Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Final Days...

Our amazing congregation in Uganda had a wonderful farewell party in our honor. What a joy it's been to serve alongside some of the best most zealous people we've been privileged to meet. Jehovah has surely blessed us with lifelong friends. Here are some of the highlights that will be forever etched in out hearts.

Even though we are under 50 publishers we often have over 100 at the meetings. 







Definitely some of my favorite human beings... 


Being away in Uganda was really difficult at times because of how much I missed my family and friends in the states. So for fun and health reasons I flew home early and surprised them all! There were lots of tears and everyone was genuinely shocked! Steven is just finishing a few things up in Uganda then he'll be on his way to join me. We'll have less to write about for awhile, but I'll try to do some updates if anything exciting happens. That's a wrap!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Complete What You Started...

It's with heavy hearts and teary eyes that we announce our departure from Uganda. Soon we will be packing up, saying goodbyes, and moving on. Being here has been life changing. This experience and these people will be memories we forever cherish. 

But but why?


This has been some of the best times in our life. But it's not exactly easy...We came to Uganda with the goal of 1 year. Well, a year came and went! After that the goal was to make it as long as we could with the money we have in had in the bank and energy we had in our tank. Both, especially the second, are running almost empty, but just enough to be excited for what's next. We made it almost 2 years, and when we reflect on that we are overjoyed.


Because of health reasons in the past, our dream of serving in a foreign country seemed to be unreachable. However with Jehovah's help and a few changes I was able to make almost a full recovery. Thus we revisited that goal of foreign service. Still, honest evaluation on our part was important to know whether it was the wisest choice. But we knew Jehovah was leading us this way. Plus we would always regret it if we didn't at least tryNow here we are. We survived! We did it!

2 Corinthians 8:11,12 says "So now, also complete what you started to do, so that your readiness to act may be completed according to the means you have available...For if the readiness is there first, it is especially acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what a person does not have." We feel we have give what have for now to this assignment, and completed what we started. As painful as it is to say goodbye, we know it's time to move on. So we bow out gracefully and wave goodbye as the curtain closes on this act. We're leaving Uganda, but the journey isn't over. 

What's next?

A sister who formerly served in Uganda said something truly encouraging when we told her we're leaving. She said "Pass the baton, rest up, and get ready for the next race." And that's what we shall do. Starting over is a little scary because we have no jobs, home, car, and very little possessions. But our hope is to begin again with a simple life in Florida, probably Jacksonville, or where we can find jobs. We'll ask for recommendations for a new congregation where there is a need, and continue to pioneer. We will save some money and rest up. Then our goal, Jehovah willing, is to apply for the "School for Kingdom Evangelizers". As we look to the future we are not opposed to going to another country even. Wherever Jehovah God see's fit, we trust his guidance and the decisions made by those he has put in that authority. Who knows, maybe we will come back to Africa?! 

Along the way we have learned so much, it's hard to put in to words. No doubt we've learned more and changed in ways we haven't even grasped yet. One of the most important lessons was this: Be modest, but don't be afraid to DREAM BIG. Jehovah will help you reach your spiritual goals. And if you believe you can do something, and you believe Jehovah will help, you are halfway there. Whatever your obstacles are you can overcome them, or adjust your goals to accommodate them. There are no perfect circumstances, but if you have the desire and faithfully rely on Jehovah God you can do things you thought impossible. (Mark 9:23)

Thanks must be said to those who supported us along the way. Loving comments, financial support, care packages, and most of all prayers kept us going.Thank you so much to everyone who helped us in anyway. We really love you. Our congregation here in Mbarara has been probably the best congregation we have ever known. The zeal, faith and love of the local friends, need greaters, and missionaries is inspiring and unforgettable. We have gained forever friends. It is like a hole in heart kind of painful to say goodbye to them. So we won't say that, just see you later and love you lots.

We'll be in Uganda a little while longer, so stay tuned for some photos of our last days here. As always thanks for reading...

We love you Uganda.


Thursday, October 27, 2016

Funny Little Stories...

