16 January 2014

8 Years in Uganda...

Last night I reminded the boys that we are celebrating 8 Years in Uganda today... Kadin immediately asked "But I'm 8 years old - does that mean I have been in Uganda my whole life?
Pretty much son! Here's a look at the boys two months into Uganda... Noah is sporting his favorite yellow shirt that he whole almost everyday that first year...
 
 

Seeing pictures of the boys really puts it into perspective for me... Uganda will forever be a part of their lives and the first home they will ever remember!

I am so proud of Christine and the boys and all that they have sacrificed and done to make Uganda home. These 8 years have not only shaped the boys but they have also shaped us as a family and left a mark on our hearts and minds that will stay with us for the rest of our lives.

Here is a look at us after 11 months on the field... man, I love all that hair on my head!


To all of you who have joined us on this journey... thank you for your love, encouragement, counsel and support! We could not have asked for a better support than the one we have with our families, friends and churches back home. The stonesinuganda has been a team effort from the very start and we are so grateful for everyone of you that has joined us in some way on this journey!


15 October 2013

Noah's belated birthday blog...

This blog has evolved over the years from... hey, we live in Africa... to Jeff's manic rants about missions... and finally to hopefully something the boys can one day read to help them remember their early years in Uganda...

Along the way... the Birthday Blog... was invented! Something of a letter to the boys describing who they were at that age and all the mushy stuff this Dad feels about them...

So for the last 11 days I have been experiencing blogger guilt over missing Noah's Birthday... and I couldn't let his 10th year go by without a few words...

First to Christine... Are we old enough to have a 10 year old? It feels like this whole parenting thing is flying by way to fast!

Noah you are simply an amazing kid... recently I have been amazed by your confidence... this weekend Noah asked me to race him in the pool but I gave him a lame excuse about being tired from dropping off Christine off at the airport after mid-night and suggested he challenge other people to the race... there were another 8 or 10 kids in the pool but instead Noah started walking up to all the  men at the pool asking them to race... what a kid! His confidence can be seen everywhere from the classroom, to the stage, to the field or in the pool... and I love to see that confidence spur him on to continually try new things!


Noah I also love that you aren't too cool to hang out with your family... Sunday I drug the boys to a village church service... we are talking about 3 hours and 15 minutes of singing, praying and dad preaching... Noah sat there in the front row smiling at me the whole time... laughing at the dancing, trying to sing the songs in Luganda and then he pulled out my phone and recorded the all 5 points of my sermon... I couldn't even believe your were paying attention!

Noah you are so good with people... your teacher's comment at parent / teacher day was priceless... she said "I fear the day when Noah doesn't come to class... even when I am teaching a boring lesson or the project has totally failed... Noah is the only kid I can always count on to interact and keep the lesson going!" I feel that way often as a dad... like Noah completely understands that I'm not a perfect dad but he is still willing to make it work anyway... thanks kid!

Noah raising you has been the scariest thing I've ever done... but I hope and pray that I only pass on a fear of God rather than a fear of life to you. You were born 5 weeks early and they kept you in the "baby oven" (NICU)... nothing life threatening but just long enough for me to realize I was really a dad... and this last year when you had a peanut reaction and mom drove no less than 140 kph through Kampala  over speed bumps and sidewalks to get you to the hospital I was going 140 kph in the car behind you praying and begging God that you would be alright... but one thing I have had to learn and I'm still trying to learn... especially through raising you... is that living in fear of what could happen is no way to live at all... so just keep remembering to 1) Ask before you eat 2) Bring your Epi-pen everywhere and most importantly 3) Keep trusting God more and more each day... because He has an amazing plan for you my son!

24 July 2013

Joseline's Wedding

With two sons I never imagined that I'd one day be walking a bride down the aisle... but I was more than happy to walk Joseline down the aisle on her wedding day!

Her hands were shaking and her knees barely held her up... but by the time we reached Nicolas at the alter she was happy as anyone can be...thanks for the honor Joseline!
 

Kadin was thrilled to finally have his chance to be the "ring-berry"... Noah retired from service as a ring bearer and made the jump to groomsman... when did he get old enough (or at least tall enough) to be a groomsman?

