The Packing Challenge – Part 2

There was never supposed to be a part 2 to this story. I felt like my last post on it was sufficient.

Then we got to the train station Saturday morning.

James and I worked all week to get the packing done. We weighed, repacked, weighed again, repacked some more, until we got everything up to the weight it was supposed to be. Or so we thought.

Packing Part 2

Upon arriving at the train station at 5:30 Saturday morning, we were informed that the bathroom scale we were using was 2 pounds off and all our bags were overweight. Amtrak would not allow them to be checked. They had to be 50 pounds. They wouldn’t even allow them if they were 50.5 pounds. 🙁

I cried. Again.

It did not help that I’d only slept about two hours the night before. (A combination of nervousness about waking on time and lower back pain from all the packing.)

Thank God the train was delayed which gave us enough time to make all the adjustments. We found a way to reduce the weight enough that Amtrak would take the bags in question. This added a box we would have to carry on to the train, but we had no other options.

Then we waited.

And waited.

Then waited some more.

An hour an a half after we were originally scheduled to depart, the delayed train arrived, we all got on with our carry on luggage and found a place to sit.

Thank God for train travel! It’s so much more convenient than car travel, especially when you are tired! We arrived in Chicago along with all our bags, unloaded and met the people who were to pick us up. By some miracle they got all our stuff and our bodies into the vehicles they brought with them and carried us to where we’d be staying over Sunday.

They also had access to an industrial scale. We were able to weigh each and every piece of luggage to verify the weight and add or remove things to get it right! Now we’ll see what happens when we get to the airport tomorrow. Should be interesting, and, as always, never boring.

The Packing Challenge

Numerous times we’ve had people say to us “We appreciate the sacrifices you make!” While we acknowledge the sentiment, we don’t feel like we are sacrificing by living on the mission field.

I have a corner full of luggage that can attest to this lack of sacrifice. :-/

It’s difficult to condense one’s life into a series of 50 pound pieces of luggage, but we must do this every time we make a trip back to the US and return to Uganda. We have to take items we will need but can’t get there. This includes:

  • Sheets for the next couple years. Cloth wears out faster in a tropical climate. We go through about one set of sheets per bed, per year. Growing up, I had a set of sheets given to me that lasted me until I got married. The rate at which sheets fall apart in Uganda came as a huge surprise to me.
  • Clothing is much the same. We line dry everything and we’re careful not to leave it out too long, but it just wears out faster, especially socks and underwear. We have to pack clothes for 6 adult sized people and 2 child sized people for the next term, planning for the growth of the kids in the family. There are clothing markets in Uganda, but the clothes they sell no longer fit my older boys. It’s difficult to find quality clothing in the market. (I’ll come back to this in another post.)
  • School books for all six kids for the next school years. And school supplies. Just before we left on our last furlough, I started to see higher quality crayons and markers available there. But we still can’t get good colored pencils or mechanical pencils of any kind.
  • Shoes for all of us. Half of us can’t buy shoes in our size in Africa. So if we need them, we have to take them with us. You can buy higher quality shoes there, but you pay for it. It’s cheaper for us to watch for sales here and take the shoes with us, even if it takes luggage space.
  • Chocolate chips – or any baking chip we might want. You can’t buy chocolate chips where we live. The available chocolate is poor quality. I stock up on chips here (and dried blueberries and cranberries) so we have them for baking when we get back there.
  • High quality kitchen implements. I cook a LOT in Africa. It takes hours every day to prepare food there, even meals that are “easy” in the US. We’ve invested in a number of items that will make this take less time.
  • Mexican spices. We can get Chinese and Indian spices but not Mexican. Indian chili is NOT the same as chili seasoning. Found that one out the hard way. If we want something to have a Mexican flavor, we have to take the spices to flavor it.

A couple weeks ago I mentioned that I had the packing well in hand in preparation for leaving for Uganda.

I was wrong.

Or delusional.

Probably delusional.

Remember how I said that every piece must weigh exactly 50 pounds and be securely packed? Yeah, well that’s easier said than done.

It’s rather like putting together a 15,000 piece 3D puzzle with pieces in a variety of shapes, sizes, weights, and volumes and in total weighs over 1,000 pounds.

I had most of the packing already “finished.” Friday, I had the kids sort all the things they needed to have packed and make a pile. Saturday, I worked to get one piece that was full but did not weigh 50 pounds up to weight. I worked on that for an hour. No matter what I did, the container could not hold 50 pounds with those contents. I finally had to stop and move on to another container. Then that container could not reach 50 pounds no matter what I did. By this time, I’d been working for several hours. I was hungry, hot, and tired. And I was crying.

I think I’m just bad at packing.

Saturday night I barely slept. Remember the puzzle analogy? I laid awake thinking of ways I could get those pieces up to the right weight and still have room for everything.

Conclusion? I opened every piece of luggage with any flexibility on contents and pulled out the heaviest items. Then I took the lightweight items out of the containers and distributed them among the luggage. My nice, neat, orderly row of packed luggage was ruined.

But it worked. I filled the containers. They weighed 50 pounds. I fixed the suitcases and made those weigh 50 pounds. I cheered every time the scale hit the desired weight.

It’s a process. 🙂

It also ought to be a challenge or a reality show: Packing Xtreme. Pick up your life and make it fit in as few 50 pound pieces of luggage as you can using only a bathroom scale to check the weight.

