Thursday, November 21, 2013

Year two, thus far, in the UK

At the birthplace of Shakespeare, Stratford-upon-Avon.
Year two in the UK is going very well – much better than year one, and year one went pretty well! The two major differences this go-around are:  1) Jonah and Graysen are in school, and 2) the boys are signed onto football (soccer) teams. Of course, #1 means that Alisha is no longer home-schooling, and thus has a bit more freedom this year to do things both at home and outside the house.  She is enjoying helping with the Parents and Toddler group at the church, occasionally works in the EMI office, attends all the various school functions for the boys, and keeps up with all the house stuff.
Getting ready to Trick-or-Treat after coming up with home-
made costumes.  Costumes didn't go over well here as we
forgot that Halloween costumes here are judged purely on
how scary they are. As One Direction band mates Brodie
and Jonah would only be scary if the person answering the
door had teenagers. ;)
The boys each love their schools here. Jonah and Graysen attend a Church of England school and are enjoying being a part of school council and playing on the school football (again, soccer J) team as well.  Brodie is enjoying year two at his school and is doing really well. Overall, I think it’s a little hard for each of them to make a lot of close friends given the cultural differences, but I think they feel the cultural differences as much on their end too so they understand better what’s going on. Graysen probably struggles the least with this being younger and thus a bit more adaptable.
Jonah and Graysen with their talent show act at school. They
took 2nd place singing/beat-boxing and break dancing.
Apart from school during the week, our weekends are filled with football. They all have training (practice) on Saturday mornings into the afternoon, and then matches are Sunday mornings. Consequently, we now attend our church’s Sunday night service, which we’ve really started to enjoy.  But the football is a lot of fun, both for the boys and us as well as it’s really the primary interaction we have with the culture here. Their teams are very well coached and it’s been a great learning experience not just for them, but also for me as a coach. I am actually going to sit for the ‘level one’ coaching class offered by the ‘FA’ (Football Association) here in March. It’s four full days spread over two weekends, and I’ve heard is pretty intense. I’m really looking forward to it as getting the level one license here in England is a unique and, I believe it’s fair to say, prestigious opportunity.
Things are going well at EMI-UK. We are still quite hopeful that the office will remain open in some form beyond this coming summer. We are talking with a number of people who have shown some potential interest, though no firm plans as of yet. But apart from that, things couldn’t be better in the day to day life of the office. We are about to finish our project 3 weeks early thanks in no small part to our outstanding interns, Deryck and Michael. They are both computer genius’, which hasn’t hurt at all. But beyond that, they are both great guys and it’s been a joy to have them in the office. I feel like I say that every semester!
Graysen with his 'Man-of-the-Match' trophy. The little guy
has scrapped his way to 8 goals in 11 games to lead his
Brodie and his football team of giants (the kid on the right is
the next shortest player and he's about 5 inches taller than Brodie).
Jonah (back to the camera) is still doing jujitsu and, as is
shown in this picture, has begun sparring training.
The only other minor change has been the accents! Being in school now, we have started to notice the boys’ tones of voice changing to match their British peers. Graysen is still the only one who actually speaks with a British accent around his peers, but all of them use the British voice inflections and little sayings. It’s funny because it sounds normal to us now, but every now and then we take a step back and realize that  this will eventually fade away once we move away from the UK – kind of sad considering we like our little half-British boys.
In London, visiting with fellow EMI'er Rex Barber who was
passing through on his way to a project trip in Kazakhstan.
As a nod to us, Rex wore his Oregon shirt (that I bought him
as a part of actually winning a bet over last year's Fiesta Bowl
game against Rex's alma mater, Kansas State - winner bought
loser a tshirt that loser had to wear in his next project trip team
Alisha and boys enjoying the lights of Piccadilly Circus in
downtown London.
Intern Michael and Deryck came over to celebrate Michael's
birthday a couple of weeks ago. Then last weekend, they came
over again and we stayed up until 1am as I gave them a lesson
on American football while watching the Auburn v. Georgia game.
Challenges-wise, I think probably our biggest would just be the transitions we're facing, both big picture and little picture.  Big picture wise, we are beginning to think about what's next for the Crawford family come next summer when our current UK visa is set to expire. There are a number of options within EMI for us to consider, so we're just trying to figure out where we can be of most use and where is best for our family in the coming 5 years or so.

