Thursday, December 3, 2020

Right Doesn’t Always Win

Walter Disney once said, “Sometimes you have to get kicked in the teeth to find the path to your vision”. 

I recently was kicked in the teeth.  It was the day before this past Thanksgiving when I received a text message, which said, “The seller has rescinded their offer and has accepted another.”  In the next hour I also received news of one of our FNC Academy students needing a bone marrow transplant.  And if that wasn’t enough, another client called me and told me his long time friend had just taken their life.  I froze.  They say things happen in three’s.  While I’m not sure this is true, at that moment, it most definitely felt like it  

 

For the next week I sat in a state of depression.  I wish I could tell you I’m completely over all of it.  Those three events played a negative role in my life and the others who surrounded me.  I was in a funk to say the least.  With some encouragement from Wendy, I reached out for help.  First I called my long time friend Ben.  He asked me to write down ten things, which had brought me joy in the past…I did.  Over the years, Ben has witnessed my best and worst self.  He listened, loved, and called me to action.  That’s what great pastors do.    

 

From there I decided to go and talk to a professional councilor.  A session which, should have lasted an hour, ended up lasting two and a half.  She allowed me to see this wasn’t an isolated event, and led to conversation of past betrayals, disappointments, and a lot of trauma through out the past 8-9 years.  Several tools were suggested.  But if I learned anything in that prolonged session it was this…Right doesn’t always win.  

 

My perspective of life isn’t and shouldn’t be everyone’s, though I think it should be!  Loyalty is something I value.  No one is perfect, but when you are wrong, I believe you should admit it, ask for forgiveness, and move forward.  Such isn’t the case for most of the world.  It seems the golden rule has been tossed by the wayside.  What makes someone cheat another out of a business deal?  Why do children get sick? And why would someone decide to take their own life?  

 

On this side of heaven, I’ll continue to ask these questions.  But with the help from my councilor, it’s how I decide to think, process, and then act which can make all the difference.  It’s possible for the human brain to be retrained.  I’m trying, and it’s not an easy process.  For me, it’s not about moving forward, but how I move forward.   

 

So the next time life kicks you in the teeth allow yourself to bleed, ask for help, and remember, it could be the one thing that sets you on the path God has designed you to follow.  On this side of heaven, right will not always win, but one day, when all is made new again, right will prevail.    

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

A Fresh Message From Teacher Haley

 

Faithfully Nurturing Children Academy

 

The hopes of the righteous bring joy… Proverbs 10:28

 

When I last wrote, we had been in a season of waiting, and honestly, not much has changed. For now, the border remains closed except to the current repatriation of citizens of Uganda, via the Ugandan Embassy, who had been stuck elsewhere. Only a few have made it back, but I am thankful that at least some families are being reunited. The president is adamant that schools remain closed, which is a huge blow to the population of people we serve. Through it all, we continue to employ all of our staff, carry the mission forward, and wait out the crisis together. In the midst of the media storm of bad news, I hope the following will brighten your spirits to know light always dispels the dark, and good always wins in the end.

 

Sweet baby and his words… can you even take it? 

"Arise and shine. For your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you. For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and deep darkness the people, but the Lord will arise over you, and His glory will be seen upon you.” Isaiah 60:1-2

Once the restrictions were lifted a bit, so that a little more movement was allowed, the teachers were invited to serve their students and those in the community near their homes in every way they felt inspired. Some ideas were to read, color, sing, dance, tell stories, and just be present. So many people in this community suffer, yet our teachers are bright with the heart of our King, driving away doubts and fears every time they reach a home. Just think about how momentous it is to have your teacher come to your house in this dark season! I imagine there are many anxious hearts at every turn, but just having the comfort and nurture of one of our FNC staff is enough to keep one going! We NEED one another! We want each student to know they are being remembered, prayed for, loved from a distance and that their teachers want to help in any way possible. The testimonies have poured in, and children and family members have been loved, encouraged, taught and served in creative ways. This is where sonship starts, and I believe God will be faithful to finish what He began. Philippians 1:6 

“My student requested me to come another day to read for her more book, this was fun, thank you for that program.” FNC teacher

“Children are made readers on the laps of their parents"…and Teacher Irene. 

