Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Just call me Heidi

So the kids have been into knock-knock jokes lately.

Knock, knock.
Who's there?
Interrupting cow.
Interrupting co--

Ha, ha. They're just about as funny as they were when I was a kid, which is not saying a great deal. So my contribution the other night over dinner:

Knock, knock.
Who's there?
Little old lady.
Little old lady, who?
I didn't know you could yodel!

I suppose that was the precursor for the question that could only have come from the mind of my middle son. Walking out of church on Sunday, he asks, "Guys, how do you yodel in Luganda?"

I'll have to get back to you on that one, Son.

Thursday, November 22, 2012


Sunday morning around seven, I sat down on the concrete out by our gate, the only place on our compound with semi-reliable cell phone service. I was on the phone to Little Rock, calling my sister Keri much too late in her Saturday evening, both of us on our third week of a cold, coughing through our conversation. If I'd called her as much as I'd been thinking of her last week, she wouldn't have gotten a thing done.

It was the day before her C-section with her third. The powerful emotions that pulled me were so disparate: Joy over a third baby born to some of my favorite people in the world, and sorrow because I didn't see the pregnancy, and I won't meet my niece until she's getting ready to walk.

I find myself comforted by the story of Amy Carmichael, and how in 55 years of missionary service she did not return to visit her parents in Ireland. Amy's mother, upon understanding the call of God on Amy's life, reportedly said, "Yes, dearest Amy, He has lent you to me all these
years....my heart unfailingly says, Go ye."

This comforts me as I'm blessed with all the technological goodies and planes that, for example, have brought John's parents to us this week! Yes, God has asked some hard things things  of the senders and the go-ers. But it's much less than it has been. So as I prayed with my sister and cried a little, God still managed to fill my heart with thankfulness.

And as I sat in the car outside a remote village in northern Uganda and my cell phone rang on Monday night, so much more: Sophie Joy was born safely, 7 lbs. and apparently cute as a button, confirmed by pictures--and right on the heels of my nephew's baby, Ben. Somebody over there, hug the tar out of those babies and their families for me.

Lots to be grateful for today.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The baboon incident

Yesterday found us waiting for a ferry across the Victoria Nile around a big safari-style van. John and his parents were resting on a bench on the other side of the tree, so I discerned it might be best to keep an eye on our offspring, who were giggling and hopping around the inside and outside of the huge, dusty old van with the pop-up top.

Nearby, Africans languished in the sun, waiting for the ferry, and baboons of all sizes were walking around, finding snacks around the "Keep Snacks Out of Sight from Baboons" sign. One baby and presumably its parents had tipped over the trash, picking through all the goodies. Hippos were cooling themselves past the reeds, covered up to their eyes in the shore waters.

It was "This is the closest I've ever been to a monkey!" that brought me over to the other side of the van. That's where I found the 50-60 lb. baboon, munching on g. nuts (they're a lot like spanish peanuts) that my children or someone else had dumped on the ground. The dude was big. I looked furtively behind me, where our driver was in conversation with some friends. Should I interrupt him, I wondered? Hate to be the rude, or paranoid, mzungu.

It was about at the end of that thought, I think, where the baboon jumped into what I now know was an open window of the front seat. C. shrieked, and the boys started yelling.

"Ssebo! SSEBO!" I was calling. I mean, what do you do when a baboon jumps in the car with your kids? This was conveniently omitted from the American Association of Pediatrics manual on childcare.

The men ran over to the van, where half of the baboon was hanging out the window, and shooed him out. He leaped away, probably cackling to himself at his good fortune.

Hindsight is 20/20. I now would have called the driver as soon as I saw the big guy. "These baboons have no fear," his friend explained. Huh. No kidding.

What's in a name?

Last week found us in the craft market with John’s parents, ambling among the rows of masks, carvings, bags, and jewelry. I suppose it’s one of my favorite places in Kampala, what with all the color and creativity and people.