Little picture wise, I think Alisha and I are just trying to figure out how to parent this next phase of life for our boys as they're growing older. It's easy to get stuck in the old habits of parenting little boys, but as the boys are getting older we realize that we need to change too. When you have little kids, it's somewhat ok (or at least less damaging) to be control freaks as parents - in fact sometimes, it's required to save their life! But as your kids grow, we know it's vital that we let go and allow them to start learning how to become adults some day. That is proving to be a big challenge for us, and one that plays out in a way that must sound like world war III to our neighbors sometimes!

Consequently, our main focus lately has been to work on remaining calm and sympathetic to their cause, even in the face of loud, disrespectful and hormonally charged behaviors that often appear far worse on the surface than they actually are. It's a monster of a challenge for us, as parents (i.e. remaining peaceful in the face of emotional outbursts), but one that both Alisha and I are determined to conquer despite our often daily failures of lashing out at the ridiculousness we get the 'privilege' of witnessing!) I don't think I need to explain any further for those of you who are parents. :)
During the boy's Fall break, we went to Oxford
for a couple of days.
We drove around the Oxfordshire area
quite a bit - this is Warwick Castle.
Downtown Stratford-upon-Avon
I kind of look like a creeper knocking on
someone's door. But honestly, I can't remember
why I added this photo to this blog file.
We stopped off in Luton to visit our old friends from Uganda,
Joe and Jess, and our little God-son Nathan.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Uganda YWAM Project (V of V)

Overlooking Kampala - even now, it still feels so weird to me
sometimes to think that this place was our home...and in many
ways still feels like home to this day.
Part V of V

Days 11-14:  13th – 17th September

Back in Kampala! There’s so much about this place I love. Yes, it’s a dirty, trafficky, smoggy and crazy busy city, but there’s something about it that is so familiar to me that it feels as much like my home town as any place does at this point in life. The years we spent here will go down as some of the best of our lives, so perhaps I’m a bit prone to viewing it through rose-colored glasses. But the people and familiar places all bring such good memories back that I can’t help but feel at home being here.
The 'boda stage' by our house - some of our old boda drivers
have moved on to become 'special hire' (car) drivers.
The 'Jinja' roundabout - one of the main intersections in town.
A panorama of our old compound.
I got to join the EMIEA office prayer time a couple of mornings.

Monica, our old househelp and dear friend. She's going to
have another baby soon!
Guard Patrick - another dear old friend.
There are hard parts of living here too that I do remember well – the difficulties of completing even mundane tasks such as paying bills  unreliable power, slow and unreliable internet access, unreliable water service – I guess unreliable just about anything that had to do with infrastructure or utilities. There’s also the emotionally difficult side of living here, knowing you’re a million miles from friends and family and live most of the time not knowing the next time you’ll be seeing them.

The Italian Supermarket - one of the primary places we shopped.
While in Kampala for a few days after the project trip, I got to
play in a couple game in the old Euro Football league I used to
play in. My friend Matt has now helped form a USA team!
I also got to join for 'Tuesday Night Basketball' again -
something a few of us started while we lived there.
My good friends Matt and Jade (despite the look on his face,
Jade is very much 'invested in hope' as his t-shirt indicates! He
works with Sudanese refugees and has been doing great work
in that field for a number of years now there in Uganda.)
Strangely, I got to watch the Oregon Ducks (American) football
game on TV at the guesthouse (albeit in the middle of the night!).
There is also an aspect of risk associated with living here too – risk on the roads, risk of an uprising or political instability, risk from theft, and even the very real risk of serious illness. Our missionary friends still living here learned this lesson in a very tragic way this past summer when their 10-year old daughter (who was in Jonah’s class) contracted a deadly strain of malaria that took her life very suddenly. Our heart goes out to our friends as they try to figure out what to make of what has happened to their family, and what possible road forward they should take. Please join us in praying for our friends John and Mimi. They are from the Philippines but have lived in Uganda for 10+ years.