Then, prayer. There is no way to know how much our prayers have meant for the young to the old in Uganda. We still have no cases of the virus in our school family. Our nurse is tending to booboos once again, and all other ailments. I think her presence just makes everyone feel better, so for that reason alone, I am glad we are able to support her work. Please pray for her continued health and safety. 

Teachers have spent so much time visiting and praying for our students and their families as well. Every time they do a home visit, they share bible stories, pray and take requests from all who are present. It is powerful to be the hands and feet of Jesus. We are so proud of our teachers who have accepted the mission to continue to serve, make sacrifices, and encourage the FNC family. 

“The spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, Because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor. He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted..” Isa. 61:1

“I smiled that morning when I was handed the paper containing the work I was to carry out as a teacher and I said, GOD TOLD ME TO DO THIS”!!!! Thanks for accepting God to use you mightly and I thank him for the devine conection.” FNC Teacher

It has also been wonderful to pray and read the word together as a staff. We do this on What’s App. One of our teachers made a decision to ask Jesus to be king of his life a couple of weeks… WOOHOO!!! A girl in our girl’s home ALSO made this decision last week, (the first of the Busiika boarding students that were not a part of the whole school salvation moment in our Kamwokya elementary school). AMAZING!!! I believe she is the first among ALL. 

“Thank you for your graceful chase after the hearts of these our children, and us too.” FNC Teacher

I think they are BOTH enjoying the story! 

In addition to spending time with students and their families, the teachers are growing by leaps and bounds. We are so grateful that the current restrictions are broad enough that teachers can go to school in grade level teams. This has afforded them opportunities that will have lasting impact. 

Our computer teacher Eddie has been tirelessly serving the teachers, training them in every computer skill one needs, including typing! Since some of our teachers have never interacted with computers, and some have more experience, he is teaching multiple classes to help them all attain a solid computer skill set. This is thrilling! 

“Thanks for investing in us to see us improve, this is a good program and I will get started on it right away.” FNC Teacher

We have five classes in Google Classroom where the teachers are receiving instruction as well. The lessons they are doing involve literacy skills both for themselves and for becoming skilled teachers, which is all an extension of what we began in January of last year. This literacy initiative has powerful possibilities. One of my favourite aspects of these classes is getting to hear daily from our teachers about their joys and trials as they resolutely take on their assignments and work together. They are also reading the books that many of us read in our childhood, which is a huge deal considering most of our teachers report having read less than 3 books in their entire lives. Hearing how much they love the stories and also reading their assignments has been wonderful fun. So, as you can see, reading, writing, and even some handmade math games (think rocks and sticks) are the daily meal at FNC right now. In the end, besides their own personal growth, our teachers are continuing to learn what they are meant to know in order to teach our students, and I know you will agree, our students deserve this. Below are just a few of the comments I have received which I hope will reveal the huge impact FNC is having in the lives of all, despite it all. Make no mistake, without our leaders on the ground, which are many, FNC would be in trouble. It is incredible to be able to work together despite the fact that we are on different continents! God is faithful. 

We are planning as a team to visit our students together this week and get to play the math game we planned

Am so much excited about the lessons am getting,God bless you dear.

I 'm ok its good that we are together again. Thanks to our professors that even in this crisis, they have made it possible for us to learn something.

Am excited for more!! I have learnt a lot of skill these last few weeks and am so grateful Tr. Haley for you endeavor to help us learn these skills. Thank you so much!! 

We are learning a great deal! And we love it! 

thanks am OK have Enjoy and have learn a lot from you Haley thank you so much.