MISSION: Uganda Blog Update 04-24-2017

Greetings! I am happy to report that we are now homeless. WE SOLD OUR HOUSE! Thank you all for praying. When we bought our house, we had no idea that the housing market was going to drive off a cliff, down an embankment, and onto several pointed rocks before exploding. It has been a millstone around our neck, and we are very grateful to finally be rid of that particular financial burden.

We will be flying back to Uganda on May 29. Our furlough has been restful and productive. It’s been good to see family and friends, but we are all looking forward to getting home. As of now, God has increased our support to livable levels. For those churches who have taken us on or raised our support or for those who support us individually: thank you. You made it so that we can live and minister in Uganda. 

We are starting our last trip before our return tomorrow. I have four meetings lined out in the Pacific Northwest. Please pray these will result in support, along with all of the other churches we visited this past year.

Pray for our trip back to Uganda. We are vastly better prepared than we were in 2013. Pray for our health and safety. Pray for the NGO. I have begun the process of renewal, this time for five years. Pray for our home in Uganda. I found out today that a section of wall between our compound and our neighbor fell over. Nothing serious was harmed, but it does present a security risk while they are repairing it.

Some of our goals for the coming term:

  • Construction on baptistries for the younger churches, and repairs and expansions to our buildings.
  • Preach through the Book of Romans.
  • Literacy classes for the ladies, and anybody else who needs schooling in how to read.
  • Drill wells at our churches. 
  • Install water reclamation tanks.
  • Organize medical clinics.
  • Revival meeting at each church, with special preaching, and evangelistic outreach in the community.
  • Start churches among the new refugees from Burundi.

If you are wanting to send money to fund any of these projects, it is never too late. Make sure you designate what the money is for, and I will put it to work on your behalf.

God bless you all.

MISSION: Uganda Blog Update 02-02-2017

Greetings! And welcome to 2017! Our year is progressing well. We had a break from the road to be with family and our church, but now we are about to commence the last push before we head back to Uganda. I am still attempting to raise our support levels. As I have communicated before, one of my primary goals this furlough was to address the serious underfunding that plagued our ministry last term.

Over the course of the next couple months, we are taking trips to the southwest and the northwest. However, I am still in need of meetings on March 19, 26, April 2, 9 and 23. It would be great if those were reasonably close to St. Louis. Any suggestions would be welcome and helpful. Pray for our health and our safety as we travel.

Please keep praying for our 4 churches in Uganda. An extended absence such as this puts a considerable strain on them, but they are doing well. Pray for my men as they lead the works. Pray I will be successful in raising the support we need so we can get back to the work God has for us in Uganda.

Another issue you might pray about, is that we may FINALLY be able to sell our home in St. Louis! The housing market in our area is finally recovering from when the housing bubble burst in 2008. We were forced to become landlords while living overseas because we could not sell our house. We have listed it with a realtor. Please pray it will sell in the next couple months. It would be a great help if we no longer had that to worry about.

Thank you for praying!

MISSION: Uganda Blog Update 11-30-2016

Greetings, once again! I trust everybody had a great Thanksgiving. We sure did. We are loving the novelty of being able to simply go to a store and buy ready made turkeys, clean and pristine and ready to cook. In Uganda the process is a bit more involved and begins with live turkeys.

Our time in America has been both restful and productive. It is a great pleasure visiting with family and friends, our supporting churches, and seeing new churches in our travels. We took advantage of our geographical locations this Fall to revisit some of our favorite historical locales and museums, like the Smithsonian.

God has blessed us greatly. He has raised about half of the money I was planning on for various projects in Uganda. Thank you to everyone who has sacrificially given to help the people of Nakivale.

Starvation in the camp has been a problem lately. Not only has the camp administration been cutting rations, but this past dry season was very bad and food is scarce. We sent money to buy food last month, but I am sure this won’t be the last time. The churches are struggling while we are away. I don’t like to be gone from my people, but desperately need to raise money for our ministries.

We have thus far gained three new supporters. As I have communicated in the past, I am trying to raise fresh support. Most of you are familiar I am sure with the quote from William Carey “There is a gold mine in India, but it seems almost as deep as the center of the earth. Who will venture to explore it?” “I will venture to go down,” said Carey, “but remember that you must hold the ropes.” It has has been a theme in numerous missions conferences we have visited over the years. In our last term, 15 churches let go of the ropes and watched us fall into the mine. I need 13 more churches to pick up those ropes. Please pray about this.

In addition to praying, there are some things that also need to be done. 1) If you are a supporting church, and you are able, please consider raising our support. Every time this happens, it reduces the number of churches I need to visit trying to increase our support, as well as reducing the high costs incurred for a family of 8 to travel raising support. Thank you to those of you who already have! 2) Recommend us to churches that have both the budget for new missionaries and are willing to allow me the privilege of presenting our ministry in their church.

Several people have already responded with solid leads that generated several meetings this Fall, which either have or will very soon yield the support I was talking about. Thank you very much! I still need meetings in January, March, and April, and possibly May and June if I still don’t have the support we need by then. Our work is too important, and was badly underfunded last term. I am desperate to get back to my people, but I can’t return to Uganda without the support we need.

God bless you all!

Have a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year!