in Uganda. They love it even though it is hard work. If you are interested, Donny shares a blog with many of his friends and he posted yesterday. It is called: Thirsty Thursday and it is also on wordpress. They are learning so much about parenting.

preparing chicken for the pot

preparing chicken for the pot

I want to assure all the sponsors that I’ve got the updates on my kitchen table and we are trying to get them in the mail this week. In my busy life as Mama Tonya I normally have Hannah who is my assistant and helps me keep all things moving smoothly. But for the summer she is the coordinator of the counselors at the camp where Jack attends. Without help all things begin to move at a dribble pace while piles grow and what’s for dinner is a good question I can’t answer.

upside down marvin

upside down marvin

Now that Kevin has finished his sophomore year in high school, has his drivers license, and an adventurous attitude, he is my new assistant! He needed a job for the summer and I was hiring. This week I’ll be training him and he’s going to earn that paycheck, this is what we both know.

cutest picture of Ryan~ever.

cutest picture of Ryan~ever.

Our kids in Uganda attend school during these months of ours when American kids sleep late, swim, take vacations and go to camp. Their school year has three terms. They are in the middle of their second term. There is great social pressure to perform well in school. It’s a little stressful. Donny and Jordan are learning how to help 16 children do homework, devotion, prepare their uniforms for the next day and get to bed on time. It’s an ordeal. Someone is always crying. Someone has always misplaced articles of clothing. Homework is never done on time. Tattling is a sport. Herding and shepherding require more patience than the average Joe has in his pocket.

and a few minutes later the weather changes

and a few minutes later the weather changes

Jesus never said life will be easy. I recall… “when you experience trials”… not… “if”… I’m thankful God has given us all a sense of humor in the mixed bag of tools for making our way along the path towards him.

christine and rhonah

christine and rhonah

I have a feeling we are going to have one big sneeze and find the summer at the end. It always passes too fast for my taste. I’m hoping to try and slow down at some point and enjoy it. With the spectrum of parenting in our hands, it’s a little hard to find the deccelerator.

Marvin, Lydia and Rhonah

Marvin, Lydia and Rhonah

On one hand as a parent we have successfully launched one child through university. On the other hand the caboose still needs naps, a car seat, and help with the bath. We have a long way to go before it’s an empty nest around here. And I think that was our purpose in having a big family. We didn’t know how to factor in our own aging. I confess we are pretending to be young until we can get Kira to a more independent stage. The fifth one might finish us off. I’m beginning to think one girl is equal balance with four boys on the parenting scale. Each morning we have to do our “parenting calisthenics” to be able to keep up with her dramas.

Funny Paul

Funny Paul

Kira and I shared a nice dinner in a restaurant on Sunday and spent the night at a hotel in Fort Davis before driving the long six hours home again on Monday. During dinner she told me, “when I get big I’m going to be a mzungu mama who is in charge of everything all the time.” Oh look out world if this one wants to be in charge of everything all the time. She’s in training now so remember me in your prayers. She would very much like to push me out of the way and take over today.

Kira at the drug store in Fort Davis

Kira at the drug store in Fort Davis

Yes, Parenting is the hardest job…with so many rewards…so worth it…no regrets…but oh it will age ya. My only hope is knowing they belong to God and He has a plan for them. My job isn’t to make the plan, just help them along and find HIS plan.

This is a horse barn at Prude Ranch.

This is a horse barn at Prude Ranch.

Posted by: tonyalatorre | June 4, 2014

Brotherhood

Before our sons departed for six weeks in Uganda we had many long talks about how they should approach this work. Donny, fresh with his business diploma in hand is eager to conquer all things organizational and structural. Jordan with his first year of college down and a wealth of ministry classes tucked in his pocket is ready to overhaul the teaching of God’s word to the children.

 

Jordans 19th birthday

Jordans 19th birthday

I couldn’t be happier for their initiative and enthusiasm to get involved in our passion for orphan care and ministry in Uganda. This is a stunning realized dream for me. When we began this work over three years ago, in their teenage eyes this was something “mom and dad are doing and we go along”. Now, it is something they also know belongs to them and they WANT to get their hands dirty. But something reminded me of the feeling when I am riding my horse and he has an impulse other than what I asked, and takes the chance to have a gallop during the warmup. I become the passenger rather than the leader. A quick “whoa Boy” reminds him we have a program and we start at the beginning not the end.