The Widows Jar...
So remember the Bible account of the widow of Zarephath who's jar of flour and jar of oil didn't run out as a miracle from Jehovah God for her faithful obedience? Well we joke a similar thing has happened to us. When I was in the states in February I bought a bottle of this most magnificent shampoo the smells like raspberries. It makes me happy everyday when I get to wash my hair with it. It's a big bottle, but I didn't expect it to last too long since I have long hair and wash it pretty much every day. It's now the end of October, and somehow that shampoo bottle is only half empty after 9 months! And mysteriously it seems to stay half empty... In addition somehow I only used 1 normal sized bottle of contact solution in a whole year, when apparently most people go through a bottle in 2 months!...Next Steven's razors. After a week in Florida they would be too dry to use, but now in a dryer climate,one razor last a month without it wearing out... And one last thing, we have a gas stove top and use it every day. Others have said there gas tank would last 5 months, however by some chance ours lasted 11 months!... 
Have we just learned to be thrifty and live on less? - Maybe. Is it a miracle? - Probably not. But is it funny? - To me, YES! Either way, I have to give Jehovah credit, because perhaps he has given us the wisdom to conserve supplies wisely. (?)

Dogs, Drunks, and Ducks...

One day the missionary sister Jennifer and I were preaching house to house. We came to a big gate. It was my turn so I knocked but I didn't hear anything. We couldn't see what was on the other side except through a small opening. I discreetly peeked in and saw there were about 3 or 4 homes inside. The gate was open, so we decided to enter through the small door, that's maybe 5 feet tall. Well, as soon as I entered 2 big dogs came running at me barking and growling! Jennifer had one foot through when I nearly fell backwards onto her pushing her out the gate!.. I'm not afraid of dogs usually, but I was so surprised my heart hurt! I'm pretty sure you could see it beating. 2 ladies inside the gate saw the whole thing and were laughing hysterically. After they got over my comedic performance, they were receptive to the message and invited us in... again. Thankfully, this time with the dogs restrained. 

The same day we were making a return visit to an interested person. We knocked, but the person we were looking for wasn't around. I went on to give the message to the young woman there. Meanwhile a drunk man with a bottle of local gin stumbled out of the next door.


In his slurred speech he says, "give me a book..." 


Jennifer: "Go up there where the brothers are if you want a book..."


"Ok, we go, I get my shoes," he dizzily mumbles implying he'll go up with us, as he went shuffling back into his house to retrieve his shoes.


Even though we were already distracted by the interruption I continued talking to the girl. 

Before the drunk man could come back out though, Jennifer who was eating an apple by the way, devised a master plan.

She shouts to me, "Hurry! Run!". 


She throws her apple core and takes off! Already on edge, I follow her running as the drunk guy struggles to go after us. He gave up and returned disappointed, but not really, to his bottle of gin. We weren't necessarily in danger physically. More like in danger of wasting time and energy with someone half conscience. He can have a book when he sobers up.


About 2 hours later the next "attack" befalls us... Upon finishing a Bible study, my student Doreen was walking us to the car. Nearby her job there is a lake, so there are always lots of birds hanging around. If anyone reading this knows me well, you know I am truly afraid of birds...that's whole other story... Well, the birds never bothered me there before... till this funny day of unfortunate events. Out of nowhere, 2 ducks come waddling with a fury, honking there little bills' off at us! Literally they looked like they were "attack ducks"! As they head straight for us I scream and run off along with Doreen! Jennifer came to the rescue though! With her umbrella she pushes them off threatening a beat-down. Whew! Ones heart can only take so much in a day! In the end, despite the attack of the 3 D's, we managed to have a wonderful, and memorable day in the ministry. -The End-


Before I go, here are a few highlights from our Convention here in Mbarara which took place on September 18th and 19th! 


Even though the official language of Uganda is English and many people speak it, our convention is held in the local language in Mbabara. It's a great benefit for those who don't understand English as well. In times past we had a tent of English translation. However we're always packed tightly and a lot of the program is lost in translation. What a loving new arrangement we now have! A separate English program played from a recording of the English convention in New York! It ran simultaneously as the local language program! 

With my lovely Bible students Prisca & Mary.

As usual, a child on my lap.

Our sweet family of 9, ever faithful at their 3rd assembly.







Thursday, September 8, 2016

30 cents

Life is full and as September has fallen upon us we're feeling upbeat and eager to hit it hard in the field. Jehovah's blessings are abundant, and we've really seen him reward our hard work and endurance lately. Many good things are yet to come...

The large Sudanese family we've been studying the Bible with with since January are continuing to advance so steadily. The little girls 7, and 10 could barely read when we started, and now they're around 1st grade level. I'm so proud of them! Every time we come, they're waiting with their books and Bible excited to begin.
The boys are also excelling. They've been memorizing the Bible books and are enthusiastic as they take their turn in reciting them. One of the older boys, whom we believe is autistic, has always been tough to get through too. He's really coming around now though, and recently made everyone in the house a cover for their book and Bible out of notebook paper. We thought that was a sweet gesture and a sign of what's going on in his heart. He may be limited in verbal communication, but he thrives in the world of his imagination. Always inventing and working with his hands, he speaks through his creations. If you observe closely, you can hear him...
Getting ready to pray- they do this every time. Such appreciation! 