Oh... and Kadin was well aware that he was looking good! It's amazing how much a suite can give a guy confidence... like Kadin needs any more confidence than he already has?


I've never seen Kadin hold still for so long but he was eager to be in as many pictures as possible... 


Noah also did a great job of coaching Kadin along the way... a seasoned pro of 4 weddings Noah was more than willing to share the spotlight with Kadin on this one...


At one point the flower girl almost lost her arm from Kadin dragging her around... but props to Kadin for holding the girls hand for so long without complaining... 


I got the family photo I was hoping for out of the event... lets be honest there are about 99 family photos like this... 


For every 1 of these that we happen to get... without naming names... there are a few family members that can't hold still... others who don't look at the camera... and others who get "smile fatigue" from the first 99 attempts... anyone else have a similar experience?


And finally the day ended with a recent Atherstone family tradition... the picture is a bit blurry but can you see who has their shirt un-tucked and is bustin' a move in the middle of that dance circle? When it comes to dancing the boys have no shame...

Congratulations Joseline and Nicolas!

22 July 2013

Joseline's Give-A-Way

Attending cross-cultural events is part of life overseas... and I'll be the first to admit that they aren't always completely enjoyable! 

Wearing a full-suit in 100 degree temperatures with the music set at levels that could split my eardrums open at any moment isn't my idea of a good time... add in food that isn't agreeable to my stomach and a set of expectations that are clear to everyone except for me... and it seems like most of these events take a few days or weeks to recover from!

But we may have just crossed a major cross-cultural bridge this summer... not only did we attend an Ugandan Introduction (give-a-way ceremony)... we actually hosted it at our house in Buloba!


 
On Friday June 28 we gave Joseline away to Nicolas... 

The "we" in that last statement is one of the biggest honors we have experienced in our time in Uganda... 

Giving away a bride is the responsibility of the bride's parents... it is their responsibility to set the value of the bride (just imagine how a girl with no value could be treated in the hands of the wrong man) and also to introduce themselves to the groom to show him who he is accountable to in the case that he decides to mistreat his bride...
 

Joseline came to our house with only two living sisters and no other family to speak of in September 2006... she didn't have hope of going to university or even marrying well which is a common fate for orphans.... so she chose to help a young missionary family settle into Uganda and help with their active 1 and 2 year old sons... but on Friday June 28, 2013 she left our home as a mature daughter with a Master's degree nearly complete and a job at a university now ready to enter into marriage and begin her own family... I will always see the transformation of Joseline's life as one of our greatest joys in Uganda!

Noah and Kadin enjoyed most of the ceremony dancing along to the music and getting as much soda and cake as they could get their hands on... but also keenly aware of the important role Joseline has had in their lives and filled with joy to see her so happy on her give-a-way day!


Nicolas kept his eyes on Joseline the whole day... well aware that he had just committed himself to the girl of his dreams... 

But what truly gave me all the confidence in the world that we were handing Joseline over to the right man was to see the joy in her eyes throughout the entire ceremony!

24 June 2013

Kampala Kids League

I'll be the first to admit I was not completely excited about giving up my Saturday mornings for kids soccer! We already drive 35-45 minutes each way into town 6 mornings a week so adding a 7th seemed like too much...

But it has been so good for the boys!

To be honest Kadin is not much of a "team guy"... he is more of the rugged individual that has little need for group or community acceptance... he is who he is... and he is more than ok with that! 

But for some reason he has really jumped on the bandwagon of team sports...

He didn't score any game winning goals... and occasionally forgot which direction to run and once or twice let out a scream when the ball came his way... 
(Insert comment about getting his athletic genes from dad here)


But there wasn't a week where he wasn't the first to help his coach pass out the post game snacks to the other kids... he also excelled in joining team huddles and post-goal victory dances and team celebrations...

And he was more than excited to find out that his team ended up in first place... 

He has had is gold medal on since Saturday and I think we will just need to accept that he might wear it the entire summer... 


Team sports have also been a plus for Noah but for many of the opposite reasons... Noah is competitive about everything... just ask him! 


