Posted by: tonyalatorre | August 21, 2014

How I know anything is possible with God

I find myself at the close of another hand in hand walk with God through the growing pains of Kirabo Seeds in Uganda. The rhythm I follow flows with the school term of the children, as they are released for holidays we appear, and as they endure long days and weeks in their studies I am on the other side of their world preparing for the next adventure with them. I grow spiritually with each visit I have in Uganda. It’s not an easy walk in the meadow on a spring morning. It’s more like living my own nightmare.

 

My greatest fear is to be alone in the ocean where land cannot be seen and I am there with nothing but my own buoyancy. That’s the most vulnerable condition I can imagine myself having to endure. I do almost anything to avoid being on open water like that. But when the nightmare comes, after I struggle a little, I surrender, and I can see God and me together there. I find him there. I am not alone. The strength of my faith would not plummet but rise higher than I could ever imagine. Removed of all my securities, all my resources,stripped naked, it makes me vulnerable and what do I find? All of myself belongs to God. Of course I would be scared, but all that danger is out of my control. Complete trust and faith in the one who promises never to leave me is all I would have. Maybe this is all I need…ever.

 

local market…can you find Robert?

local market…can you find Robert?

How can I be sure I don’t drown in my nightmare? Because often that’s how I feel when I come to Uganda to develop Kirabo Seeds while we strive to do God’s work in orphan care. I’m in a culture not my own, like the ocean. This makes communication an ever present challenge. There are traditions, customs, beliefs, strongholds, and habits here that cause me to feel like we have hit roadblocks or dead ends with every tiny effort…storms at sea.

 

Sometimes I fear all we have labored to do can disperse in a moment and be gone. I fear the flesh eating sharks all around here, whether that be a rapist on a dark corner, the government, greedy enemies, ruthless uneducated thugs, or just plain ignorance.

 

Kevin reading to the kids.

Kevin reading to the kids.

We lost sweet Boniface this year when his little body, infected with HIV, couldn’t fight the childhood disease of chicken pox. Three days and he was gone. That’s the worst outcome I can imagine in caring for these children, and yet we came out of it stronger. But I continue to grieve not only for the loss of his potential to do good in this place and his happy ways, but because with one vaccination he could have been with us here, now. It is heartbreaking to know prevention is available and yet see so many perish without it. My response fluctuates from fury to despair until I finally arrive at surrender. And I remember that’s where God always wants me: surrendered and vulnerable.

 

I live with a mind that swims in possibility. I am optimistic, creative and unhindered when faced with a problem. I love to explore various solutions to a challenge. Here, I find I struggle against people with a fatalistic disposition. “This is the way it is. That’s all there is.” No! A broken window pane can be fixed, it doesn’t have to cut everyone in the home or welcome every malaria carrying mosquito all night long. Faulty electricity has a solution if we inquire deeper into the problem. Children with pockets of pain in their heart can heal from the talking cure, they don’t have to carry it every day of their lives as a crushing burden.

 

hannah and lydia on laundry day

hannah and lydia on laundry day

Sometimes here where there are always so many people everywhere I look, friendly, curious faces, shy waves, interested eyes, long stares….I feel so alone, like that nightmare of mine in the ocean. I am coming to see that’s what God wants me to find when I come here. I tread water and reach out until I feel his presence is the water surrounding me, keeping me afloat. Then I am sure anything is possible. Because he promises with him anything is possible. My nightmare turns into a daydream because when I follow God, trust Him, believe his promises, then I am safe and on the journey where roadblocks are absurd. God can make me into a tank, or a horse with wings, or a raft.

 

This trip I thought I might be a tank, but instead by the grace of God we flew and the solutions to our problems were nothing short of miracles delivered on a pretty platter served to us by angels. I’m not saying it was easy or that we didn’t struggle. We just never could have seen the outcome when we were in the trial. Only God can do what he does here for these children.

desire and kira doing laundry together…. a special friendship

desire and kira doing laundry together…. a special friendship

 

Obviously I can’t talk about specific details about the lives of these beautiful children of God. Trust me though, they are walking with a great and mighty God who will see them through every step of their journey. If ever they have the opportunity to face their greatest fears, (like mine in the ocean alone) I know they are growing the kind of faith where they will lean heavy into God and come through to the other side not only triumphant but stronger. My prayer is they will have a contagious faith and generations of people after them will be infected. If that happens, then everything I have given for the cause will worth it. No. It’s worth it because I know I am inside God’s will for my life, and any other way is the nightmare.