It is a challenging moment where we are really putting heads together to make things happen. I'm glad for this time. 

As for our students, teachers are not just making personal connections, but attempting to fortify the reading and math skills they have through review. They have reached out with work that the children can do, and then later they check in on them to help them where needed, and to encourage them to keep practicing. We hope this effort will boost everyone’s spirit and hopes that things will return to normalcy one day, so our children can return to school and carry on. This is truly the most heart wrenching part… our children thrive when they are in the safety of the walls of FNC, a predictable, and supportive environment, so being away is really hard. Please pray for anxious hearts of our students and staff as they live out the daily wait and see. 

__________________________________________________________

Have you ever eaten fried worms??? I like his adventurous spirit, eating grasshoppers with his meal. Don’t let him fool you though, Dickie will eat anything. He is one brave soul. 

Seriously, the happiest child you will ever ever meet, Trevor. 

Looks cozy! 

Teaching even still.

“Am so thankful for the Journals cause they are making me to reach out to my students and it allows me to know how they are doing.” FNC teacher

“Reading is a conversation. All books talk. But a good book listens well.” Mark Hadden

These little ones are so blessed to have Teacher Margaret on their team. 

Oh Nelly! You love to snuggle, and Teacher Christine is the perfect snuggle buddy. Looks like it’s TIME to learn. (hehehehehhe!) 

And we still have one more happy report to boost your spirits today! We have a second food initiative completed. It makes my heart feel so happy! We continue to hear reports of parents and guardians not able to work, and the dire circumstances they face, but I know their Father knows… and is able. 

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat…” Matthew 25:35

“Thank you so much for feeding my family, as I was in despair.” FNC Parent

Lastly for now, we are also working on projects that involve teams of teachers helping to build handless washing stations for our school. We will need plenty of these once school starts. I hope there will be many more such projects. It will be a real blessing to our students to find out how hard their teachers were working while school was out. 

So you can see we’ve been busy. It is humbling to see how God is helping everyone work together to ensure we remain present and focused as an organisation, all for our students and their families. I just want to thank you for your part in this. We are doing all we can possibly do to support our students and our staff in this really challenging time… and love never fails. 

By far the best thing I have heard is that students are smiling and feeling happy that our teachers are making so many efforts, sacrifices and connections. In the end, we simply want our children to be safe, fed, healthy and fearless because they belong to the Father of all Fathers, our King.

Please keep praying for these children. Protection, health, emotional security, encounters with Jesus, Godly relationships, revelation as sons and daughters of their inheritance, boldness, authority, hope and joy… well, I know you know. For me, continuing to link arms together with you all is the way that we will see mountains being cast into the sea. Let us dream and pray BIG prayers for our families, indeed for Uganda. 

With Gratitude,

Haley

“That they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” Isa. 61:3 This is our hope and our prayer. May it be. 

 

Monday, April 6, 2020

Evacuating to a New Normal

I'd heard of it before, even spoken to a family first hand, but didn't think to much about it ever happening.  And quite frankly, in the midst of it all, it never quite felt like it.  Now for sure there are all different kinds and levels of evacuation, the reasons are many.  It wasn't as if Uganda was at war, or expats were being hunted down, though a certain percentage of me felt uneasy in a country I've grown accustomed to for the last 7 plus years.  Writing about it almost seems weird and or uncomfortable.  But after talking though it with Wendy last night, I felt it might be good to share the experience.

The plan for me was to be in Uganda for 8 weeks.  Our goal was to build a security fence around FNC's new boarding school and to also begin the foundation work on our student housing.  There were other things to do, like figure out how to move bulk quantities of our coffee stateside, encourage our leaders, and shift out of the home we had left behind.  But when a world wide epidemic occurs, plans adjust.  I'm happy to report many of the goals were met.  The fence begun and is almost complete.  We were able to shift out of our home, and a great contact was made in regards to the coffee.  But a lot was left undone...