Along with this children we love their mother/step mother, such a kind and meek person. She never had the opportunity to go to school because of the war. But she is a wise woman. She is my age, 29 , and look at all she has to take care of! ^ She's improving in her reading too, and even commenting at the meetings. Sister to the mother is Mary, one of my favorite human beings on the planet! She's SO humble and really has the truth deep in her heart. Recently they removed all of the pictures and things tied to false religion from their home. No one asked them too. They saw it in the Bible and their hearts were moved to take a stand for pure worship.

We've mentioned before, we have tons of Sudanese refugees in Mbarara. Sadly fighting has broken out in Sudan again. These families struggled before, but now they're really suffering with next to no money, and very little food.
We help where we can of course, because we cannot sit back and watch them go hungry. However it's very important that we don't just give people everything they need, especially money. It's like the famous saying "Give a man a fish, feed him for the day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for a life time." We don't want them to rely on us. That's not healthy or productive.
Self-control in this situation is an enormous challenge. You want so badly to just take away all their problems, send them all to school, and make sure every belly is FULL. But they must rely on Jehovah God. Like we all must rely on Jehovah. (Proverbs 3:5,6) So we're helping them to start and supporting their little businesses. They do things like making chapati (a flat tortilla like food), sweeping and cleaning, sorting rice, or any odd jobs.
A couple weeks we got a little knock at the door, it was David, an 8 year old Sudanese boy with a big character. He came over to tell us about his "business" of making fried cassava. He goes to the market, buys the cassava, peels it, cuts it, soaks it overnight, fries it with oil, and then delivers it. He said he wants to save his money so he can go back to school. One bag is 1000 Uganda shillings (about 30 cents). It's very tasty, and even if it wasn't, we're buying every week! We give him more for delivery and told him every time he comes he can sweep our porch and for some extra shillings.

What a wake-up call! Some kids in other countries drop out of school because they're lazy. But here sweet David is, 8 years old, working for 30 cents a bag of cassava, so he can just go to school! This world is so off. Which is just more clear proof that we need God's Kingdom, and people need to know what it will do.

In other news...

More than 100 happy volunteers recently came out to do a long day of maintenance at the Mbabra Kingdom Hall! 









Monday, July 4, 2016

Running In Slow Motion

June proved to be an exciting month for us. Our friends Heather and Braxton came to visit from Florida and stayed about 3 weeks. It was nice to have people from our home area to talk to and take in the ministry. So many times we have imagined sharing this experience with close friends, so to have them visit was up-building and needed "friend therapy". We were blessed to enjoy another safari together, along with some other friends Natasha and Andrew from the states who we met here in Kampala. Uganda can really just be indescribably lovely; it's hard to believe until you see it with your own eyes. The following pictures don't quite do the beauty justice, but it's a small view of what we experienced. And yes these are pictures we really took!


Steven, myself, Natasha, Andrew, Heather, and Braxton enjoying a boat cruise down the Nile. 


At the top of  Murchison Falls nearly getting pushed over by the powerful gusts.



The King himself! From just 5 feet away we got to observe true "catttitude". The same lazy, seemingly indifferent nature of a house cat. 


My dream came true of seeing this rare beauty watchfully perched on a ledge at ruins of an abandoned hotel. Leopards are known for their cautious and coy nature, so to come so close to one is a gifted experience. For a moment I felt like we were looking each other straight in the eyes...One day we will live in peace as friends, until then we will admire from a distance. 


Happy elephant swinging his tail as he marches on by. 

The peculiar nature of giraffes is so amusing and interesting. It's like they run in slow motion.

All praise go to Jehovah God for the diversity and beauty he has created on earth. It's because he loves us that he's made so much for us to enjoy. Being in these settings bring us closer to Jehovah. We find that we really need breaks to stop and appreciate the perks of living in Africa. Overtime the challenges can exhaust us and the energy we expel is seemingly impossible to regain. But Jehovah truly gives "power to the tired one and full might to those lacking strength..." and " those hoping in Jehovah will regain power. They will soar on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary...” (Isaiah 40: 29,31) He indeed gives us the power to keep running...even if we too, seem to be running in slow motion. 

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Facts and Figures

"The harvest is great, the workers are few..." (Matthew 9:37) Per the 2016 yearbook, there is 1 Witness for every 6,737 people and a 6% increase in Uganda. The increase has been at a steady 6% to 8% for many years, so the truth is spreading. Still with the ratio we see there is MUCH work to be done.