Posted by: tonyalatorre | August 16, 2014

Kirabo Seeds embracing our community

Apples are rare and special here in Uganda. They are imported from South Africa, shipped packaged to the expensive supermarkets. I keep a dozen or so apples. The children in our home have learned that I keep a full bowl of them on my table, so I get enthusiastic offers to escort me home. I always welcome company, and they love to carry my bags. They skip, laugh, tell me secrets, ask me private questions and keep Kira entertained enough that she forgets she is tired. I don’t make them ask for the apple, and Kira wouldn’t give me the opportunity anyway, she can’t wait to play hostess and pass them around.

 

veronica joined KS a couple months ago. She helps around the house, and with the parenting of the kids.

veronica joined KS a couple months ago. She helps around the house, and with the parenting of the kids.

The special apple treats for our children are similar to how Kirabo Seeds shares our resources with our community. We have just spent the day having an out reach event. We no longer leave our home. We invited the neighborhood children to come to our place once a month and enjoy a day with our family. They played games, built legos and read books. Then we shared a meal with them of nicely seasoned beans and posho. After their bellies were full our older children led worship songs and gave devotion from the bible. Kenny and Kiah asked questions to see if they were listening and then passed out prizes. Some kids got a beanie baby, a kirabo seeds tshirt, a jump rope or a lollipop. Our kids performed a skit from the bible using the story of Daniel in the Lion’s den. They are so funny. After the devotions Uncle Robert set up the music and Kira squealed, “the party has started!” We had a dance contest for the boys first. I am no longer shocked to see how well children can move to music here, but Hannah was in stunned silence, which soon turned to amazed laughter. The girls were more reserved, except for Kira who participated in that contest. She loves to dance and has her own style combined with plenty of energy.

 

outreach

outreach

After the dance party we put up a sheet in the living room, set up the projector and played a bible movie for them with translations. We had a hundred kids today. They had so much fun. It is a important to share our blessings with the community. The kids and staff are beginning to know the children around the neighborhood because of this. We look forward to teaching and sharing with them at the beginning of every month. Our abundance of resources and teaching is like the occasional apple in their lives. We keep the fun stocked up just for when they will arrive. I want the nutritious seeds of learning to sprout in them so they arrive eager to understand more about how God loves. I can only hope that God will touch their hearts and draw them to himself.

 

I don’t really like it that there have always been mzungus around for this event. I would rather have them believe and know that it is truly the Ugandans planning and giving this party day for them. I suppose it was my initial idea because our jjajjas are tiring of hosting for us. And the local pastors sometimes want to use us to make themselves great and popular. It takes half the day getting everyone to an outreach. We just want to share the bible with kids and make a difference in their lives somehow. It seemed easiest to do it from home. And it has been easier. But all of the planning and structuring of the event is done by our staff and children. I stay out of it.

 

In general people around here smell a mzungu and they think it is their one opportunity to ask for help. I can’t count how many people ask me to take one of their children or complain that we don’t find sponsors for all the needy children around. They have no idea how hard it is to find sponsors and keep them up to date with the progress of the children. It’s so common for people to ask for school fees. I do want to help. I am helping. But every hand is always out and I’m more interested in helping people help themselves than I am in giving a handout. That’ s not what they’ve been trained to expect from a mzungu. A pastor actually said, “she will come here and only hand out the word of God? They get plenty of that. She needs to put something in their hands.”

 

Our children are doubly orphaned children, or they have parents who are alive but psychologically disabled. Who is going to help them if we don’t? I can hardly say no to an orphaned child, but an able bodied healthy adult needs to work hard and problem solve without the jackpot of a mzungu on the street. Somehow I can justify giving to the neediest of the needy. It’s just so sad to know almost everyone I see is needy.

 

On Friday I met with Annette Kirabira who started Rahab House. She ministers to girls who come from the street out of the clutch of sexual abuse or prostitution. She gives them similar holistic care and counseling that we do at Kirabo Seeds. She’s a psychologist and understands as I do that going deep into each child is far more beneficial than spreading ourselves too wide in order to report we are helping hundreds or thousands at once. With greater numbers we could meet their physical needs and pay school fees, but all the brokenness they come to us with cannot be healed effectively. It takes time and intense counseling to break free from some of the burdens children carry. And all of our children arrived at our door with seriously heavy burdens. It takes unconditional love and the power and grace of God to fully transform these hurting children to vibrant, healed, alive individuals.

 

I was encouraged talking to Annette because I don’t have a prototype organization in Uganda to follow. I don’t have a mentor. I tend to feel significantly alone. But Annette and I have been called to help in similar ways and we run into similar roadblocks. The reach of her organization is impressive. What I love the most is she’s Ugandan and she started this up herself, struggled for support, and perseveres because this is her heart cause. Like me, she’d never consider giving up when it gets hard. And did we ever talk about how hard it gets.