I'm a task/goal oriented human being. Uganda has taught me to be more patient, and maybe that's why I feel like I feel today.  Leaving 4 weeks early wasn't on the agenda, neither was 14 days of self quarantine. It certainly isn't the America I left behind only a month back.  Things are a bit sideways, and for some completely turned upside down.  Allow me to give you a run down of the events as I remember them.

After arriving in Uganda the evening of 5th March, I began to receive information America was changing, the world was changing.  For Uganda, things seemed to be as usual.  And for the first two to three weeks they were.  That said, just 3 days after my arrival a 14 day self quarantine act was mandated by President Museveni.  I was fortunate to have missed that. Then shortly following, a more severe measure was taken with a mandatory quarantining at a $100 per day fee for any person coming into Uganda.  Can you imagine coming back to your home country and being charged $1400 US dollars, locked away at a hotel of the governments choosing?  But it happened...I believe this is when things began to unravel.  The media took great advantage of this story, as any media outlet might do.  Then it happened...the first reported case.  And from there, things began to spiral.  In a matter of 2-3 weeks, Uganda went from pretty normal to utter chaos.  If you were of any other ethnicity, you felt as if all eyes were on you.  I'm not and have never been fluent in the local language, but it doesn't take much to know when your being profiled.  But what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, and I believe wiser and if your keen, more compassionate.  Ignorance kills.  Knowledge saves.  If anything, I'm better today for feeling the effects of profiling.  It's not that it had never happened before to me and my family in Uganda...but there was something unique about this.  For the first time in my life I felt like a leper.  I don't say this for effect or for a "woe is me" factor, just wanting to share the emotion of the events.  Whether it was driving in your car, walking into a local shop, or just walking from place to place, people kept their distance.  But if I were them, having all media blasting expats for carrying the virus into their country, I might have done the same.  The irony, it was fellow Ugandan's which had come into the country from Dubai carrying the virus.  The President himself said it live at one of his many addresses...but it seemed as if that particular detail was overlooked.

Then came the speech which halted the country, a complete lock down.  Within one week the president and his cabinet canceled all public gatherings (schools, religious affiliations).  Then he announced all public transport to cease.  Next he closed all businesses, minus grocery stores. And then all private vehicles.  Now just imagine a city of millions who literally live day to day, now having no means of transport, and little to no means to earn.  Oh, and a curfew from 6:30am to 7pm.  Life has never been a picnic in Uganda...now it was survival of the fittest. And if all this sounds a bit much, it's because it was and still is. As of yesterday, police are now telling even those walking outside to go home.  This is the result of mandates put in place to help, not to hurt...it doesn't take much imagination to see the opposite effect.  Yes, this virus doesn't discriminate...but the measures one country takes shouldn't dictate another country which is vastly different.  All to say, much prayer is needed for Uganda, it's people, and it's leaders.

Evacuating to a new normal was and continues to be interesting.  Wendy asked me if I felt traumatized from the event?  This was my response..."Honestly, I think God had prepared me for it."  Just getting to the airport required special permission from the Ugandan government and the American Embassy, walking 20 kilometers just to pick a letter from officials.  Then even with the proper documents, Solomon and I were stopped 6 different times by military officers in just 40 kilometers to the airport (one officer even called the US Embassy to cross check our papers and to make sure we were on "the list").  When reaching the airport, it was something out of a movie...but God was there every step of the way.  And for those who prayed, thank you.  And for those who pray, would you join me and continue to pray for FNC...staff, students, and families.

I plan to return to Uganda hopefully this summer...our students need housing for next year. God loves it when we love on his children, and for this I'm extremely hopeful.  Grateful to be back with Wendy and the girls...grateful to serve the least of these...grateful for life...grateful for the love of God.              