 

Craig and I counseled the boys with the simple reminder: “no one cares how much you know until they know how much you care”. I personally endured great persecution in that culture for this work and never quit. I keep going back for more even though it can be excruciatingly difficult. They know how much I care and they trust me. So we suggested the boys go in and serve, get involved in all the jobs that happen in the house. With their actions they can show everyone, especially the children, that we help first, share ideas second, make changes last.

Chronicles of Narnia…something Christopher began and our boys have picked up where he left off

Chronicles of Narnia…something Christopher began and our boys have picked up where he left off

 

This is what Uncle Kenny wrote about them in the first four days of their adventure:

“It was really nice welcoming Donny and Jordan at the house because the kids are really enjoying their trip since they are involved in everything with kids together. The boys are doing a great work at the house because they are involved in every kind of work like cooking, cleaning, supervision together with us.

                    We are really happy that Donny and Jordan are here with us because they are showing a very good example to the kids of showing them that work is not for the kids only, but by getting involved in everything and also showing them that they need to work without arguing among themselves and doing work with love, passion, generosity and calmness.”

 

Now, as our sons observe how the children’s home operates, who participates, what the needs are then they can work together with everyone to create opportunity for improvement. They participated in the team meeting with the staff for the first time yesterday. They were able to work with everyone with ideas and now their ideas are welcome! Motivating the children to do their chores in a timely way with excellence is an ongoing battle. (for every parent on earth!!) So they had a lively discussion about how to improve this situation. Jordan has realized it is time to separate the younger children from the older children for devotions. He is so right about that, it is something that has been overlooked for a long time. So they’ll try that for a while and see if we can get the little ones to be more involved and thinking at a level where they are able.

 

Devotion…big kids with Donny …little kids somewhere else with Jordan

Devotion…big kids with Donny …little kids somewhere else with Jordan

As their mother, I’m thankful my eldest sons are sharing this experience. I look forward to seeing their faith strengthen. I hope they learn to lean on each other, and encourage one another. My greatest hope is that this experience for them will anchor their friendship, their brotherhood for a lifetime. It is so rare for brothers in their early adult years to share a foreign mission assignment together. I’m on the front row, eyes wide, toes tapping, waiting to see what God will do.

Posted by: tonyalatorre | June 1, 2014

Donny and Jordan are in Uganda

Donny graduated from Baylor University two weeks ago. We had a fun weekend in Waco with extended family traveling from all over the country to celebrate with him. Every parent who watches a first-born walk the graduation stage has a bundle of exploding emotion happening all at once. Craig and I are often a little confused to realize our son has done what we feel oftentimes was just yesterday for ourselves. He’s going to A&M in the fall to get a masters in Human Resources management. Funny, he has realized he’s specifically gifted in the same way his father is and so he will pursue a similar career. It is an amazing feeling to see your child work hard, achieve, and pursue a goal that will give him complete independence from the nest. Most importantly we know he is following God’s plan for his life, not ours. He’s made the big transfer from being accountable to his parents to accountable to God for the choices he makes with his life. That was my only goal for him. Craig and I need to hope we can get that done four more times.

 

Donny and his Dad

Donny and his Dad

Jordan celebrates his nineteenth birthday today! He finished his freshman year of college at Oklahoma Baptist University immersed in the culture of college and lapping up his Christian education. He is thinking about international missions! I know someone who does that! ( I could have been exceedingly thankful for the education he’s receiving … seems though I always have to learn things the hard knock way.) He continues to lift weights and the dude is huge. His goal seems to be to at least lift the same max that Craig did at his age. Jordan wasn’t one to embrace high school, but now that he can study what is interesting to him, he loves school. When he is passionate about something he’s brilliant.