Where we live, Mbarara, it's been estimated that there is 1 Witness for every 25,000. In one year we have seen with our own eyes the incredible increase of 11 new publishers in the English congregation! We are surrounded with unassigned and seldom worked areas that are untouched or rarely preached in. It's been exciting to be a part of the "Macedonia campaign" once again this year as we set out to some of those seldom worked territories for June and July. The people there eagerly welcome us. Many are searching to know the Bible, and they often ask sincere questions. Commonly they want to know how their prayers can be heard by God. Unfortunately they have been taught that they need others like priest and pastors to pray for them, and at a cost. We hear people say all the time, that the church tells them "no coins, paper money only". It's just sad, because not only should you never charge money for a prayer, but these people have very little to give. Needless to say, they light up with joy when they learn how to pray for themselves and that Jehovah God is the hearer of their prayers! 

Recently we had assembly here and 3 from our congregation were baptized. Also, a family that Steven and I have been studying with attended their first assembly! 

We love these people and they love Jehovah. Their future is bright! They even built a little kingdom hall in their yard complete with a pretend microphone! 

Our 3 new brothers!

That's a quick update on our lives here. We miss you all back in the states and think of you often. You are in our prayers. 
With <3 from Uganda! 



                                      



Sunday, May 1, 2016

the only and only...

About 6 weeks ago I began studying the Bible with two little Sudanese girls, sisters who are 9 and 10 years old. From the start I could see the great potential. They both read so well, ask lots of questions and always prepare for their studies. Along with that they started attending Bible meetings at the kingdom hall right away on their own. Needless to say I got attached and just love them. Then the news came Saturday; they're moving. First to a refugee camp in Kampala and then later to South Sudan. We haven't heard any official report, but rumor has it the horrific civil war in South Sudan is over. Because of that many refugees plan to return soon to be reunited with their families. Let's just really pray and hope the rumors are true, and no one is returning to danger! The girls wrote me these lovely letters. I think they speak for themselves. I corrected their spelling like a good teacher should!

From Sarah:
Dear Niki, How are you and how is your life? The reason I wrote this letter is to tell you I love you. I will miss you ssssso much and you are the best Bible teacher and you are the best friend of ours. If we go to Kampala tomorrow I will miss you a lot.
(And on the envelope) I will miss you. I won't leave you. You are my Bible teacher. Bye bye Nick. I will go and I will not come back forever and ever. I am vvvvery sorry, please forgive me.

From Mary:
Dear Niki this is Mary your student. The reason why I have wrote this letter is to tell you that I will miss you and I will miss you so much ever. I didn't want to leave you but my mother she is the one who said we are going to Kampala. I didn't want to leave your Bible studying because it is so so good. I promise you I will never and never leave Jehovah because he is the only and only who can help us in our problems. And I will never leave the Bible studying. I will miss you Niki. bye bye. I love you.
Sarah and Mary after a recent study with a list of questions they wanted to know answers to. Please pray for them and all the people affected by the war in South Sudan. 





Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Into The Mountains...

In the great winding Rwenzori mountains of Uganda near the boarder of Congo we set out to reach two remote groups of Jehovah's Witnesses. Along the 6 hour arduous journey from our home in Mbarara, we caught site of some of the captivating wonders of creation. We climbed up and dipped down the nearly untouched mountains like a roller-coaster. From our view few sites are as beautiful, especially when you come from the flat US state of Florida.
Rwenzori Mountains- towering almost 17,000 feet into the sky.

The first group met in a modest school house in a district called Bundibugyo. Small children peeked through the wooden beams and makeshift windows studying our mysterious white faces. After some persistent hand-calling they shyly shuffled in to hear Steven deliver the talk.  

The second group in Bugado gathered together in a simple mud Kingdom Hall. By this time the sun grew strong and our bodies grew weary. Sleep was tempting, just to close our eyes a few minutes... However the effort to keep ourselves upright on the rickety wooden benches was enough to keep us from dozing off.

These kind friends warmly welcomed us with love and appreciation. We went there to encourage them, but we came away feeling so encouraged ourselves. The effort, expense, and sometimes risks they take to show their love for God remind us of the important words of Jesus at Matthew 19:26 "with God all things are possible".

