Thursday, December 18, 2008

It's good to be home.

Words continue to fall short in expressing our gratitude to God and all of our family and friends who's prayers and support made all of this possible.  Merry Christmas.  

Friday, December 12, 2008

Worth A Thousand Words

We were unable to take any pictures at the Embassy for security reasons.  So as soon as we received the visa (before they were even suppose to open this morning) We ran out of the Embassy laughing and crying and headed up the street to meet our van and driver.  You can't park near a US Embassy once again for security reasons.  We texted the kids and called "Uncle Henry" who called Grandma Gertrude.  We met them (see above picture) along the road and went to the airport together.  Gertrude got a ride on a 'boda boda' which is a motorcycle taxi!  Way to go Grandma!  You can see vaguely Tracy running to see them and celebrate the news!  

Now in this photo we are together and making the mad dash for the airport, nearly an hour away.  No shortage of smiles and relief.  

Here is the team around Tracy minus two main individuals.  Julie our 'power of attorney' who wept with Tanya on the phone when she heard this morning.  And Richard our attorney who worked tirelessly with us this last month.  As seen in the photo above (Driver Richard, Gertrude, Henry, Tracy, and Tanya) at the Airport!  

No explanation needed.  

Early Pictures of Our Day

Our last sunrise over Kampala.
Up bright and early 5am...ready to go!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Its final!!!

Hello this is Tessa! I can hardly type i am so happy. I have just spoken with my parents and they are on there way to the airport, visa in hand! What a miracle. God is so good, and i can not tell you how happy our family is. Thank you for your love and support. We are so excited that Tracy will be getting on the plane with my parents and heading home tonight! There flight lands at Sea-Tac at 7:05pm saturday night. It is an open invitation to anyone who would like to come and welcome her. She would love to see all of the people who have prayed and supported our family through this journey. My parents will not have internet access till they reach London, but they send their blessings. I'm sure they will give us the detailed report later. As for now, God is so good. And this will by far be the best christmas present our family has ever recieved :) We will all sleep in peace tonight! Love, Tessa

The Court House Clock Tower

This was the clock tower visible from where I sat as I watched the minutes slip into hours and the hour become too late to make my appointment with the Embassy.  

The Bench of Waiting

This is the bench that I sat on for 7 hours while eagerly awaiting the prized, "Written Ruling" document.

The Amazing Race is not over and it's over when I say it's over.

Every time I think I can't take any more.  Every time I think there is just a glimmer of hope.  Every time my faith thinks like a clock.  Every time I hear the words, I'm sorry you are going to need to...I pray.  

Now, you need to understand.  I don't believe prayer is some type of tool in which we manipulate a god to do what we want to him or her to do.  If you hear me say, "I pray" and you immediately have an image in your mind of some arrogant overly spiritual types bossing God around, I apologize.  Count me out.  It's not my style.  You may catch more of my concept of prayer from my blog entry yesterday.  In the words of Albert Einstein, "I want to know God's thoughts, the rest is just details."  
I've wanted God to help me keep my heart and my mind in the right place.  I've wanted to be able to interact with others with love and wisdom.  I've wanted peace in my heart to stay present in the moment, when the moment wants to pull me into anxiety and frustration.  I've wanted joy to be a present reality in my true self because I've known the words of Nehemiah are simply true that, "The joy of the Lord is my strength."  To me that is prayer and today prayer was as essential as breathing. 
I needed strength when time was not on my side, when my nerves were counting seconds that were turning into hours.  I could literally feel the opportunity of bringing Tracy home with us tomorrow slipping out of my grasp.  I felt so much weight of everyone's expectations, not least of which were mine, were crushing me.  Yet, I only heard "No" or "Wait" all day long.  
I waited from 11:30am until 6:30pm to finally be handed our "written ruling".  This was the final document that I needed to complete Tracy's visa application.  The only problem was that the embassy closed at 4:30pm.  I was too late.  Our consular was waiting for me and I sat and watched the clock tower on the courthouse pass by any hope of reaching the embassy.  Sarah from the U.S. Embassy apologized and said we needed to change our plans.  It wasn't going to work.  The Ugandan High Court said come back next week.  blah, blah, blah...It's all I heard all day, but I couldn't give up.  I didn't know how.  I just couldn't give up.  
So, where do we stand now?  I talked the Embassy into opening a bit "early" for us tomorrow.  Originally, it was one of the consular's idea, but she had since jettisoned it for good reason.  Somehow, she recommitted to meeting me at 7am where I will hand over the written ruling and she will process the rest of Tracy's visa.  If they grant her that visa then we will have a mad dash to Entebbe Intl. Airport.  We are already checked in and have our seat assignments. 
For us to arrive 2 hours early for an international flight we will need to depart the U.S. Embassy 5 minutes after we get there!  You get the picture?  It's going to be tight...really tight.  But why shouldn't the last day of this journey be like all of the rest?  Insane and full of surprises!  I'm mentally exhausted and I need to go pack, but there is one thing I know.  
There is one excited little girl putting her few things in her back pack and I think she is going to have a mighty hard time sleeping tonight.  