 

sibs with the graduate

sibs with the graduate

Both of our college boys sought summer internships but nothing really surfaced that was useful. Craig and I agreed we weren’t giving them a holiday at home. That’s not the LaTorre way. We offered them internships in Uganda, and they both embraced the opportunity enthusiastically. So, on Thursday morning they flew to Uganda to work at the Kirabo Seeds children’s home. They’ll be there for half the summer serving and working long hours. Donny can help us with some HR administration as we develop some internal structure. And Jordan is getting three credits for this work if he writes a few papers and reads a few books! He looks forward to teaching the children in devotions. This is something I definitely need to pursue with some universities. I’d be interested in offering long-term internships like Christopher was able to do at our home and be able to work in partnership with educators.

 

Phiona sent me this photo of them yesterday helping

Phiona sent me this photo of them yesterday helping

Jordan and Donny had their first day together with the family yesterday. The children were beyond excited to receive these boys for half the summer. They only met Jordan shortly after opening our home, but Donny was there in January with us. Christopher and I came up with a job description for interns so our boys sat down with a list of jobs, ways of participating, directions for serving, and a rigorous schedule to follow. If they think helping with Kira is tiring, they are in for an education about tired when they try to put 17 kids to bed on time for the first time. I giggle to imagine them collapsing after that ordeal.

 

chicken slaughter

chicken slaughter

On their first day Phiona sent me photos of them peeling potatoes and cooking chipote bread. I warned the boys that they have to ask Auntie Julie three times for a job. The first time she will say no. Then she will look at you the second time to see if you mean it. The third time she will hand you a knife and some work. I was happy to see them doing kitchen work. It must have been a real spectacle for the children because in their culture men don’t do kitchen work. In our house though, they do. That’s one downside of having an opinionated American on the team.

making chipote bread

making chipote bread

 

They also slaughtered a few chickens yesterday. Jordan had no idea all this special food and prep was to celebrate his birthday today. See, if you are a special guest and you are celebrating an occasion in Uganda, a chicken will be slaughtered in your honor and you will eat it! Auntie Julie is also making a cake, which is done only on special occasions. This is not a culture of desert eaters. My Jordan is a big teddy bear. He’s all mush in his heart and tender with devoted love. His loyalty to family and friends outshines anything I’ve ever seen in other relationships. This birthday celebration will mean a lot to him. It will show him this is his family too.

 

little rhonah with lipstick!

little rhonah with lipstick!

I have to say it is the best feeling to know our two eldest sons have chosen to go to Uganda for an extended amount of time and serve the children and staff at Kirabo Seeds. This is going to stretch them in ways only God and orphan care can do. They are eager to lean hard on God and learn things that can’t be found on the comfort of our couch here at home. They are hoping to discover parts of themselves they have yet to uncover, plans God has, directions for the future, understanding and living out of ideas as they become life in practice.

 

this is silly Jack here at home with Jones in his shirt

this is silly Jack here at home with Jones in his shirt

It is one thing to think about making a difference. It’s really something when you take the leap, become vulnerable, take risks and actually GO make a difference. It can’t be read in a book. It can’t be found in a class or small group. It makes no difference as an idea. I frankly got really tired of talking about what Christians should do in small groups. It was the greatest relief of my life when we were able to serve God by opening an orphanage in Uganda. I like to get my hands in there and get dirty. I was eager to make a lifetime commitment to the cause. I’d lay my life down for this work. It is the greatest relief to feel secure knowing I’m inside God’s will for my life, no matter how hard it can be. I hope my children find that. I love it that we can connect people with the same desire to help us as sponsors to our children. It is our family of sponsors who are really making this work possible! The children know God has softened the hearts of sponsors to care for them, and help them have an education, medical care, home, parenting, safety and love. Now, I am so excited to see how this opportunity to serve is going to affect our boys.

 

 

 

Posted by: tonyalatorre | May 29, 2014

Thank you Uncle Christopher

It was an emotional week for the family at Kirabo Seeds as they said good-bye to Uncle Christopher. He has been volunteering at our home since January. Yesterday he arrived safely home in Texas. I’m sure he’s enjoying the first hot shower in months, a variety of missed foods, the comfort of family and western world roadways. The list of what he misses is much longer and it will take some time to adjust to our first world way of life again. Donny and Jordan are off to the airport today so they can spend six weeks serving the family in Uganda. I’m excited to see what God will do with them. I wrote a letter to the children to help them understand their heartache, and thought I’d share it with all of you too.

