Friday, November 11, 2016

Pics from the latest FNC trip...

Doughnut Eating Contest...
Diana keeping the children in line!
Day Care...afternoon nap
Not sure what to say about that guy...but the lady on the left looks cute!
Brad and Debbie Hunt...on a home visit with one of the children they sponsor.
Connie Benson, a long time supporter peaking out the gate of FNC
Some more doughnut eating contests pics...
Students studying hard!
End of school day assembly
Nice smiles!

Pre-K rehearsing for Christmas program
Thank you La Harp Christian Church for the Flip Flops!
Just 7 left to Sponsor this year!!!
Ag Day with Brad and Debbie Hunt
Connie Benson loving on Teacher Aggie and Teacher Celina
Brother Derrick and some of our students
Connie Benson and the boys from 5th grade!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016


My ears are ringing.  It feels like I’ve lost 20 years of my hearing.  Just this morning I had to ask Wendy to read to me Acts 9, but to please read it with a bit more volume.  Yesterday, the Ugandan Cranes were in town (that’s our national soccer team).  They were playing a match to qualify for the African Cup…kind of a big deal.  In the past, I have experienced such things (whether music concerts or major sporting events), which I considered extremely loud and electric.  But this was a whole new level, one of chaotic decibels I am suffering from at this very moment.  The Cranes won, so you can imagine the pandemonium.   For less than 30 US dollars, 3 guys and myself, plus 45,000 others were victorious, even if it was just by a goal, and even if it was just for the day. 

And to me, this is what Uganda feels like.  I know it doesn’t sound biblical or at all culturally correct.  One day you feel superhuman, and the next it seems you can’t do a thing right.  Most would say, but that’s life, and they’re probably right.  But as a leader, we try not to show our bad days.  My father’s always said I’ve never been very good at that.  He’s right. 

I recently visited a friend.  I had heard her father had stage four cancer.  I wanted her to know Wendy and I were there.  My intentions were to encourage her, to make sure her eyes were still on her Heavenly Father, in the midst of it all.  After I was done asking how she was coping, it was like God began to speak through her directly to me.  Her dad had been released from the hospital just two days back…his treatments continued from home.  As she described to me the physical state her father was in, it was almost too much.  But then, this woman’s faith began to shine.  She said she was done being sad, done being helpless, done being restless, done saying to her self, “What happened???”  Her attitude changed from “what happened” to “let’s make it happen!”  And that’s when the switch occurred.  Instead of weeping and worrying, she began to worship.  She worshiped at her workplace, she worshiped at her home, and she worshiped while spending time with her father. “Dad accepted Christ”, she told me with a smile.  “It’s all worth it Todd, our reward is coming, and for me, it’s come.”  But the one comment that stuck with me through out our conversation was this one, “I chose to rest in God.”  Jesus wanted me to hear that. 

Working hard is something we take pride in.  But resting well, that’s another issue.  If I were completely honest, I’ve never been able to “rest well” while on holiday.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy getaways, different scenery and environment is good for the soul.  And as our daughters have grown, Wendy and I have been able to enjoy holidays even the more.  (Though that 3rd child in the room, and the fact that two of our children are 12 and above, the discounts have disappeared!)  For me, I’ve found, resting well, has little to do with vacations, holidays, or weekends, though I’m not giving up on those.  Real rest has more to do with focus, being intentional about how you spend your time, and who you spend it with.  Balance has never been my forte.   The older I become, the more I see its importance, and the more I’m striving towards it.   But resting one’s heart in Jesus, that takes trust, it takes perseverance, and grace from the One who provides each heart beat. 