 

I can only hope our children can turn out to be like her! I strive to hire her graduates because they have broken backgrounds and a testimony of the changing power of God in their lives. They are living proof that it is never too late to transform life from the bottom to the best when God is in the lead. I think Annette is an apple tree in this society. I hope our children follow her example. I hope to tend an orchard some day…we are planting the seeds now.

(it’s nearly impossible this morning to upload the photos I wanted to share. when the internet improves I will add)

 

Posted by: tonyalatorre | August 13, 2014

Grappling with extremes

I personally believe that pets are an important part of a childhood experience. It’s quite a luxury in Uganda though. We have a German Shepherd, Samson, and he’s an amazing animal. He bows down to me and receives the attention like a small puppy. But he’s a trained guard dog and he doesn’t like the little children teasing him with the way they run and dart with fear. He spends his days in his house/cage and his nights on the property guarding. Sometimes he is on a tether and enjoys rolling in the grass. The cat, Pretty, is an affectionate and sweet thing. She is always with the children. She makes the home hers first as any good cat would do and she allows everyone else to live with her. She’s allowed to stay according to Auntie Julie because she keeps the mice out of her kitchen. We used to keep chickens at the house but during the last trip I was here I had enough of them making a terrible mess, smelling up the property and drawing flies. I banished them to the land. It was a great pleasure to arrive and smell fresh air, keep a clean compound and not find chickens in the house. The former chicken house was converted to a rabbit hutch.

 

samson

samson

Daniel’s friend at school gave him a pet rabbit and the children loved it so much showing everyone on skype how cute it was and they played with it often. But they failed to protect it from Samson who beheaded it as soon as he was free. I wrote a letter about predators and prey living together. I warned they are responsible for making the prey safe and if they could do that they could get another rabbit. So they got a boy and girl rabbit and named them “Donny and Kelli”. They did what all rabbits do so the children found eight pink wrinkly bunnies a few weeks ago. Now we have seven white tiny bunnies who are happy to be held and stroked. The children go find food in the fields for the rabbits. They hold the mama down twice a day so the babies can nurse because she’s not a good mama. The kids frequently fetch a baby and play. (me too)

 

hannah and bunny

hannah and bunny

They all talk about what good eating these babies will be. What a horror for me. Animals here keep their place in the kingdom. They are to be enjoyed but they ultimately have jobs to hunt, protect, or feed. Not at all like my cats who are fed in glass bowls at the exact same times each day. One of our goats was in labor yesterday. The kid was too big to deliver and by the time the vet arrived to help the kid had died within the mother. Guess who got a gourmet meal of fresh kid? Samson.

 

denis, fred and paul

denis, fred and paul

Life here is raw, basic, real. The tension between life and death is tangible at all times. Even as we fear Ebola reaching this region the people act as if it just happens and people die. In America we have so many precautions and preventions we aren’t accustomed or surrendered to inevitability of death. We don’t suffer well either. But here suffering is just a matter of degrees and everyone takes it on like a backpack.

I find my heart has dulled to the shock and pain of life here. I know I can’t go to church because I’ll be found there by my enemies. I know I’ll never be independent here and drive myself because it is not safe. The girls could be raped in an instant if they were ever to be found walking alone outside our compound. A small child can have more sexual experience than a forty-year-old man. Thieves roam at night with machetes. Mob justice is a practice where a criminal is burned on the spot at the scene of the crime. My mentor could and would steal all I’ve got while smiling in my presence and giving me advice. A sage man of God will keep a second local wife and raise children with her as if that’s natural. Pastors can be thieves. A private life rarely reflects the public one.

 

lawrence and his bunny

lawrence and his bunny

Sometimes I conclude that knowledge rarely makes it into the fingers and practices of the people. These truths used to make me feel distraught and befuddled for days as I grappled with how can it be?! But now I am resigned. I sigh a lot when I am here. I somehow hold a middle ground where I am not too low or too high but able to put one foot in front of the other and cope. I’d be absolutely lost without the promises of God. He is sovereign. He has a plan for every person. He loves these children more than we do. He will guide us through this. I don’t have to understand it to find the way forward. He’ll give me what I need to know just for today and the problem at hand. Jesus is enough. My faith in Him is enough. And the hope for the future of these children as we get deep into their dirty business and grapple with turning truths into habits is enough motivation to keep me undaunted.

Posted by: tonyalatorre | August 10, 2014

No more silence.

The familiar call of the rooster somewhere in the distance informs me I am not in my bed in Texas. I roll over and it is Kira by my side, not my husband, and I muffle a giggle because she can snore just like him. I miss him already. People shuffle by outside my window happily, casually using a tongue of foreign exotic words. The heavy iron gate rolls open and the voices fade into their day as I rise into mine. Sunlight steams a warm glow into my apartment, three slumbering travelers remain still in the other room. It would be perfect if there were a big dog sleeping with Jack and two ragdoll cats curling around my feet.

kira at the airport (she's growing too fast!)

kira at the airport (she’s growing too fast!)