Day 5 for me in Kampala and I’m waiting for the team to arrive back from safari. It’s so peaceful here in this city, and yet I am more than ready to be home with Alisha and the boys. So much has happened while I’ve been away: all the boys started back to school, Jonah and Graysen are at their new school, Brodie has tried out and been ‘signed’ to a new football (soccer) team for the year, Graysen has had two soccer games and scored a goal in the most recent one, Alisha has started volunteering at the church on Monday’s with the ‘Mum and tots’ group, the weather in Colchester has turned cold and wet – it feels like an eternity has passed these past 13 days. Being away from our family is definitely the hardest part of our life with EMI – it seems that so much happens in the two weeks when I’m away on project trips. There’s only two more nights left before our flight out early Wednesday morning. I am really looking forward to seeing those 4 special people. Trips are great, but coming home after a trip can’t be topped!
The 4 people mentioned above, in the car on the way to pick
me up from the train station!

Flying over the Sahara Desert - it's an impressive sight to see.

A view of the Libyan coastline along the Mediterranean
Sea. Benghazi, Libya, the city where the US Embassy was
attacked a couple of years ago, is on the coastline just out of
the picture at the top of the screen near the plane's wing.
It's amazing how small the world appears from an airplane. 

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Uganda YWAM Project (IV of V)

Figuring out the site boundary, with my private security officer
intern Michael in tow.
Part IV of V

Days 9-10:  11th – 12th September

Presentation day! The last night wasn’t too bad, with most of the team only staying up until around midnight. Compared to the all-nighters that commonly occur on trips, it was nice that the team felt comfortable with where we were at to get some sleep.
Jaz Lambert - our team MVP
One thing that’s been difficult on this trip has been the fact that the existing nursery school has been on a school holiday while we’ve been here so we haven’t been able to connect much with the people we’re here to help. But one of the wives on the team, Jaz Lambert, has been a great ambassador for us and has been very involved in various aspects of the ministry on campus here. So after the presentation, we had Jaz share with the team some of the things she had experienced here and the feedback she’d heard from some of the people. It was very encouraging to hear that a number of the women she spoke with said their number one concern was getting money for school fees for their children. Consequently, they are very excited that we are here to design a school!
Jaz speaking to some of the local women who come to the
YWAM site each week for counseling.

Jaz, with ministry Director Tim and his wife Jackie.
The presentation went well – there were about 25 people there, mostly the ministry leaders and others who live and work on the campus. Other than a couple of Western staff couples (one British, one South African), the rest of the audience was Ugandan. They were very excited about our work. They shared how God had given them a vision for the school back in January, but they had no idea how to make it work. With our plans, they feel like God has given them a road map and they now know the direction they need to start heading in.

Intern Michael, preparing the makeshift screen for the presentation.
Scaring the audience with pictures of buildings falling down so
they won't fall asleep during the structural report (it seldom works).
Volunteers Ray and William, doing their part to dispel the
common myth about engineers having no sense of style.
Well done gentlemen.
After the meeting was over and a few questions were answered, the entire room gathered around us and laid hands on us and prayed in their native languages (all at once, out loud!). Honestly, those situations make me feel uncomfortable because I’m not really a ‘touchy-feely’ kind of person, nor am I given to emotional responses (not saying never, just not usually).

But, I’m learning to realize there are all different types of people in this world, and that these people were doing this because that is how they best express their faith and love to others. So, even though I couldn’t understand a word being said and felt a little awkward and uncomfortable, it was an honor for them to express their appreciation to us in this way and I realize that as Christians, we have to make allowances for people having God-given differences in personality and communication styles – it is exactly how God created us! (Hopefully, others will understand this principle and give me grace too as I suspect I'll need it more often than most!) But the whole point of there being all different types of people in the world was driven home to me later in the trip when some of our team members pointed to this experience as the highlight of their trip! J
Uganda is the only place I've been where the thunderstorms
can actually make you feel like you're under water.
From a distance, the beauty of Uganda's landscape is
nearly unmatched anywhere in the world...
but up close, the reality of the situation on the ground
can be more than disheartening.
Since we had presented a day early, we decided that we would head back to Kampala a day early as well. It turned out being a great decision to do that as the team very much enjoyed a quiet day back in the very comfortable guesthouse (i.e. warm showers and clean, quiet rooms). We did our usual closing meeting, except this time instead of sharing about each person, we made up a card for each person and had everyone write something encouraging to the other team members. That really was a great modification, as it kept the team meeting length down (still 2 1/4 hours) and also gave each of us something tangible and encouraging to take home to read at a later time. Alisha will especially appreciate that given my typically terrible memory for recounting what people said during the trip!
On the bus, heading back to Kampala
Road works - despite the flagger's best attempts to restore order
(see his standing aside, to the right), cars in both directions insisted
on forging ahead and sorting their own way around the workers.
And actually, it worked out pretty well. Perhaps this methodology
should be considered back in the US/UK?
This could be any of about 5 million such huts along the road
in Uganda.
After over a week of nothing but Ugandan food (which is nice,
but does get a little old in time), having pizza from one of our
favorite places in Uganda was indescribably satisfying. We were
so giddy we took a picture holding up our bottles for some
unknown reason. Also unknown is why Jean (far left) is holding
up her room key instead. Chalk it all up to over-exuberance at
the prospect of eating good food.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Uganda YWAM Project (III of V)