Now that we’ve been here almost ten months, bartering has morphed from awkward to fun. So I have fun batting the price back and forth and exchanging a few jokes in between. Offering “Katonda kume”—may God provide for you—as a closing seems to genuinely connect with people, too, and even provide a springboard for conversations about faith. For the most part everyone speaks English. But using Luganda allows us to build a few relationships. It probably greases the wheels for a better price now and then, too.

Learning the tribal language has come a long way this year. But yesterday brought some fun developments: On three occasions, people asked me if I had been given a Luganda name yet. “Janel” doesn’t really translate well (“It’s like ‘Janet’, but with an ‘L’”). So some of the sellers yesterday said they wanted to give me a Luganda name. I was instantly curious, mentally cocking an eyebrow. What are they going to say here? “White Girl with Frizzy Head”? “Stands with a Fist of Cash”?  

Kidding, kidding.

In reality, I was touched by their choice. “Sanyu,” they decided: “Happiness!”

Deal! I loved it.

So imagine my delight when later on, peering over some earrings, different shopkeepers asked if C. had a Luganda name yet. I was liking this, and somehow it felt like they were drawing us in as friends, regulars. So imagine my delight when the woman pronounced, “Mukisa! Blessing!”  Blessed, indeed. C. grinned with obvious approval, hopping a little bit.

(Side, bad-missionary note: Speaking of names, as a missionary, I was slightly relieved as we left the market to know that W. decided to name his new stuffed rhinoceros “Tusky.” His alternative proposed choice, “Horny,” just didn’t sit quite right.)

Naming in the Bible seems associated with blessing, with a new vision or calling for someone. Somehow, even being “named” yesterday in a dusty urban craft market carried notes of just that.

Thursday, November 15, 2012


They made it--John's parents are here at last, and we are nothing short of delighted. Already we're making up for lost time, creating memories. There's just something to be said for sharing this place with someone you love.

Place, I have decided, is a big deal. Setting is a critical part of any story, and it often changes the story entirely--like ours does. It's meaningful to point out things we live with everyday, converse about all the differences, and just to be together in this place that's altered our lives so much. Yes, the traffic really is this bizarre. Yes, Oliver saves my life pretty much every day. Yes, that huge, lopsided, lime-green monstrosity is a jackfruit. Yes, these people are beautiful. Yes, watching J. is like watching a cartoon. All of this goes a long way, especially with grandkids who seem to be growing at the speed of light.

The bad news: We are sick--again. And we are sharing it with our guests. You'll remember that John had malaria while my (Janel's) folks are here. He started things off with a bang this time, acquiring the stomach flu along with Baden, followed by his stepmom. Boo. My family's been sick with at least three different viruses (this is the second stomach flu) for the last three weeks, with an ear infection before that. It's frustrating when precious time with family is spent as one of the otherwise worst-feeling days of your year. But we trust that God has this in His plan, too.

We'd love your prayers for wellness, and simply for rich times together. As we experienced with the last family visit, the time is all-too-quickly...


Monday, November 5, 2012

Dinner with friends

We hosted some Ugandan guys for dinner last week from John's surveying class at Kyambogo University, feeding them some mzungu fare that I'm sure raised their eyebrows a bit. Meet Michael (left) and J.B. (right). 

We found it very cool to hear how God is moving in their lives after the class. It was an encouraging evening, on the heels of even more encouragement as John's role in member care develops more at eMi. Pray with us that God will keep that going, and further John's relationships with these guys!

From John: Welcome home, Dear

To welcome Janel home yesterday evening from her night away with the ladies, instead of cleaning the house top to bottom, I decided to give her a lake... in our bedroom.

That's right, it's not enough that we have a sliver of a view of Lake Victoria from our backyard. Why should we have to leave the house? So I promptly left the bathroom water running flooding the bathroom and bedroom.

I suppose there are really positive things about living in concrete houses, like being able to just squeegee the water down the hallway and out the front door. Two hours later I can say we had a good time working through our stress and into laughter--a good marital exercise. But it may not be for everyone. Perhaps you should renew your homeowners' insurance first.