The phenomenal “pit crew” who worked together to make the H.I.M. February marriage conference happen.
On this Valentine’s Eve, Paul and I are fighting the headwinds at 35K feet as we begin our two-week west coast speaking tour. The snow, ice, and frigid temps that have marked these past weeks will be 3,000 miles behind us in six short hours, and soon after landing, we’ll have lunch with our dear friends Gary and Anne Gaddini before joining the First Covenant Church of Sacramento’s annual marriage conference in Corte Madera. I am thankful for six hours of “quiet” after several very busy weeks.
Julie safely arrived in Mbale, Uganda, on February 4, and she’s making the transition quite well. The 7,000 miles that separate us are certainly minimized by the Internet and telecom possibilities, and for that we’re so grateful. I’m going to let her speak for herself by excerpting from some of her emails:
Day 1Paul and I have had a “peace that passes understanding” and are so thankful that our confidence for her protection is in our very personal God of the universe, who neither slumbers nor sleeps.
Dearest Friends and Family,
I trust this email finds you doing well. I wanted to write a quick email to let you know that I have safely arrived here in Mbale, Uganda. The trip was painless overall and full of blessings. I want to thank each of you for the love and care you have and continue to show. It is because of your faithfulness and encouragement that I am able to be here! As thankful as I am to be here, it is a long ways away . . .
My flights went smoothly, though the connection in London was a bit hurried as the plane had to sit on the tarmac for a good 45 minutes due to the “snow storm” (3 inches!) they had received the day before… but the connection was made, and off to Entebbe we flew. I walked out of the plane and was greeted by warm humidity! For a second I thought I was in Trinidad! A piece of luggage was lost, but thankfully they were able to locate it in London and it will arrive on Friday… we are hoping. :) I was greeted by a man named Paddy and he drove me the 5 hours to Mbale. On the way he was instructed to take me to the market… this involved him dropping me, and allowing me to “shop” on my own… It was a bit of a different experience especially as I got to the checkout and had no idea how to pay - what currency and how to translate. :) All in all they were gracious and I got some groceries and we moved on.
The hospital is comprised of five little buildings on a beautiful compound. It has beautiful grounds and the people on it are just as beautiful. Derek, the director, and I are the only Westerners and the rest are Native Ugandans. I met the babies and my heart melted as I saw babies from 2 weeks – 10 years laying in beds, fighting to live. It both melted my heart and excited it to get to be involved in their little lives.
Thank you so much for being a part of this journey with me. I can’t wait to see what God has in store.
My contact information is below. Again, I am not sure how much I can depend on email, etc, but I will email and respond to emails when I get a chance. But know that every word I receive is so cherished! I miss you guys…
Email: jules419 /at/ hotmail.com
Snail Mail: CURE International - Kampala Office
Attn: Julie Friesen
Bakwanye House, 3rd Floor
26 Wampewo Avenue
Kampala, Uganda East Africa
JulesBaby Scovi, maybe one of my favorites - has spina bifida and is 8 days old... way too cute... look at that hair!
Day 2: Feb. 6
Today was a great day of working. I got to hold and help some babies and my heart melted. I felt at home and at peace. You would love these babies. Their heads are huge and they look a bit scary at first but most of them just look like tiny little babies needing food and love... heart breaking. Derek told me I could take pictures and so I will soon.
Day 3: Sunday
Today was church and it was an experience. Apollo (the physical therapist at the hospital) took me to one (we walked) which was great. It has about 300 members and is pastored by a man named Wilburforce. Great name! I thought, “he has got to ante up and be a great preacher…” and he was. Amazing actually. Derek said he is one of the few legit pastors, one not embezzling money, etc, and preaching the Word, not health, wealth, and prosperity. He preached out of II Chronicles and talked about fear. It was a wonderful service.
Apollo then took me to see our new patient, a five-year-old boy who was hit by a car and has been in a coma for 6 days... heartbreaking.
He then walked me into town to buy some water. I was very thankful because I had run out yesterday and did not want to get dehydrated. He was great about it. It was an experience shopping in Mbale. Not sure I would want to do it alone, but time will tell...
When I got home I made a peanut butter sandwich (pb may save my life) and then went out to take pictures of the grounds for you guys. I got out of the house and heard “Mozungu” being yelled. It means “white person.” I looked around and could not see anything; however, there is a secondary boarding school on the other side of the fence so I assumed it was these children. I could not see them through the brush and wondered how they could see me. I asked them “Where are you?” and they replied “Take my photo.” I said, “I can’t see you” and they said “Up.” I looked up and there they were, all nestled in the tree about 60 feet up. It was so cute. They asked me my name and then all at once yelled theirs back. I then heard a little voice say “photo me” and there were two young ones standing at the gate wanting to be pictured but obviously not able to climb the tree. It reminded me both of Zaccheus and of “The Sound of Music.”