Yesterday, just before Solomon, Ivan and myself began our Tuesday bible study, I received a simple but tragic text message…”Dad passed away today”.  All of me wanted to focus on the message, but my friends were there and after some encouraging words, we set our focus on the Message.  This morning as I sit here and write these words, I’m glad we did.  We chose to focus on Life and not on death, to keep our eyes and hearts on the prize, which awaits all who are in Christ Jesus.  After visiting the families home, yesterday evening, trying to provide any comfort one can at a moment such as this, I remembered the words Ivan and Solomon said, “Todd, you’re here to love, to provide guidance. We need you to stay strong.”  When I reached home later that evening, Wendy and the girls were waiting.  I was bombarded with questions from Lucy.  I didn’t mind.  Wendy loved on me.  It was a beautiful, yet sad moment.  Today is the burial.  Ivan and I are about to set off to the village some two hours from Kampala to lay to rest a man, a husband, a father, and grandfather, but must importantly a child of God.     

Sunday, June 12, 2016


Part 1
It's the 2nd of June, 11:43 pm, Uganda time, as I start our first of many blogs to come.  We began our journey with the traditional goodbyes from mom and dad's house, followed by a 4 hour ride in the Prather's Expedition.  Kent, Sandy and Allison Prather have seen us to the airport and picked us up to many times to count. Each time I tell Kent thanks, his reply is classic Kent with a great big grin, "Wouldn't have missed it!"  Let me tell you something, when your leading your immediate family to a developing world, and saying farewell to family and friends, it's people like the Prather's that keep you going.

In fact, let me brag a little bit more on this family.  After checking in all 15 totes, and crossing our fingers the airline wouldn't weigh our carry-on’s (which they did, but had an extreme amount of mercy), right before we stepped into the never ending line at TSA, Kent grabbed my hand, and said, let's gather round and say a prayer.  Yep, that's right, it wasn't, "We'll be praying for you" was, let's do it NOW.  I honestly have no idea what must have went through the minds of the hundred's of witnesses that surrounded us in one of the countries busiest terminals on Memorial Day, but this I know for sure.  For just a moment, the Church parted the seas of people, and Christ was truly glorified.  Thank you Kent for being mindful of Jesus in the midst of the storm.  Thank you Sandy and Allison for standing with us and being'll never know how much that prayer meant.

Besides our first flight being delayed by one hour, the rest of the journey was quite pleasant.  A few bumps, but God truly had us in His hands.  With all 15 totes surviving the journey, we arrived in Uganda, early in the afternoon, and were greeted with the traditional Ugandan welcome, which is always a good thing.  A huge thanks to Michael, Solomon, Derrick, Alfred, and Dicky, for assisting us home.  I believe the entire staff would have come, but someone had to stay behind and care for the children of FNC.  

Part 2
We’ve been in country now for 12 days… One would think it could take at least a month or so to come across some challenge.  I wish that were the case.   But funny enough, we were prepared.  In fact, the day we landed, the one and only road, which leads from Entebbe airport to Kampala was all of the sudden closed as we were making our way back.  Why you might ask?  TIA, (this is Africa).  After a slight diversion, only about 3 hours, we arrived at our home well and good, and a bit tired.  

Jet lag has begun to ware off, and our sleeping patterns have just about become normal once again.  I don’t know this to be a fact, but I think the older you become, the longer it takes the human body to make these kind of hemispheric adjustments. 

FNC Academy closed, for our normal 2 week holiday the following day we arrived.  I believe it took all we had to visit the school, before the students and staff took their break.  But we made it, and what a greeting it was!  After literally being bombarded with hugs and kisses, each class had prepared a special dance and song, followed by gifts and cards.  I told Wendy, they had never greeted ME like this!  She thought it was humorous.  In all seriousness, I was completely taken a back.  Their welcome was not only respectful but, sincere, and heart felt.  Thank you to all the FNC staff, teachers, and students for welcoming us back with such love and care.    

Let me conclude this update, with a simple, but sincere word of thanks to all of you who helped us get back to our 2nd home.  So many of you helped us not only get here, but prepared us for what God has in store.  Your prayers and support truly continue to sustain us.        