Dear Kirabo Seeds Family,

I understand yesterday you said good-bye to a dear member of our family when Uncle Christopher had to fly home. Even as I am here on the other side of the world my heart was feeling the aches for all of you. I wanted to take this time to write to you and explain the broader picture of our heartache. It could be that saying good-bye to him hurt so much that you would protect your heart the next time a new person comes to visit and try to save yourself this heartache. I want to urge you not to do that and this is why I will write to you today.

 

Christopher always engaged with the children

Christopher always engaged with the children

See in my life as a mama and wife my husband’s career has caused our family to move ten times. I would settle into a new city where I didn’t know anyone and make friends, get involved, and feel at home knowing someday I would have to say good-bye. Every two or three years we would start all over in a new city where we didn’t know anyone. It would be easiest if I did not get too involved because then saying good-bye would not hurt me so much. But I always chose to throw all of myself into my new home and trust God will make something good of it all, and be there for me when I hurt.

 

What I want you to know is God used all those relationships I made in those ten cities to help bring support to Kirabo Seeds, and sponsors to our children. I think you should see that many of your sponsors are people who were my dearest friends when I lived in their cities and my heart ached just like yours does to miss Christopher when I said good-bye. But God knew they would participate in this ministry someday and there was a reason for me to put my heart at risk for heartache when I became their friends. I’m so glad I didn’t hold back because now you have sponsors!

christopher and christine

God always has a big plan for our relationships that we don’t see. If you look through a straw you only see a little point of the landscape, which is what it is like to be human. But God sees everything, all the time, everywhere. We can trust God with our hearts knowing someday the heartache will be for everyone’s good.

 

Now, Christopher was called by God to do this work. I didn’t know him at all but a friend from a city where I once lived had a son who did a report in a class at Baylor about our ministry! That’s how Christopher found us! God used a relationship I had in a city where I once lived to bring Christopher to us. He understood this was what God was asking him to do even before I understood it! Here’s what I know for sure, and what I want all of you to begin to believe and trust: Christopher has just begun his journey with all of you. He needed to be there with you and love you deeply and know you completely so he can come home and help you in other ways. It is Auntie Erica and me here in America doing this work and now we have Christopher on our team. I believe God will take the deep love and knowledge he has of you and turn it into something that will make a great difference in your lives. I also believe he will return some day to visit you and what a celebration and reunion that will be for everyone!

 

Christopher and Lawrence

Christopher and Lawrence

Please don’t despair. Please don’t decide to guard your hearts when new friends come. Trust God to use these relationships in ways that we’ll never know. Trust him to help you through the sadness. One of the reasons I wanted to send our sons Donny and Jordan to you is to help you get through the loneliness of missing Uncle Christopher. He was so special and shared so much of himself with you. I admire the way he pursued knowing each one of you and shared so much of his heart with you. He is indeed special and you will always remember the little things he did with you and how he enjoyed sitting reading a book to you, playing a game or making a puzzle. When you remember these things I hope you will say a heart felt “thank you God”. That’s what I do.

 

His degree is in cinematography from Baylor. I hope you see the easter video he made of the children.

His degree is in cinematography from Baylor. I hope you see the easter video he made of the children.

Nothing in this life is ours to keep. The more we give away ourselves, as Christopher did, the greater the love of God in us is shared and enjoyed by unknown people. Letting him go is painful. I know. But what you were given through knowing him is so worth this present heartache. Please don’t hold back when a new friend comes to share their hearts with you.

 

I believe and trust God will send many more interns like Christopher in our future. Each one will be a rare and special jewel in your life that you can string onto a necklace and count as blessings. Someday you will see how God will use those relationships for his glory. Trusting God with our whole heart means making ourselves vulnerable to be sad but knowing we will be ok and it is worth it.

He taught the children to fly kites

He taught the children to fly kites

 

When you feel the sadness and are missing him too much please write a letter to him. Write lots of letters and then when Donny and Jordan come home they can bring the letters and I will send them to him and he will write back! I believe when I travel he will write you letters like your sponsors! So you write first!! Tell him all the things you remember about him and how much it meant to you. Tell him how you are using the good advice he taught you in your daily life. Remind him of secrets you shared and the jokes you made together. He will love to hear from you.