 

But the dog here is at the children’s home and he’s spent the night patrolling the wall while children sleep. He is trained to devour anyone foolish enough to enter our courtyard in the black of night. The cat is there too working for Auntie Julie to be sure there are no mice in her kitchen. Food is a precious commodity here and we don’t wish to share with rodents. At this hour the children are awake at the home entering their day, taking a jog with Uncle Robert, and beginning the Saturday chores. They are on holiday so there won’t be a half day of school today. They are absolutely taking bets on how tall Jack has grown, how sassy Kira will be for her mama, and what in the world does Kevin look like now? It’s been two years since Kevin has found himself in Uganda with us. That American high school has a tight grip on him. And my assistant, Hannah, joins us. She has blonde hair to her waist and I know the sight of it will cause them all to gasp. It won’t take long before they run their fingers through her flaxen mermaid hair with childlike wonder.

 

Last night at midnight Kenny, Phiona and Robert greeted us at the airport. Jack climbed on top of the van and arranged our thirteen boxes of goods for the kids as quickly as Robert passed them up to him. While we situated ourselves into our home Kira set the table for a tea party and demanded her toothbrush be found this instant. Somewhere around two all were asleep and I took the first bucket bath in a few months before slipping into my white sheets with clean feet. Stretching out onto a soft bed with warm covers and a fan blowing is a delight after two nine hour flights sleeping cramped and upright with a sprawling child on my lap.

 

culture of uganda

culture of uganda

On my desk is a four inch stack of files. This won’t be a pleasure trip for me. There is much work to do. I have learned over the years that I concentrate three months of work into a short trip and these projects will last the team until I return. My arrival is always met with a great relief as some unraveling edges are repairs saved just for me. Orphan care isn’t a romantic rescue of needy children like the big organizations advertise. No one looks sad until we show up. They were survivors with hard eyes when they came to us and they will continue to survive with or without us. Orphan care is fraught with trauma, opposition, hurts, and unruly emotions. The least of our worries are funding, as significant as it is. We are concerned about the thieves carrying blades who throw rocks at our dog at night. We pray against enemies spreading rumors to dash our community reputation. There are men who visit the witchdoctor to buy a wish for our van to erupt into flames and turn over with all the kids in it. It is a heavy burden, so heavy with the varied mix of trauma each child carries from his past. With two years in a safe place they are beginning to try and heal and their needs for help are shocking. Each child faces a mountain of healing to climb relying on all of us to help them find the way because this is a place where there are few resources to help children who hurt. In fact there are almost none. However there is a prison for children though, as if it is already too late to help, just send them out of sight.

 

My promise to God is to stand in the gap for these children in our home. They will have their own bed to sleep in, not worry if there will be food to eat when they rise to greet each new day, they will be educated, and when they are sick they will visit the clinic. Most importantly we reach in and touch the inner man and woman of each child and teach the ways of God. We set boundaries and help them learn to live inside community. We love lavishly and we persevere. When it gets hard we ground ourselves with faith to endure. When there isn’t a way forward through a trial, we search until God shows us the path. He always provides a way. These are his children they are not forgotten or lost. He has a purpose and plan for each one and we remain through the storms to help them find it.

 

our precious Rhonah

our precious Rhonah

It’s true; if God had told us in the beginning the sort of boot camp he had planned for us to get fit for this job we might have been scared off. But we would have missed the opportunity to deepen our faith and trust in God and see miracles happen. We would have missed that incomparable feeling of ending a day knowing we’ve spent more of it on someone in need than on ourselves. We are making a difference but the storms on this sea can be terrifying. That’s how I know for sure God goes before us and prepares us for each new task because me, on my own, in my strength, I would have perished and faded away with the first mighty crash. Like waves of the ocean these trials roll in. All we can do is ground ourselves in the promises of God and truths of the bible and learn to persevere.

 

home made games

home made games

I’ve been quiet for many weeks. I’m sorry for that. Trials can sometimes stun me into silence. I retreat and wait. I pray. I think and share with Craig. I fall into the living word of God to show me the way forward. We serve a faithful God whose love endures forever. He’s lifted me up from my slump and dusted me off. He’s squared my shoulders in the direction we should go so I’m happy to stand tall now and return with a voice for the children at Kirabo Seeds in Uganda.

 

Every time my bible fell open on the plane I found myself reading Hebrews 12. In verses two and three it felt like God was whispering in my ear: “ Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”…   “~yes Lord,” I whisper… “here we go.”IMG_0735

 

 

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.

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