Wednesday, December 16, 2015

What Isaiah said...

Today we celebrate 6 months in Uganda. We have had a very exciting few weeks. Here are some highlights with some scriptures from Isaiah setting the theme.


"How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the one bringing good news, The one proclaiming peace, The one bringing good news of something better..."
 - Isaiah 52:7 

A few weeks ago we set out to hike up a nearby mountain. To bring that "good news of something better" to the people there.
We crossed the river to make our way up the mountains. 

Teaching people as we journeyed up.

Our group at the top.

Built a little something to show we were there and then jumped for joy because we have the best life ever!


 “I, Jehovah, am your God, the One teaching you to benefit yourself, the One causing you to tread in the way in which you should walk.” 
-Isaiah 48:17


It was a great blessing to attend the Pioneer Service School December 7-12. The 6 day course teaches one to be better ministers and people through in-depth study of the Bible. This was our second time to attend, but last time we went separately. What a blessing it was for us to attend together this time and in Uganda. There is so much faith in this group. The adversities they have overcome, and zeal and love they show for Jehovah God made a lasting impression on us. We have made some real friends for life, and have many touching stories to relate now.

Couldn't have done it without the generous volunteers that came to feed us each day.

The hot, healthy meals feed our brains throughout the course. 

Some of our classmates up close with one of our wonderful teachers Dismiss Ofamba.

Always happy to be together. Thanks to all who read and enjoy our blog. We appreciate your loving comments and prayers.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Trip #2 to Kabale By Niki with Photos By Steven

 Last week was simply splendid. We traveled west to Kabale, Uganda for our second time. This time we came early so we could help deliver some parts on the meeting in the tiny congregation. The congregation of about 20 people use the Runyankore ( jw.org/nyn/ ). Most everyone there speak and understand English, so whenever they get visitors there is the option to give meeting parts in English or in Runyankore. For us, we know very little of the language so Steven gave a part on Thursday and the Sunday discourse in English. The friends seemed to really enjoy it, and the local brothers were happy to have a break. For me, I got very brave and assisted my missionary friend Andrea with a demonstration Thursday in the local language! I said very little because I know as much as a toddler, but I tried! Here is a clip below…
video


  Andrea and her husband Clinton are amazing! Being with them was one of the best times we have had in Uganda. We admire their zeal and determination so much. There are several foreigners from European countries or the states in Kabale, but very few if any have bothered to learn Runyankore. It’s a very difficult language, but with Jehovah’s help Clint and Andi (who come from Ohio) are fluent after just a few years. Even though many people understand English, often Runyankore is the language of their heart. Knowing even just a little builds a bridge between us and them. The effect on the people is incredible, and those two really stand out in the community. The weekend filled us up with joy! A definite highlight was the ministry. Since rowdy elections were taking place in town we traveled up the mountains and went in the ministry around lake Bunyonyi. Some people there have never been reached with the good news, so the response was wonderful and the territory was magnificently beautiful. The sun sparkled across glistening water with miles of mountain range to set the backdrop.
Our ministry troop Saturday. Humphrey a special pioneer brother, Clint & Andi missionaries, a the zealous local pioneer Jolly!

Teaching people in the mountains, picking up lots of children on the way.


As part of our 9 year anniversary celebration we spent a day at the lake together.


Tomorrow November 18th, we will be married for 9 years. Every year gets better. We are two very different people with nearly opposite personalities, but somehow so well matched. Moving to Africa has strengthened our bond. We both made this goal before we even met, so to achieve it together is so fulfilling. Husband and wife, partners, and best friends.

We took a boat ride to some islands and hiked to the peeks. 

Ya know just playing pool with donkeys...







Thursday, November 5, 2015

Where?... By Niki with Photos By Steven

We often rejoice in the simplicity life in Africa offers. We both were sick with colds week before last, and for the first time pretty much ever we didn't feel a pressing need to push ourselves to resume normal activity before we were feeling good. Back home we, especially Steven, had many responsibilities. His job only allowed so many sick days, and for me I didn't get paid if I didn't work. With that we often exerted ourselves before ready, took the medicine to cover symptoms and dragged ourselves out of bed! Here... not so much. We still have many responsibilities, but not as many urgent or immediate. Africans by culture have a very laid back attitude about all things. "Maybe today, maybe tomorrow, I'll get to it... eventually. " Running late? No need to rush. "This is Africa..." Sometimes that's very frustrating when you come from a "I want it NOW" culture, but when embraced it's quite nice. Our language teach told us there is no word for "planning" in the local language, because Africans don't plan! I suppose if we could all find a balance between both cultures that would be healthier. That will be a gem of wisdom we take with us from this experience.
Among the various gems are also these things: Life is not about what you can get, but what you can give. (Acts 20:35) Something we also heard in the latest Gilead graduation on tv.jw.org Because of that attitude, is the very reason we have life at all. No one show that better than Jehovah and Christ Jesus. We feel closer to them reflecting on that. I think we always thought that, but now we KNOW it. 