 

You are blessed by God my friends because Christopher said “yes God I will go”. In everything give thanks to God.

 

I love you!

Mama Tonya

 

 

Posted by: tonyalatorre | May 15, 2014

Parenting, Culture, and God’s Way

I embrace a hearty Nature versus Nurture exploration. It is partly why I got a degree in Psychology for my undergraduate work. I read every book I can find about identical twins that are raised apart then reunited later in life. They almost always make similar choices in their lives. Fascinating! I believe I am hard wired by God to bend in a specific way that he has designed for my life. I also know He has allowed all sorts of people, experiences, and places to influence my bend. The result is quite unique for every person walking this earth. But whoever I become is no surprise to God. He’s seen the end from the beginning. He’s using me, allowing me to influence what is hardwired into my five children. My job is to help them find their bend and keep them safely in that direction. I count it as such an honor.

 

Our Kira age four.

Our Kira age four.

When I watch our Kira grow I am fascinated by her nature versus nurture situation. She’s pure Ugandan blood raised in a culture completely different from her genetic placement. What’s interesting is I can regularly observe her among children in Uganda. Her behavior at age four is a complete contrast from the Ugandan children. She opens her mouth and an American accent spills out. More than that all of her mind finds its way to words, oftentimes shocking. The filter hasn’t been installed. Her body language is confident and in charge. Her impulse to share her mind is too quick to be caught by any taught formula of manners that we have sought to instill. It is coming slowly but mostly she’s free to share because I am interested in learning who she really is inside that spunky personality. She’s not only free to question me she is encouraged. I answer her honestly and completely so she understands why I ask her to change and what I expect her to do. I am willing to have a conversation about why she can’t wear her Beauty and the Beast wig to school. Though we correct her and she listens, practices, and usually respects our guidance, her impulses remain very strong, and they get her in regular trouble.

 

I never underestimate her mind

I never underestimate her mind

I’ve got consistency practiced by the fifth child, so when I choose to say no, there’s nothing that will change my mind. I’m careful though about using the full stop. Whenever possible I try to see if what she wants might be possible. It’s cruel to shut down her every wish and impulse just because it inconveniences me. Over the twenty-one years I’ve been parenting I’ve learned to pause when asked for something and honor the request with a full consideration before I answer. With teenagers, the first answer is always, “I have to think about it.” And I really have to think hard sometimes to out smart them.

 

grumpy face

grumpy face

I want Kira to develop self-control but I don’t expect her to have it at age four. Most important to me is that she explores herself, her mind, her feelings and she doesn’t feel shame associated with them. I want her to express herself. I learn about the bend God has given her when I watch her raw behavior. Gradually as we raise her we will curb that mean edge, soften the harsh tone, teach a little humility, set a boundary around expectations and build a fortress against the nitty-gritty of her strong will. She’ll figure out she isn’t my boss soon enough. Actually, she now seems to believe she is my assistant. That’s progress right there! I can see from the twenty-year-olds we are raising that self-control is an ongoing process. She doesn’t have to have perfect manners at age four. I’ll give her some wiggle room and grace.

 

She is Belle from the Beauty and the Beast

She is Belle from the Beauty and the Beast

Her behavior among Ugandan children is astonishing to the elders. They giggle and gasp because they know she’s raised American. But she would get regular beatings in that culture until she conformed. A good child in Uganda kneels to greet adults, is quiet unless spoken to and obeys without questions. If they don’t do that they are labeled “stubborn” and then shaped with a regular caning. It is their way and I won’t judge them for it. In our Kirabo Seeds home we reserve spankings for specific consequences not as a regular means of discipline. We use positive reinforcement, encouragement, time outs, counseling and unconditional love to shape the children. It has been working beautifully. The staff doubted me when I introduced the system, but when they saw it work they said it was a miracle! As a result our children are confident, they feel valued, understood and greatly loved. They are secure. When they do something like brawl with one another they get a spank but they don’t feel “beaten”. And they get a long counseling session to understand fully what they have done wrong and why it is wrong. Mostly they work towards excellent behavior to earn rewards. Children love praise and recognition.

 

Meeting Ariel was her favorite thing ever.

Meeting Ariel was her favorite thing ever.