Part III of V
Overlooking the YWAM site, with a small inlet of Lake Victoria
off in the distance.
Days 7-8  9th – 10th September
This morning, YWAM had an all campus worship and prayer time that we joined in with. It was good to be a part of something with their ministry. One of the Ugandan leaders spoke about putting on the armor of God. It was a good message and reminder that evil does still very much exist in this world.
Our team is making good progress on the work ahead of our presentation Wednesday afternoon. We had intended to present Thursday evening, but it worked better for the ministry to do it Wednesday, so Thursday will be a bonus day where we can work on finishing as much of the work as possible.
This has been a good trip for me as I’ve particularly enjoyed being in the company of Christians from such a variety of backgrounds. Our team consists of people from England (3), Scotland (2), Northern Ireland (1), Hong Kong (2), China (1), and the USA (5). It’s the most diverse team I’ve had and the biggest team I’ve had, so it’s been a very different dynamic. The team has gelled together very well – I couldn’t imagine a team from so many different countries getting along any better than this one has.
Walking the site with Emma, one of the members
of the YWAM Hopeland base leadership team.

Volunteer Geologist/Geotechnical Engineer
Ray, testing one of three soil test pits. No, this
is not at a nearby cemetery.

The engineers, who in this instance doubled as the
soil pit excavation crew.

Gettin' 'er done...wait, are my eyes closed?

The work room

Nobody leaves this room until the project is ready to present.
One thing I learned about the recent history of Uganda was interesting, though not necessarily directly connected to this project (though certainly there are people on this campus who were affected). But regarding Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), I didn’t realize how prayer had an impact on ending the crisis in Uganda that ravaged the North of the country in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s.
Apparently, after years of terror reigning in the north, with the LRA kidnapping children by the dozens and turning them into either sex slaves or soldiers, a group of Christians had had enough. Fear had gripped the people for years, with many IDP (Internally Displaced People) camps created virtually overnight as people from the rural areas flooded to the larger towns for safety (the LRA largely preyed on rural villages). The LRA was very much into witchcraft and a false version of the bible, with Joseph Kony treated as a deity amongst his followers. Many shrines had been setup in various places throughout the jungle, and people were deathly afraid of these places.
So, this small group of Christians went up to the north and began visiting each shrine site to first destroy it and then pray over the place. The local people were amazed at this since they were very fearful to go anywhere near the shrines. But after awhile, word got out, and word has it that Joseph Kony returned to these sites and found that his ‘power’ had gone. Soon after, he announced that he had to leave Uganda because his power had been stripped there!

What the exact details are of this story is hard to say, but the group that went there to pray did so with a boldness and willingness to confront evil that some may have thought foolish at the time. But their confidence in God and lack of fear of anything else was an enormous encouragement to the people in the area who had been gripped with fear. With the animism of the past and being within the highly spiritual context of life in rural Africa, such boldness in the face of dark spiritual powers spoke louder than any preaching or evangelism could have to the power of the true God and his son Jesus.
Gathering data / fiddling with my favourite pen.

Jean and I, in uniform, checking the water sample results.

The engineers on the EMI team (i.e. the smart ones, plus me)

We took a break one morning to climb the nearby hill to get a
bird's eye view of the site. Uganda is such a beautiful place.

We got treated to a massive thunderstorm, complete with
hail, torrential rain and thunder.

Selfie, with the site and lake in the background