I like the quote "You'll never become who you want to be by staying where you are." That "where" can be physical or where you are in your thinking. Self examination is key. (2 Corinthians 13:5) We all have to keep putting on "the new personality" .(Colossians 3:9,10; Ephesians 4:22-24) Each of us are a work in progress. Overall we feel the positives of being here far outweigh the negative.

Here are some highlights of the last few weeks!

These two joined us for the ministry for the first time! Santino is in the first photo and Gabriel in the second. One day Santion's teacher did not show up to school. Which apparently is common here. So all the kids just play when that happens, but not Santino! For 2 hours he taught and shared scriptures with his classmates and gave out over 30 Bible tracts! These boys have a bright future.



Beautiful territory with my beautiful sisters. 

Where are we? Despite the appearance we are not in Japan... although we feel like it sometimes being with our super Japanese family! And... Yea it's sushi!

Friday, October 16, 2015

With The Eyes Of Your Heart- A Poem By Niki

With The Eyes Of Your Heart

Little one the unspeakable
Has been placed before your eyes
So much happening
Too much to realize
A hurt so deep
Words are not enough
So you keep it all in
Trying to be tough

You've seen things
You never should have seen
Been places
You never should be
You've known pain
The heart should never feel
Your worst nightmare
Became something real

You feel alone and unloved
Unwanted wherever you go
But there is one who cares
He cares more than you know
He can be your God and Father
Your best friend
He promises a life of joy
Life that will not end

So come into his arms
He'll wipe away each tear
No more reasons to cry
No more reasons to fear
When you're lost
He'll show you the way
He'll help you to believe
In something better than today

He'll replace your nightmares
With only happy dreams
A hope for something real
Our eyes of faith can see
When life seems hopeless
That it's falling apart
Little one see the future
With eyes of your heart

~ Niki Higgins

Psalms 37:10-11, 29; Isaiah 41:10; Isiah 65:17; 2 Corinthians 4:18; 1 Peter 5:7; Revelation 21:4.


Thursday, October 8, 2015

4 Month Update! By: Niki

It's mind blowing... 4 months... What?! We've been so busy it feels like it was August, then we blinked and it was October!  Life is good and full. I had a few rough days where I felt terribly homesick. There was crying. My first good cry. (Poor Steven, gotta love that guy)... After a few days of being in that dark space though I emerged feeling stronger and determined. We have some great people here that have really been understanding and loving. Also an amazing support system back in the states. Along with you incredible people, we have seen Jehovah really be that loving father. I love this scripture at 1 Peter 5:10 "But after you have suffered a little while, the God of all undeserved kindness...will himself finish your training. He will make you firm, he will make you strong, he will firmly ground you." This experience has been excellent training; and training is not really working unless it hurts a little! In our years in theocratic service and especially now we've come to see that trials can be a gift. Trials teach you and make you better if you allow them to. Also it's humbling when you're really struggling because you know you can't do it on your own. You have to turn Jehovah God, and thus you stand in awe as you see his mighty hand in your behalf making you firm, strong and grounded. I am no one special, just an ordinary person who happens to have this chance to be a part of something extraordinary. I count my blessings, one of which is that...let me check... oh yes I have a pulse! 
Even on my best day though, I still miss Super Target, and Panera bread coffee. Oh yeah and you people. ;)
    We had our local convention here last weekend. It was an abbreviated convention in the local language Runyonkore. Over 30 volunteers worked hours and hours cleaning and setting up large tents to transform our kingdom hall property into a convention site. I can remember few times where I worked so hard, and was the happiest work. 420 people attended the convention, and it was just a wonderful experience. One of the best in our time in Uganda so far. "Tooreza Yesu" (Imitate Jesus)!

Hard working friends loading and unloading supplies.

Setting up tents Friday at the Kingdom Hall. After about 6 hours 30 volunteers worked to set up 7 tents and a stage.

Many young ones came and enjoyed. 

We had 5 baptized Saturday. This new sister was found at a taxi park while we were doing public witnessing! 

American missionaries & wonderful translation team members that encourage & inspire us.

Then we had to break it all down Sunday evening and clean it. Exhausting but so fun working with spiritual family! Even our little ones helped. Does it look like anyone is complaining? :) We love these people. 