So so fun. :)
Day 4: Monday
My trip so far has been great… That is due to God’s faithfulness and protection. My heart has gone through some times of questions but there has never been a lack of peace about being here. Sometimes I feel a little out of place but maybe that is just due to the fact that I am the only “mozungu” here.A new baby in today with quite advanced swelling... The eyes appear to be mostly white; however, it is only due to the pressure on the occipital lobe from the fluid which gives the baby the appearance of lazy eyes and sometimes poor vision.
Day 5: Tuesday
I want to thank you so much for praying for me today. It means so much to have you on this team and praying. I know you have lots going on with your own families and daily activities but I want to say that it is such a gift having prayers coming this way today. Today has been good. I have been able to work with some amazing people and I feel so grateful to learn far more than I can process.
As you pray, will you pray for a bigger vision than I have right now? I am a bit overwhelmed when I think I will be here for five months, but I know God can give me a bigger vision that will help me have hope. I also would love prayer for a friend. I would love to meet at least one western missionary here who can bring comfort and some perspective to me… even just help with cultural differences.
Thank you again for your prayers - I am so grateful.
This past weekend (February 6-8), our first of two H.I.M.-sponsored marriage conferences was held at the Nashua Radisson Hotel. “How to have a High-Octane Marriage in a Fuel-Challenged World” was the theme, which Doug and Julie Macrae took and ran with (or shall I say “raced with”?). Decorations, balloons, goody bags, staff shirts, and workshop titles all reflected this theme, which was decided on six months ago when gas was $4.00 a gallon. :) The Macraes worked it beautifully. Richard Dahlstrom of Bethany Community Church in Seattle, Washington, flew in to speak and he was used mightily by God. He taught, challenged, inspired, convicted, and cast a vision of hope for developing God-honoring marriages that will make a difference in this world--which knows more despair than hope when it comes to marriage. His humble, brilliant, passionate teaching was really appreciated.
Danny and Rayna Oertli once again led us in worship and treated us to a full-on concert Saturday night, which served to expand their growing fan base in New England. Also humble and exceptionally talented, they helped us experience God through worship, which added “fuel to our tanks.” (Our second marriage conference will be held in Jackson, New Hampshire, at the Eagle Mountain Inn, April 3-5. It’s filling up quickly, so if you’re planning on coming, please register!)
The theme, “High Octane Marriage in a Fuel-Challenged World” was masterfully carried out by Doug and Julie Macrae.
Numerous workshops were offered and each day since the conference we’ve had multiple conversations with attendees who attest that their marriage was positively impacted by what they learned in a workshop, or from Richard, or through worship, or just by getting away. We are so thankful to have this resource for couples as we stand on the front lines in the battle for healthier, more God-honoring marriages. We felt so met by God in this weekend and left Sunday afternoon with “tanks full” and “engines tuned-up” to stay in the race. All praise to God!
The weekend culminated with a Danny Oertli concert at Immanuel Church in Chelmsford. Organized by Barbara and Gordon Becker, a near full house gathered to hear stories and songs from Danny’s heart and pen. The multi-generational event allowed us to worship, to be taught, and to fellowship. It was a great night.
The past four days haven’t allowed much time for recovery from our very full weekend. After we got the Oertlis off Monday noon, the day was packed with counseling, visiting, and an H.I.M. board meeting. Plans to sled under a full moon after the board meeting were scrapped due to tiredness, as the last board members left at 10:30 p.m. and a very full day of counseling was scheduled for Tuesday starting at 8 a.m. It was a very adult decision, much to the disappointment of my child-like heart, and we’re hoping that March will bring together snow and the full moon so we’ll have another opportunity.
Counseling and preparation for this trip filled Wednesday and Thursday. We see God’s grace work dramatically to turn a marriage around, and we see intense spiritual warfare which subverts His plan for developing a marriage which reflects His glory. In all cases, we are completely aware that we can’t change people; only He can, with permission.
The next weeks will be full of opportunities and we are so grateful that we go in His strength for His purposes. Our travels will take us from Corte Madera to Sacramento to Carlsbad (down by San Diego), to Redwood City to Sacramento to Monterey, and then back to Redwood City before we return to New England. Our audiences will vary from married couples to college students to high school students to NFL players to a church congregation to a church staff team to a young mom’s group.
Please pray for us! We want to honor Him wherever we are and in whatever we’re doing.