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

We've got one more day!

Nothing like cutting it close, huh?  

This has been mind-numbing and an adrenaline rush simultaneously.  Go figure.  It's been the epitome of "hurry up and wait".  Well one more day to get it done.  That's what we've got!  (I know, Ryan and Debra...It's "That's what we HAVE." :)  It's intimidating knowing that english teachers may be proof reading your blog.  

My nerves are shot.  I had to step out of the van as we sat at the High Court of Uganda Courthouse this morning.  Once again...we waited.  I stepped out for some air, to try to calm my nerves and collect my thoughts.  What could I do?  I knew what I wanted, but who needs to see another 'ugly american' throw a temper tantrum because they aren't getting their 'MTV'?  Sorry kids, you're too young for that Billy Idol allusion.  

I wanted to know how to feel.  How can I think consistently with the heart of God.  If this whole journey is about what I want and not what heaven sees then I'm chasing my tail.  This has always been bigger than us.  Certainly bigger than me.  My life was already exciting.  I wasn't looking for more excitement.  

In the tension of today, a prayer began to seep out of my heart.  And when I mean seep, I mean the way the flavor of my Ugandan tea bag fills the mug sitting next to me.  So, to take the metaphor a step to far, "This is a taste of the tea brewed in my Wednesday soul".

Dear God…today,

Do I see what You see?
Do I feel what you feel?
Do I want what you want?
Beyond just another meal.

Have I heard what you hear?
Chosen what you desire?
Have I touched your hem while this continents on fire?

Have I longed for the brook that quenches Your thirst?
Or do I fret these other things and Seek not your Kingdom first.

If I have - I have heard Your voice.
If I will - I will have glimpsed Your vision.
If I do - Today, I receive Your invitation…

Into a Kingdom of love – I was created for
I beckon you not to mine, but I first to Yours
Then please lead me back.
Once dead yet born again.
Today I will yet practice -  resurrection!

Out of darkness let me walk in the light of the Day.
This, the Day of God’s new creation.


Friday, December 5, 2008

Day 13 - I think?

We officially have a down day.  The internet has been down for a couple of days.  Somehow Tanya managed to squeak in a blog entry and I used my internet time to IM with Tessa and Lacey on Facebook while responding to so many birthday greetings.  I'm definitely due for an entry so here goes.  

This morning our guest house is boiling water to drink. It needs to rain.  Meanwhile, thunder rolls in the distance.  As thirsty as I am, I know the rain is coming.  I can hear it in the thunder.  I can feel it in the air.  I can even see it in the distance.  Yet , I still thirst and work to purify something that will soon 'purely come'. That describes my spirituality and frankly, my theology during this season of my life.  I suppose that may seem all to cryptic for any good use, but for now it will have to do.  

(On a pragmatic note: Don't panic, I can take a long walk down a steep hill and go buy some bottled water if I choose.  That is a luxury most of this continent can't afford.  As we speak, hundreds die of cholera in an outbreak in Zimbabwe.)  

But feel free to drop me a line if you choose.  I'd love to hear your interpretations of my metaphor.  It may be quite helpful for me!

Most of you know from various forms of media that Tracy Esther Nakayiza is now a "Romack".  This is great news!  We don't know whether to laugh or cry half of the time.  So, there is plenty of both.  Funny little things get to you.  Like...let's just say, having to write this.   
Yesterday, we drove to Tracy's school.  We didn't want to enter the solid iron gate because we didn't want to disrupt the school and interrupt what their activities.  But they opened the gate and Tracy saw us and we needed to just keep driving.  (Our real destination needed to be the Administrative Offices not the school.)  She started waving and her face lit up, yet she didn't know why we were not stopping for her.  All she could know is that we promised that we were coming back.  That kind of got to me a bit.  See what I mean?   Then when we returned for her.  I could see some of the other children playing and talking and they didn't know how close we really were.  Kids like Travisan and Ronald.  So close, yet thinking that we were still so far away.  I wondered how many times I have thought similarly toward God.  Thinking that his love and view of my life and circumstances was real.  Yet, his love was  from such a distance that it couldn't touch me at the point of my present need.  I don't believe in a far off God anymore.  I do believe that he doesn't have to intervene or interfere with my circumstances to be present in them.  God is more than a superman deity that swoops down to save the day, only to retreat to an unidentifiable identity and locale.  
Back to the story.  We received Tracy's passport and went to go pick up our girl from school.  We took her Grandma back to her house after driving various court documents to various locations.  All of which involved harrowing traffic and a steady dose of 4 wheel drive.  We reached 'home' with Tracy having  just enough time to eat some Top Ramen and pick up some Ugandan friends for the evenings activity. 