Monday, September 21, 2015

Imitate Jesus! Convention 2015

It was highly anticipated, long awaited, and now we are elated that we finally attended the "Imitate Jesus" convention in Kampala, Uganda! 1 of thousands held all over the world this year. The spiritual banquet was well prepared and thoroughly enjoyed by the peak attendance of 9,000 plus. We met so many new friends, and were so built up and encouraged by the information presented. We have many exciting stories to tell, and we'll tell them the most fun way- by pictures!

These wonderful people are Sudanese refugees from our congregation. They are all young ones who have been through too much, yet they faithfully attend meetings and are a big part of the congregation. With no pushing from parents or anyone else, each of them has shown great faith and love for Jehovah. They are amazing examples of zeal and endurance. They deserved to go to the convention, but initially did not have the funds. The financial situation in Sudan is terrible, and the value of their currency is extremely low. When we found out they were unable to attend the convention, it disturbed me so deeply. I spent night after night beseeching Jehovah, tearfully pleading their case, and asking for the right attitude. Then an answer came. After explaining the situation to some family in the states. I asked not for money, but just prayers. Pray they did, but they did even more. The very next day to our surprise a collection of generous, loving brothers and sisters raised enough money for all of the Sudanese to attend the convention!!! We were stunned and deeply grateful by the love shown. We can't tell you enough how appreciative these young ones were for the opportunity. All of them enjoyed the convention tremendously. They are all working on personal letters to tell how they benefited. THANK YOU from the bottom of all our hearts to those who generously donated. You have changed lives forever! 





Our very special visitor Mark Sanderson from the governing body of Jehovah's Witnesses bestowed another great blessing. The release of the New World Translation Bible in Luganda! What a beautiful moment! Lots of tears from those appreciative friends who can finally read God's Word in the language of their heart. 

The Bible in Luganda. The stadium was split into 2 sides. A side for the talks to be given in Luganda, and a side for English. 

 With missionaries from the States and our lovely Japanese friends from Mbarara. 

Beautiful friends from Japan, Switzerland and Denmark. This family from Denmark were so encouraging. As husband and wife they were in Uganda several years, then surprise, a baby! They returned home, but came back to Uganda when they're son was 6 years old. Now he is 8 and they are happily serving as a family in Kampala. 

Spiritually fat!



Thursday, September 10, 2015

Interesting Facts About Life In Uganda- By Niki

It goes without saying, we have a lot more to learn about Uganda. However in the past 3 months we've really tried to emerge ourselves in the culture. Thus, we have been delighted, surprised, amused, and confused by what we have learned so far. Up to this point we can share the following... 

1. Ugandans are sharp dressers! Most women wear dresses, skirts or trousers with nice blouses. The majority of men wear button up shirts, or polo's with dress pants and professional looking shoes. Even though many don't have a lot of money they arrive in style; looking neat and smart. A lot of clothing comes in from the US and Europe and is resold. There are some very cheap second hand re-sellers around. As a result, you see people with some pretty hilarious t-shirts, and they have no idea what they mean. Everything from "Sea Turtle Club of South Beach" to batman, to the playboy bunny! (Ok so, that's not so sharp.) 


2. As we have seen so far for most of the local languages the greetings are questions. Like instead of saying "Good morning", they say what's translated to mean "How was the night?" So often when we just say hello to passersby they reply "I'm fine."


3. There is no summer, fall, winter, spring. Just the rainy season and the dry. Here in Mbarara year round it's never hotter than about 80 degrees (F). A definite perk!


4. In our English congregation we do not use the standard Watchtower magazine for Sunday study. We use the simplified version only.


5. The kids go to school A LOT. Most 7 days a week, starting as early as 7 am and going to 5 pm. And there is no school bus, so most walk to and from school several miles a day. Yet in our congregation we have over 25 children who are regular at meetings. You can find them popping in a few minutes late dressed in their school uniforms with their backpacks and books on Wednesday night. I really admire their integrity and zeal. I never hear any complaints either!


6. There are a copious amount of Indian people. Many are well-known business owners. 


7. They have packaged cheese marked mozzarella, cheddar, feta, gouda, and so on. It all taste exactly the same except more or less salty, and it's not very good. We miss cheese. 


8. Ugandans are very social people. We are welcomed into homes often, especially when they know we are there to talk from the Bible.




Plus this week in photos...

Teaching some young ones in a village God's name Jehovah. 

Stopping to smell the flowers in the ministry with Mary. 


Some zealous boys arriving early for the meeting Sunday. 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

A Note About Jehovah's Witnesses

   The other day without any notice Steven and I received a very heartfelt note from a young man Steven has been studying the Bible with. His name is Santino and he just turned 14. Santino is a Sudanese refugee. When he was a little boy his father died in the war, then later he was abandoned by his mother, whom he hasn't seen since 2006. He now lives with an aunt here in Mbarara. You can find him faithfully attending every meeting on his own, and constantly asking for new books to read. He finishes reading anything you give him about the Bible in about 3 days! There aren't enough books in the library! If he has a day off school he request to study twice in a week. Before we came he studied with a brother from Japan. Our very first meeting here Santino sat in our row, and now he's with us ever since. He is one of the sweetest kids, and he has our hearts especially after this note....