And in most situations whether in the classroom or on the sports field he usually is in first place or not far behind...
(Insert comment about his mom here) 
But for the last two seasons Noah has been on the last place team and the loses have been a bit rough... the final match was 10-0...

But I was so proud to see a huge smile on Noah's face in the awards ceremony as he watched his brother get a first place medal and his team followed up with a participation award for last place... learning how to lose graciously and appreciate others who do well is a part of life that I am happy to seen Noah understanding...

And getting a huge pile of SWAG also helped lighten his mood... his love for free t-shirts and free hats definitely comes from his dad!

And team sports are also good for mom and dad... in fact it is one of the few times of the week where I feel like a normal American... sipping my coffee, screaming at a ref and gushing over my kids to the other parents!

Way to Noah and Kadin... you are both champs in my book!

31 May 2013

Freedom of speech?

Today the Daily Monitor... a popular Ugandan newspaper... re-opened after a 10 day siege by the Ugandan police. The Daily Monitor is the second most popular newspaper in Uganda... but it is unique in that it is not owned by the government.

So why was a public newspaper shut down for 10 days which were filled with protests, violence and out cries from Human Rights agencies around the globe?

Because an article was written about a government plan to assassinate senior army and government officials who opposed the plan for the President's son to succeed him in office.

Talk about looking guilty... they should have just laughed and ignored the story...

Unless it is true!

Ever since the deadly "Walk to Work" protests of April 2011... which no one heard about since the world news was only covering Will and Kate's Wedding... I have been shocked to see the escalating abuse of power in Uganda... it seems that anyone who writes, says or even thinks negatively about the President or his government will be arrested, beaten or removed from their position...

We talk about the leadership crisis in Uganda at ARU all the time with staff and student... this last week was just further proof of the great need to train leaders to share the compassion of Christ and hope of the Gospel in the midst of pain and suffering!



 

14 April 2013

40 Years!

40 years ago today John Michael Atherstone and Sallie Catherine Pastula tied the knot... I wasn't there! But I also wouldn't be here if that event in history never took place...

As a child I heard the stories of them meeting around Halloween... being engaged by Christmas... and being married by Easter! For all the rush to get married those crazy kids have done an amazing job sticking together...

No one sees a marriage closer than the kids and for 18 years Jen and I got a first-hand look at what made our parents marriage click...

I will forever be grateful for the example the I saw from them...


I get my fire and my passion from my dad... I've never seen a harder worker... and a more committed father... for 18 years he left for work before we woke up but there was never a morning where we wouldn't find a hand written note from dad... I've come to realize as a dad that sometimes the words love and encouragement don't come easy but when I take the time to write I can truly feel and express the deep love I have for my own wife and kids... my dad was always the life of the party and my mom always seemed to enjoy him the most as he was making people laugh and making everyone in the room feel welcome and loved!

My dad is the reason I understand Ephesians 5:25... It seemed the older we got... and the longer they were married the more my dad traded in fire and passion for gentleness and care... he traded disputes for serving and he traded arguing for understanding... he is much quieter than when I was young... but he still has a gift of making everyone in the room feel welcomed and loved!

I get my deep love for family from my mom... mom was all-in all-the-time... she was our teacher, room mom, soccer mom, team driver, field-trip monitor, VBS leader and constant fan...our friends loved coming to our house because they knew my mom was waiting with hot food and warm words of encouragement..  Long after we left the house our friends were still visiting mom because they also knew she cared... Mom was always on our side... even when we were wrong... unconditional love for family is the legacy that my mom shared with me!

In another month Christine and I will be hitting 12 years... anyone who has ever been married knows that marriage is one of the greatest joys as well as one of the greatest struggles in life (being that half of all marriages end in divorce)... this year we have watched her parents reach 35 years and now see my parents reaching 40... I am so grateful for the example they have set... marriage isn't easy but the journey is the reward... the longer we are together the sweeter the journey gets... we've seen it first hand in our parents... and now we are experiencing the joy ourselves!

Mom and Dad... here's to another 40 years! I love you both and I am so grateful for the model of love and commitment that you have shared with me!