I’ve brought Kira to Uganda with me every three months since she was one and a half. The whole family there has watched me discipline this child in every way. The most interesting to them was the practice of time out. They have never heard of it. Kira would have one of her colossal fits, shocking everyone, so I’d pick her up, put her in a chair and say, “stay there until I come get you. Get yourself calm.” I mostly ignored her while she misbehaved wearing her angry eyes. She would cry and flail but not get out of the chair. After a while she was ready to join the others and willing to apologize. Auntie Julie said, “I can’t believe how well that worked. I didn’t expect her to stay there.” She needs the separation to feel her emotions, let them simmer down and then forget what the big deal was in the first place. Missing all the fun she hears wasn’t worth the trouble. So they began to use timeout with the younger children at home. They would send one to his bed without any thing to do and it was near torture for them to be separated from all the fun. They begged for a spank to get it over with so they wouldn’t miss the play. Timeout worked!

 

Helping to make pizza in Auntie Julie's kitchen

Helping to make pizza in Auntie Julie’s kitchen

When Kira greets someone she doesn’t know she used to growl. Actually she was known to hiss like a cat. I’m fairly sure when she’s ten she’ll know how to greet adults. I’m more concerned with understanding what she’s afraid of now and why she feels she should defend herself with a hiss. That’s what I need to address more than the fact that she surprised a stranger who probably got a little too close to her personal space. People in Uganda always touch her in a way that looks like a playful jab before saying hello. She does not welcome that. People in America sometimes pounce on her socially because she is so unique and she doesn’t actually want all that attention. I might hiss too.

 

The look when I know we need to stop and talk.

The look when I know we need to stop and talk.

Ugandans see how delightfully free Kira is to be herself and they marvel at it. She isn’t stuffed into a form and expected to conform, at least not all at once. Her personality is big and colorful and she’s hysterical. The children in our home love to imitate her accent and use her American sayings. I’m not saying the American parenting result is better. One thing every visitor to Uganda will appreciate is the excellent manners children display. They are polite, quiet, respectful, and obedient. I never see a child misbehave in public or talk back to an adult. Ever. That comes at a high price to the child. Ugandan children’s public manners are delightful to experience especially when you don’t know how they are achieved.

 

Musa helped Kira pick a bouquet of flowers.

Musa helped Kira pick a bouquet of flowers.

The Watoto church offered a month long parenting seminar and Robert and Phiona were so excited to participate! They are eager to learn more about positive parenting and break out of the cycle of traditional Ugandan upbringing (the cane). The point is that the bible has a lot to say about how to raise children. With the bible as a guide, culture goes in the back seat. It doesn’t matter if I’m American or Ugandan when the bible is clear about how to go. I’m safest if I go God’s way. With the bible as the bottom line of our guiding principles at Kirabo Seeds we can proceed despite our cultural differences and find God’s design for this ministry. What may seem impossible, we learn the promise God gives is true: “Train them up in the way they should go and when they are old they will not depart from it.”

 

 

Posted by: tonyalatorre | May 12, 2014

Mother’s Day

I enjoyed playing with my camera and capturing a few of my loves…not all those I love enjoy my camera pointed at them…so this isn’t a complete list…but it sure was nice to have so many that call me mama…all over this world.

Bear

Bear

This is my horse Bear. He really is my best friend and only people who ride understand what that feels like or that it isn’t crazy.

kira and apple

This is Kira with the pony she shares with another family. His name is “AppleButt”. It’s hysterical when she say it. She loves to trot on him and begs to canter, which she’s no way ready to do but at the same time she’s fearless.

love

this was an action shot…this was not posed. She loves this pony.

kisses

He gets lots of kisses from the fluffliest lips God ever made. We all line up and beg for her kisses at our house, but this pony gets them just for letting her ride on his back and lead him around by a rope.

future equestrian

Jack did the hard work of jogging along side a trotting Applebutt so Kira could find her rhythm. She loves it! She giggles and squeals for more. It’s bad news when pony has said that’s all for today.

jack and biggie

Jack and Biggie. They know about best friends too.

silly kira

Our little diva in the making.

jones

This is six months old “Jones”

Indy

This is six month old “Indy”  (get it ? Indy and Jones)

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