A NOTE ABOUT JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES By: Santino

My names is Santino. I live in Mbarara where there are Jehovah's Witnesses. Jehovah's Witnesses are the best people I ever had. They are the only people who make me happy. Because of my Bible study, I think I am the happiest person in the world. And I have a lot of brothers and sisters who care about me such as Niki, Barrak, Alex, John and my Bible teacher Steven. I think he is the best teacher ever. I came without a father, but now Jehovah is my father. He is the best dad ever. I would not have all these things but through Jehovah's Witnesses. Thanks to them. 


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Feels Like Home- By Niki

We now feel sorta like Africans. It's taken 8 weeks, but we really feel comfortable and adjusted now. Having our own home has greatly improved our level of contentment. Also being out in the ministry so much has been the perfect way for us learn how to get around. I taught Steven one of my short cuts the other day and I felt so proud :) We mostly get around on foot because the roads can be difficult to drive on. Definitely getting a lot exercise which justifies our eating whatever we want... Ha! Not that there is much bad food to eat, if we want it I usually have to make it, which is not nearly as fun. There are some good restaurants around though. They serve more than just local food, and two places in my opinion have mastered the French fry, which Africans call chips.

Example: Steven was loving this T-bone steak w/ lots of mash potatoes for $6 US!


Mostly we cook at home. The quality and price of fresh organic produce is amazing. 3 avocados for about .30 cents, or 10 tomatoes for the same price. A big juicy pineapple is about .60 cents. So it's easy to eat good. We make avocado salad with tomatoes and onions regularly, very refreshing and nutritious. Steven actually does all of the shopping! He's not easily intimidated, so he can really get a bargain. He also has established friendships in the market. He puts on the charm, calling everyone "my friend". So we get local prices not foreigner price which is maybe 3x more. He even has some Bible studies at the market. You can talk to everyone about the Bible. One day I went with him to the larger grocery store where we buy like cereal and other boxed food. I heard one of the police security guards shout to him "hey Jehovah!" Ha ha! Steven is well known, for who he represents. So if you were wondering why I send him to shop, now you know. Life is simple, but everything takes a long time. For instance once Steven gets home with all the produce, it's my turn to clean it all. It literally comes right out of the ground to market so it's quite dirty. Plus organic here means bugs and parasites us foreigners will get very sick from. So we have to scrub it, soak in a solution and then rinse it with boiled or filtered water. Same goes for the eggs. Very time consuming, but necessary.

We feel very grateful to be here. It's a blessing to have our home finally complete, so we have a place to rest and enjoy. It was a very difficult task, given the very limited options. Can't just run up to home depot to get supplies. We are happy with how it all turned out though, and well we only pay a little over $100 a month for a pretty big place! Here are so pictures of the results.

Office/soon to be guest room. Now and before.

Bathroom. Now and before. Everything was replaced. Tile, toilet, sink, shower- for good reason!

Kitchen. Now and before. Some huge improvements here. It didn't even have a hook up for the oven, fridge, or washer. Like not even wires in the wall, so we had to run a wire through the kitchen all the way down the hallway. 

Sitting room. Now and before. We did it all ourselves. The locals were very surprised when they saw us painting and working, especially me. Women do not do that type of work here. Thankfully I thought ahead of time to bring some curtains and the light fixture lantern. Love our happy blue.

And our bedroom. Now and Before. 

Visitors are welcomed!!! We would love to have some come and enjoy the wonderful life in Uganda. We will give you a comfy place to stay, and show you a fun time! It's also very cheap to live here, if anyone is interested in coming to preach for an extended period of time. We can try to answer any questions you have, and help get you set up. We REALLY NEED the help here. 


Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Trip to Kabale- By Niki

Last Sunday Steven and I journeyed down bumpy rocky roads to Kabale Uganda which is near the boarder of Uganda and Rwanda. It's almost 3 hours away. At first it was so bumpy I was praying to survive! The trip was so worth the tiring journey though. 





We visited a tiny congregation of Jehovah's witnesses so Steven could deliver the Bible discourse. They have 14 members and have about 30 in attendance each Sunday. The microphone handler is 9 years old! 

They don't get too many visitors so it was nice to have interchange of encouragement. Romans 1:12
After the meeting we made a short drive to the extraordinary Lake Bunyonyi. 


Cloudy day, but still lovely. About 57 degrees (F)