Well, our trip into these jungle like mountains was one of the most exhausting days we've had. We left feeling totally beat and sapped of all physical, emotional, and mental energy.  When almost everything around you is unfamiliar your brain is in overdrive just trying to process it all. But the feeling that follows (at least the next day when we've somewhat recovered) it's euphoric! That kind of joy stays with you forever. Needless to say this adventure goes down in history as one we won't forget. Everyday in Uganda is like on the job training. We're learning precious lessons and gaining lasting memories. We know we can't do this forever, but until it's over we're grateful for each moment.

Want to share with us? Visitors are welcomed! We also love hearing from you. Many have said they want to comment on the blog, but are having trouble. We love getting letters, cards, kids artwork, and so on. So, please write us at:  nikihiggins1@gmail.com OR
Steven and Niki Higgins
P.O Box 571
Mbarara, Uganda



Thursday, April 7, 2016

The Best Feeling Ever...

It’s rewarding to be back into our routine in Uganda! Things quickly became terrifically busy for us. We feel as if our feet haven’t touched the ground, although our tired feet would hastily disagree. March 31st we were pleased to commemorate the death of Jesus Christ as millions around the world did. Steven had the responsibility of organizing the program and delivering the memorial talk. It was a bit stressful, but I’m extremely proud of him. He gave a fantastic easy to understand talk. From speaking to many in attendance, I saw it glorified the depth of Jesus sacrifice and increased appreciation for the greatest gift ever given. He was surely glad when it was over though! All together 268 people attended here. We were pleased to have many Bible students present.





We also have our very first visitor to Uganda. Steven’s cousin from South Carolina, Hunter. So far I think we have worn him out a little, because he’s been sleeping LOTS. He’s adapting surprisingly well with little complaint though. Local people are amused and confused by his thick southern accent and even his name “Hunter”. Here names are full of meaning, so everyone is wondering if he’s really a hunter! This week we enjoyed some of Jehovah’s stunning artwork in Uganda together at Lake Mburo National Park. We saw so many animals, even a leapord which is very rare! Steven and I are blessed to live just 1 hour away from this gold mine of rich wildlife and mesmerizingly beautiful landscape. 









Some other exciting news I can report is; I have broken my personal record for number of Bible students. Not that it was my intention, but still I was thrilled by that fact. I once had many in Florida, but most were door-step type studies and brief. Now all my studies are serious sit down students, and all but 2 attend meetings regularly. I have to use my fingers and toes to count them all. It’s overwhelming trying to give them sufficient love and attention. But Jehovah is the boss and I feel him holding my hand tugging me along to each precious student, telling me “You can do it!”. I love these women and girls. I truly feel honored to study with people so hungry for truth and a relationship with God. I had one of my best students tell me Sunday how thankful she is for a personal Bible study. She said "there is nothing better than learning the truth!" The Bible is changing lives in Uganda, and all over the world. There is no joy equal to working with Jehovah God in this life saving work. Every frustration is compensated by a joyous moment, every tear is reimbursed by a hundred smiles, and for every sacrifice there is a blessing.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Getting Good At Saying Good-Bye...

...because "see you soon" just doesn't seem to cut it when you live thousands of miles away. Spending time back in the states recharged our fervor. The love we were shown invigorated us mentally to return to Uganda with extra zeal and enthusiasm. Thank you so very much to everyone who showed us hospitality and gave encouragement. Words could never cover how grateful we are for the incredible people we have it our lives. Seriously, we love you. Special thanks go to those who made an extra sacrifice and gave us a comfortable place to stay and great company. Here are some highlights. Let me just say, most family pictures are of my family and not Steven's. Of course we love his family too, but I have a really giant close family and stayed 11 days longer than Steven! Also didn't get pictures of all our special people, but you know who you are :) and we took mental photos.                     
Some of our great blessings; my siblings, spouses, my beautiful niece, dad and step-mom.

                   
All 6 of us siblings in order oldest to youngest with mom in the middle.

                  Went to the wedding of our good friends Josh and Clarissa. We also enjoyed lots of good food, including this yummy pie, made by mom and equally loved by my grandma.
       
Of course snuggle time with my nieces was important as well as ministry with these beautiful women I'm honored to call family.
                       
 With my pretend niece/lil sister Emma...point is I love her. She made this lovely print out about herself to give to some young girls in Uganda. And we also went to Disney and met up with our friend Chewbacca.

We are so so sorry if we missed you on this trip. We just could not get to everyone. As it is we came back to Uganda exhausted! Even though we loved being in the states and it was necessary, we are grateful to be back. Being away even a short time made us realize how much we love it and how valuable the work we're doing in Uganda is to us. Also, we've really grown to love the simplicity of life here. One day we will return to the states, and we have so many people to go back to, but for now this is HOME.