     

Sunday, January 19, 2020

"EDUCATING TODAY...BUILDING FOR TOMORROW"

"The measure of a life, after all, is not its duration but its donation." --Corrie Ten Boom

I'm thankful for the YouVersion app...it has helped me to stay in the Word daily. Studying scripture with brothers and sisters in Christ is also a bonus.  "We can always earn more money, buy more things, and make more friends, but we can never obtain more time"--"7 Days to Becoming a More Generous Person (YouVersion plan).  As I awoke this morning, the above phrases spoke loudly to my spirit.  What a great reminder!

Being stateside the last 6 weeks surprisingly has provided some much needed rest and reflection.  It's allowed Wendy, myself, and the girls to shift our focus from pouring into to being poured into.  The holidays have come and are now gone.  Thankful to spend time and see family, but also as grateful we are having some time to just be.  Church visits, lunch and coffee conversations have been spread out well, and are continuing.  The generosity our friends and family have given us is priceless.  

Time...the most precious commodity.  Do I live as such daily, probably not.  As I look into today and what tomorrow will bring, my prayer is that my time becomes less about me and more about Him and others.

"Educating Today...Building for Tomorrow" (Thanks to Connie Benson and Becky Mosley) is the title for FNC's latest building campaign.  A soft launch has begun.  Since 2018, FNC has raised more than 220,000 US Dollars!  To date because of your generosity, FNC has been able to accomplish the following...

1.  The purchase of 13 plus acres, inclusive of a house and a few out buildings.
2.  A well was drilled and existing facilities underwent a facelift, providing the space needed to begin.
3.  NEW CONSTRUCTION of PHASE 1 IS UNDERWAY!  (Please see below pics)


GRADES 8 & 9 CLASSROOMS plus GUARDS QUARTERS 

GRADES 6 & 7 CLASSROOMS 

INSIDE OF CLASSROOMS

CLASSROOM BLOCK DRAWINGS (2 CLASSROOMS PER BLOCK)

FUTURE STUDENT HOUSING RENDERING

STUDENT HOUSING DRAWING



So here's the break down to complete PHASE 1...
1.  Classroom Block 1 (8th-9th grades, plus guards quarters).................$30,000 COMPLETE
2.  Classroom Block 2 (6th-7th grades)...................................................$30,000 COMPLETE
3.  Boys Housing inclusive of toilets and showers (50 boys)..................$50,000 ($35,000 Raised)
4.  Girls Housing inclusive of toilets and showers (50 girls)...................$50,000
5.  Mom and Dad's home (top-middle of above drawing).......................$30,000
6.  Security Fencing (around entire school).............................................$15,000
7.  Classroom Block 3 (10th-11th grades)...............................................$30,000
8.  Sports Facilities (Soccer Pitch, Basketball/Volleyball Court).............$10,000

GRAND TOTAL..........$245,000

Up to this point, FNC has secured $95,000, which leaves us $150,000 to complete PHASE 1.  
Our primary need for 2021 is housing...we would obviously love to build and complete PHASE 1 by the start of 2021, but building with priority is our main objective.  A donation of $1000 per child provides housing and hope for generations of children.  We understand not everyone has an extra $1000...but I do know together this is entirely attainable.  Donations can be made via PAYPAL @ www.thekissingwell.blogspot.com or www.fncacademy.org and for checks PO BOX 344 Vermont, IL 61484.  Please make checks to THE KISSING WELL...all donations given are tax deductible.      

"Educating Today...Building for Tomorrow"


Future phases are available and can be provided.  For more information about the entire project, please reach out to todd@thekissingwell.com.  



    

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

TRANSITION

Transitions are much like challenges.  As much as we try to dodge, they will come.  I’ve often heard you are either entering, in the middle of, or finishing one.  When I’m on the spot and have to illustrate or describe something, my mind instinctively goes to one of two areas…marriage/family or music.  When it comes to transition, both are extremely relevant.  



