As we are closing in on the end of our first year in Uganda, we wanted to address a question we are asked quite often:
What specific financial needs do you have and how can we help?
This is perhaps one of the hardest topics for us to discuss as missionaries. We have put off publishing this post for many months, and in fact, I (Staci) drew the short straw. I’m not sure if it comes from pride or insecurity, maybe both. Perhaps it comes from stories we’ve heard from other missionaries. For example, we know of one family who lost support because of a picture they posted containing an avocado, which was deemed to be a luxury by the now ex-supporter.
When we said “yes”, both in obedience and in faith to God, we knew that living on support would be difficult in many ways. It is both humbling and incredible to know that we are being supported financially by people, not on the basis of merit or how many hours we put in at the office each week, but on the basis of God’s calling on their lives. In one way, this is assurance of our calling and God’s faithfulness. Still, we find it difficult to come from a position of being financial supporters, to needing the support for ourselves.
It can be very intimidating to share these needs. Whether it is reality or just our own imagination, we risk judgement and questioning, the ever-present “what will people think?” In all honesty, it’s a very complicated and sensitive topic to address in light of our surrounding culture.
On the other hand, I remember when we were in the process of adopting Isaac, and we were faced with the reality of needing to send in a very large sum of money by the end of the week. As we fretted over sharing those needs, a dear friend of mine gently admonished me. She said, “Staci, if people don’t know of the need, they can’t help. Maybe they are a giver and you are hindering their gift. Maybe God is working in someone’s heart through your need. Maybe God is working in YOUR heart to trust Him and be vulnerable.” I have repeated these words to many other friends who have been hesitant to share their own needs. And now, here we are again, needing to share.
We have several large expenses, large needs on the horizon. We have debated just sharing the bottomline need or explaining more about each need. We have decided the latter option is best, as it also is means for accountability. So, without further adieu…
I am starting our list with the pressing, non-monetary need we have. As we have worked on getting settled, it has become increasingly evident that I need help inside our home. We are traveling more, which is quite a demanding process. Isaac has made incredible progress, but still needs an amazing amount of attention and focus. Daily tasks seem to be quite a bit more demanding and time consuming. We have begun discussing and praying about finding someone to come help. Whether that is a Ugandan or someone from the States, we don’t know. We don’t know exactly what it would look like, but we are sharing it as an urgent need. We are ultimately looking for a “mother’s helper”, not someone who will take all of my duties, but can help with Isaac so I can teach older kiddos more efficiently, someone who can keep older kiddos on task if I am called away for some reason (a daily occurrence), someone who can help with household tasks (and maybe give us a date night now and then?). This would also free me up to help Jarid with his ever-growing pile of administrative tasks. Likely, it would be a live-in position, which necessitates finishing our attic (see below). Even sharing this need feels incredibly vulnerable. It means admitting that I can’t do it all. And I can’t.
Increase monthly support by $1000
Establishing a baseline for monthly support has been a very difficult thing. Before we came to Uganda, we spent time looking at our own finances and obligations, talking to other missionary families, and doing research on expenses in-country. We came up with what we thought was a pretty good estimate. But as you can imagine, without actually having our feet on the ground, living life, our best guess was just that – a guess. And of course, we have encountered unexpected expenses. For example, we did not anticipate the amount of travel we would be doing between Musana and the head office, located at Kasana, some 150 km away. That means more fuel, maintenance on our vehicle (and if you’ve ever traveled the road to Musana, you understand how hard it is on a vehicle!), and accommodations.
The truth is, we are just breaking even with our expenses. This does not leave any room to save for things like clothes (the kids are growing like weeds and wear and tear on clothes is a bit more intense here), curriculum for homeschool, saving for medical expenses, planned rest in-country, or perhaps the biggest, future flights for furlough or emergencies.
In April, Jarid will attend a training in California for nearly two weeks. This training is for integrating organizational change. While it is not a requirement, it is beneficial to the organization as his role evolves, as well as for maintaining our work credentials in Uganda. We anticipate the cost to be $4800, for both training and travel.