 Adult "children" of past African Children Choirs were banding together to reunite for a Christmas Outreach.  They call their ministry "One Voice".   Last night we went to watch their Choir performance.  As you can imagine, it was great!!!  Tracy sat next to us singing and dancing to every song.  Africans can even dance to O Holy Night.  It's true.  What a moving night.  All of the kids from the school came to the church to see this show!  They filled up a dozen rows in front and eagerly watched their upper classmates and Aunties and Uncles of the present and of old, perform.  The kids absolutely loved it.  Some of the performers were their school teachers and house moms and dads.  Can I tell you how refreshing it was to watch a Christmas pagaent that wasn't brashly american?  It was powerful to watch a choir of adult orphans from a land known for political oppression singing about redemption and the restoring ministry of Jesus.  A movement in which the Messiah didn't come to rescue the oppressed wearing a cape, but rather became one of the oppressed wearing a crown.  A crown of thorns on a roman cross. (The performance wasn't really about any of that, it's just that I have a very active imagination!) The performance was moving and full of talent.  Tracy's favorite part was the dancing shepherds.  What do you expect from a dancing 9 year old? 
Tracy asked as the perfomance was nearing it's climax if she could go and get Marjorie and Travisan.  She said that they would have to leave quickly after the performance was over.  (If you are unaware, Majo and Travisan are kids from the choir.  The former stayed with us and our church sponsors Travisan) Of course, I said, "Yes" and she was off to go look for our buddies.  Travisan showed up first, grinning from ear to ear.  Then Majo with her unmistakable smile.  We talked about the church, clubhouse, and how they did on their exams they just completed.   We took some pictures and I told them that we are still praying for them and think of them often.  The performance was over and here came the rest of the choir that stayed in so many of your homes.  (I'm presently having another one of 'those moments'.)  They looked good and happy to see us.  Excluding Ronald who looked like he had been rolling around on the ground during recess.  Which he probably had.  I would expect no less!)  They've all grown and matured, but were full of love and life and seemingly a bit more comfortable on their own turf. I had a good heart to heart with Ronald and we said, "Good bye."  Another gut wrenching day was coming to a close.  We got back in our four wheel drive mini van and made our way through the crowded Kampala streets.  It was Friday night in Africa.  With discos thumping, charcoal grills smoking, AIDS killing, a continent longing.  Longing for redemption.  
Into that world, the Christ child comes.  Not first to save our world, but to enter it.  Emmanuel.   God, not simply for us, but first with us.  
If no one else has, may I be first to say this season, "Merry Christmas." 


Thursday, December 4, 2008

Our lost bag arrived with some irony inside.

It's been a few days since our last entry. We were away from the world wide web for a few days. Just proving that its not as "world wide" as advertised. Whatever the case, we are back in the city and back online.
We just returned from the airport where we were fetching one of our lost suit cases. The airline told me that it had arrived, but that it was "leaking". Great, huh? We got through the malaise of security and unnecessary lines only to be taken through some more security and unnecessary lines. The anticipation of being reunited with more underwear was staggering. Just kidding. I was curious about what was 'oozing' from our suit case and in an odd sort of a way I was sentimentally anticipating our reunion. After waiting for two different people to open two different locks on the same door...there she was. My suit case dripping with pink fluid soaking the zipper. What could it be? You guessed it. The Costco sized bottle of Pepto Bismol. The damage was contained, but the irony was complete. The thing out of the bag that I could have put my nerves to rest was saturated into my wife's library book that was sharing the same compartment of the suit case. Oh well. Hakuna Matata as the kids say.
I've tried to keep my entries light hearted and brief. This has been a fun way to be thoughtful and relational during this journey.  I gotta tell you though. I'm wound pretty tight today. I've shed some tears. I miss the kids. We miss Tracy. I want this process to be successful and...over. Tanya and I are both fatigued from dealing with 'officials' whose job it is to be gruff and suspicious. I understand that everyone is doing their job and the time constraints that are upon us are self-imposed. Yet, we're a little frazzled. That's probably a nice way to put it. This morning I needed to find a guitar and find one NOW. Some prayers can't be spoken, they can only be sung. We all have a song. As I type I can hear the beautiful african rhythms and voices of a nearby Bible College. The students are singing their cry. I needed to cry out my song. Today there's is a song of celebration and mine was one of angst. My kids would say it's because I'm getting old. I would say it's because I'm getting soft. :)
We trekked across Uganda for a couple of days. We covered many miles and saw many things. It was nice to get out of the exhaust and pass some time together. We got pulled over by the police, saw Margaret Nelson (a missionary who used to live in Granite Falls), took pictures of a few animals we saw near Murchison Falls, changed a tire with some baboons, but those stories will have to wait. 
Now, it's Thursday. Tanya has finished cleaning our suit case and its time to get ready to go to Court. I feel His peace and presence come on me even as I write this.

Here is my meditation:
Philippians 4:6-7 (The Message)
6-7Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.

Love to all. I gotta go see a judge. Sing your song as we sing ours.