05 April 2013

Happy Birthday Kadin!

Somewhere along the way a "Birthday Blog"has become a tradition for the Atherstone family... some would say it is because I am such a thoughtful father... "thank you!" ... others would say it is because I am too cheap to buy presents... "oh, you know me too well!"

Kadin, for your sake more than any other member of the family, I am so happy we are still in Uganda... being 8 now Uganda will forever be apart of your childhood memories... and that brings me such joy because Uganda has shaped your personality more than any of us... who knows whether a childhood in the US would have made you much different... but who you are today is a joy to everyone around you!


You are a delightful, trouble-making, creative, genius with an out of this world imagination... not a day goes by when a friend, neighbor or stranger doesn't stop what they are doing just to watch you... you are an entertainer to the core with a sweet spirit that most find irresistible to ignore!


8 years old seems so old... and I can't believe how much you have grown this last year! 

You are reading now... it only took 2 years of nightly battles of the will with your dear ole dad... 

You know the names of the kids in your class now... they are no longer referred to as "my children" or "those kids!" 

Even yesterday you picked up your toys and did your homework without being asked... was that an out of body experience? Your mom and I just watched in amazement! 



We love to see your daily climb up the guava trees  and your overloaded pockets as you bring your haul down to be eaten... we love to watch your interactive monologues as you chase dragons or overtake kingdoms... and we love to see your daily outfit accessories which include a belt around the belly, a sword tucked in the belt, a canister of some kind of fairy dust a pocket knife for safety and untold trouble ahead... you truly are one of a kind!


And so my son... my birthday wish for you is that you never settle for normal... but instead that you set your imagination free to create new things, explore new places, meet new friends and chase after big dreams! You are one of a kind and at some point in your life you may desire to fit in or be like everyone else... just remember that God made you unique and special... you may not look or act like everyone else but God did make you in His image...  that is nothing to hide but something to let shine for all the world to see!


Kadin there are not enough words to express how much we love you!  Happy Birthday Son! Today is your day and a special time to remember how good God was to us to bring you into our lives!

27 March 2013

Lumasaba Dance

I'm pretty sure I agreed to be circumcised last Wednesday...

After 7 years there are still times where I have no clue what is going on... rather than trying to figure it out... sometimes you just have to be a good-sport and go with it!


In chapel this term we have a special song and dance from a different tribe or region each week... this has definitely become one of my highlights of the week as students have added in local instruments, local dress and each week it has become a bit like American Idol where they are each trying to out-do the rest...

Our students from Eastern Uganda (Mbale) raised the bar yet again this last week as they went out to the farm and made costumes out of banana fibers and other vegetation... 

Their hips, shoulders, legs and heads were all going in different directions with such amazing speed and co-ordination that the whole student body was clapping and shouting with joy...



And then it happened... a student reached out for my hand and I was pulled out of my chair... it looked a bit like a recent Insanity workout I had with Shaun T so I just went for it...

I should have paid attention to the sharpening of the machete against the concrete floor before they called me up...  but fortunately the act itself was not performed and everyone had a good laugh at my expense!

Until the next dance...

 

25 March 2013

We know drama...

I tried finding pictures of Noah's first school play... they are somewhere but won't be found today...

 I remember it so clearly... he was in preschool, shirtless, wearing a ton of beads and some wrap around his waist and he was supposed to put a pot on his head... except there were 8 pots and 9 boys... Noah was the last to reach the pots and froze in fear when he saw that all the pots were gone... Noah barely held it together on stage fighting back the tears as his teacher ran across the stage to hold him...

We've come a long way Noah!


Last Thursday Noah played Kevin... a young boy entering the land of Aesop's Fables... Christine and I were a bit worried when we found out that he was one of the lead parts when we realized how many lines he would have to remember... but in true Noah-fashion he had them memorized about 2 months before the play...


The performance itself was amazing... although I'm the parent...so you might have to ask someone else for an unbiased review... 


There were a few dance moves, songs and dramatic scenes along the way... and at the end Years 3 and 4 had wowed and amazed every parent and sibling in the audience... 

Way to go Noah!