Marriage/Family

This past Monday, the 8thof July, Wendy and I celebrated 19 years of marriage.  In that time we’ve experienced many transitions, some good, and some not so good. Only by the grace of God and his daily mercies have we been able to handle transition.  There was a time Wendy tried counting all the homes we had lived in together.  The number reached over 20.  Like I said, by His grace.  Life transitions are ever happening.  One day your newlyweds and the next day your parents.  The career you once had is 180 degrees different from the previous one. Your children grow and all of the sudden they begin to leave, for a good reason I hope. The dreams and desires, which used to consume you change and you find yourself 20 years later doing something completely off your radar.  People come and people go…this might be the most challenging transition of all. Circumstances change and we are baffled.
Emma, our first born, is leaving the nest next month.  It’s been planned for sometime now, but that sometime is now here.  The Gilliland home is forever about ready to be rocked. Life as we know it is going to change, and nothing we try to do can change it.  The continuum continues.  I was asked just this morning from some of the FNC teachers how we were all coping with Emma’s departure, to which I answered, “I have to be strong for Wendy, thus I need you all to be strong for me.”  As we had a nice laugh about it, one of them commented, “Now what about giving your daughters away?”  I decided to save that one for another day.         



 Music

Years ago a fellow musician taught me the art of transition.  This is what he said.  “Todd, the key to playing a song well is transition.”  I’ve found this true in every single aspect of song.  When I first learned to play guitar, it wasn’t the chording which tangled me, but it was the switching from G to C to D without a pause.  Over time and with much practice, it has become like breathing, I don’t even think about it. Think about the various parts of a song, the intro, verse, pre-chorus, chorus, verse, pre-chorus, chorus x2, bridge, chorus, outro…and that’s just one of the hundreds of ways one can put a song together.  Now, take a band and have them perform just 5 songs…the transitions are endless, until the set list is finished, not to mention the lighting, sound, and other technicians which are as essential as the band themselves. If they don’t transition well, the performance of the band and the experience of the listener will suffer. I believe I could write pages and pages about musical transitions, but again, let me save it for another day.  



Over the years, FNC has undergone many transitions.  From the name, to what we do, and who we are today, looks entirely different from the plan Wendy and I had in mind when we first came to Uganda.  Ok, that last statement is for sure the understatement of our lives.  As we have shared our story time and again with fellow pioneers, we’ve found we share common ground.  The details usually vary, but the principle of transition always comes into the mix. 



Here we are again in what seems to be the greatest transition in the history of FNC.  From February to May of this year, a company called EMI (Engineering Ministries International) worked on a master plan for the future of FNC Academy.  The document contains over 90 pages of plans, drawings, and renderings…it’s quite impressive. For me it’s a daunting task.  I wonder what Noah felt when asked to build the great boat, or Moses when given the plans to build God’s ultimate dwelling place?  What about David, Solomon, or Nehemiah?  All of these men are hero’s of the faith, and have books which have stood the test of time to prove it.  The common bond for all of these great men: Determination and their Faith in God.  If I’m being completely transparent, I’m scared. Scared to begin such a large God sized vision.  I’m scared of the sacrifice, financial cost, and responsibility.  I’m out of my depth and way in over my head.  I’ve often asked myself how in the world we got here? If you sense an insecure man, you probably are right.  I’ve read the books, spoken to many wise men and women, confided in my leaders, prayed and then prayed some more.  This is the conclusion I’ve come to…I need God.  Noah, Moses, Solomon, David, and Nehemiah needed God just as much as I need Him.  Though to have Solomon’s checkbook wouldn’t be bad…    

           
It's a God sized vision for sure...and for the record, it wasn't mine.  All credit goes to the EMI team who worked tirelessly...1900 man hours to be exact.  That said, I can testify, they give and continue to give all glory where it is due.  So how does one conquer such a task...one brick at a time, one prayer at a time.  So this is our mountain, our Everest, our Ark, and another place for God to dwell.  Lives continue to forever be changed by the power of the Holy Spirt working in and through this little school.  It's now our time to believe He really can do all things.