At the end of July, we will travel back to the States as a family. The purpose of this trip is two-fold. First, we will be attending the Annual Gathering for our sending church’s denomination. EBC in Dickinson is part of the 4C’s, which is the Conservative Congregational Christian Conference. Before coming to Uganda, Jarid pursued licensure with the 4C’s and is now a Commissioned Christian Worker. Part of the licensure requirements include attending the Annual Gathering in the first two years after licensing. For obvious reasons, we did not attend in 2017, so we are required to attend this year. We will also be able to spend time with our Associate Pastor and their family, as they will also travel to this conference near Boston.
The other purpose of this trip is to rest. At that point, we will be a year and a half into our first term as missionaries, likely the halfway point before our first furlough. As we have watched and heard of missionaries who burn out, we wish do our best to prevent that from happening to us. I can tell you honestly that we were very naive upon arrival in Uganda. Both of us thought life would be easier, simpler, slower here. We humbly apologize to those brave souls who have blazed the trails before us and knew better! While life here is wonderful, it’s beautiful, the people are amazing, it’s also very hard. Living outside of our home culture is very difficult and exhausting, albeit rewarding.
As such, with input from NHUM and trusted friends, we have decided this is a good opportunity for us to take a micro-sabbatical. It doesn’t make sense to fly the whole family back to the States for anything less than a month anyway. The flights are long, it takes a few days to adjust, and the expense is too great to miss seeing our family while we are there. At this point, our plan is to finish the conference, then fly to Jarid’s parent’s in Florida and hunker down for a bit. When we first started thinking about this trip, we had grand plans, dreaming of all the things we could do while we were back. As time has gone on, it is very apparent that rest needs to be a top priority. We are hoping and planning on having my parents, as well as both of our sisters and their families join us at some point. They are all very disappointed about “having” to come see us in Florida. Ha!
The decision to only fly to Florida, not to Colorado (as well as Idaho, Montana, and North Dakota!) is also based on every effort to cut costs. This will eliminate two one-way sets of tickets. In any case, the trip is not cheap. We anticipate the cost to be upwards of $8500.
We are so blessed to have a wonderful home at Musana, especially now that it is bat-proofed, thanks to our EBC family! We also praise God for His provision through our amazing network of supporters for electricity! Two dedicated workers are currently digging a trench by hand through the dense forest in order to install conduit. Within the next few weeks, we will have utility power humming in our electrical panels. As you would expect, there’s always more to do.
As I mentioned earlier, we would like to finish our attic space. It is just big enough for studio-like apartment, with a bathroom and kitchenette. We would complete it with an outside entrance, to add to the versatility. Ideally, it would be used for someone who would be helping me. It could also be used for family members who come to visit (wink wink), giving them just a touch more space and privacy. It could also be used for short-term visitors or interns who come to camp.
Another project we are considering is to add an office/homeschool area at the back of the house. As Musana is growing, space is at a premium. Currently, the building that houses his office is already over-crowded. One side of the building is used as an office for both program and administration. The other side is housing for staff. Adding a small office onto our home would give more space for program folks to work, while not kicking out much-needed and loved staff members. We would also make a small space for the kids to do school, big enough to throw down an extra mattress, should we ever have enough visitors to warrant that! The two projects together are relatively simple and inexpensive. We may even be able to include a simple covering for the van and four wheeler. The cost for this is still to be determined.
These are the items that are either things that will become needs at some point, or are simply just wishes.
Laptop for homeschool – As Benjamin and Kaiya move into higher grades, more of their assignments and curriculum are on the computer. It is growing increasingly difficult to share time on the computer without making one wait long periods of time for the other to finish. Additionally, with Benjamin’s interest in programming and all things technical, a computer is a key component. We are looking to buy a laptop that can adequately accommodate the programs he wishes to run, freeing up our current laptop for Kaiya to complete her school work.
Iphone 7 or newer – Jarid and I each have an iPhone 6. We anticipate that with the recent release of the iPhone 8, 8s, and X, ours will more quickly become obsolete and we will begin having problems with updates, etc. We are each hoping to be able to get at least iPhone 7 or better at some point soon. This is a really hard one for me to even share as a wish, because it is just that: a wish. It is important for us to have phones that work well and allow us to communicate easily (and through variety of applications) with our family and friends back home. My phone has been my lifeline here! Additionally, Jarid’s Iphone has been a key component for his work. He is able to navigate unfamiliar territory on the roads, he’s able to map out community gardens and projects that involve the community, and just recently provided a map for the local government to help us to build latrines and a water well for our neighboring fishing village. All this is made possible by technology that isn’t so common here!