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

A Day Inside FNC Academy

Steven Okello has just rung the 10:30 breakfast/break bell.  I know it was Steven because he has been chosen this year to be FNC Academy’s official timekeeper, and because I just saw him smile at me as he entered the administration block.  Another bell just rang.  This one came from our upper side, the new addition, which holds our little ones, from day care to 1st grade.  The children have just 15 minutes before class resumes.  So it’s serious business, with little time to waste!   

The day continues to run, and run it does.  Diana is busy collecting the attendance sheets from each classroom, Michael is finishing a math lesson for grade 4, and I’m over hearing Solomon as he teaches geography.  Winnie has one of our larger classes with 21 students.  Her voice is tender but commanding.  She’s instructing language class to our 2nd graders.  

Earlier this morning, I was walking through our upper facility, admiring our staff and the care they give to the little ones.  Teacher Jordan, Vicky and Momma Joshua were all singing with our day care students, while Barbara and Dorothy were taking their Pre-K classes on a small field trip to check on the beans they had planted just a few weeks back.  The class managed to also learn about the color green today, by observing our small mango tree in the lower compound.  Oh, and all 4 cooks were busy…very busy, as they do their level best to keep almost 190 people satisfied through out the day. 

Mid-day is vastly approaching; our African sun is in full force.  It rained the whole day yesterday and we are grateful for both.  I often wonder how we got to this place…or how this place found us, this place of peace that continues to bring Hope in a world of unknowns, full of fear and doubt.  But we press on, leaning on one another, ever hopeful that our King continues to remain on His throne.  It's good to be home.   

Thank you to the most recent team from the US that poured their hearts out to us here.  Cindy, Elyse, Jordan, Terri, and leader Ben, you all were such a blessing. And to Wyatt for sticking around with me for an extra few weeks, you’ve got a real gift with kids my friend.       

One week remains until I rejoin my family stateside. Wendy and I and the girls return back here in Uganda on May 30th.  With a home rented and transport in place, all that is remaining is the final works on our visas and work permits, and of course a lot of goodbyes.  One never looks forward to those.  But every goodbye follows a new hello, or maybe for us, some old ones, which is comforting.  I'm not sure how long this next chapter will be or where it will take us, only God knows.  Dad's always said, "We'll go until we can't go no more, we'll sail the ship until we can't sail no more."  It's been a great ride thus far, full of sunny bright days and storms that question your own sanity.  But our Anchor holds firm and our Compass remains true, to lend a hand in a work that God began from His.  


Thursday, January 21, 2016


I recently returned from a daddy-daughter get away with my oldest.  Emma is now 13 years, and has been since August.  A good friend challenged me (over lunch which he paid for) to take each of my daughters on a little get away when they reached their 13th birthday.  Now the catch was this:  it had to be anywhere they wanted to go and do.  This part left me a bit nervous; I definitely didn’t want to end up at the Mall of America!  Being that I was almost 6 months behind, I decided to take action immediately.

“Emma, how about you and I get away for a few nights, just you and me…and, you get to pick the place and activity?” 

“Well dad, I’ve always wanted to learn how to snow ski…you think we could do that?”  In my head I was thinking, “Wow, my oldest actually wants to learn how to do something I love and miss!”  It had been more than 4 years since I was last on skis, but for those that have skied often enough, it just takes a few runs down the slopes to get kick off the rust and training wheels. 

Now, Illinois isn’t quite the skiing capital of the US.  In fact there isn’t anything that even remotely resembles a mountain.  But, I had heard of this quaint town called Galena, which happened to be (based on Trip Adviser) somewhat ski friendly.  So with some reservation, we made our reservations. 

New Years day arrived and we were on our way, just Emma and her dad.  I honestly wondered if she really wanted to go, or if she was just tired of being home with her two younger sisters?  Time would tell. 

We arrived in Galena and to our surprise there were a few inches of “real snow” on the ground.  OK, this looked somewhat promising.  At least we weren’t going to ski in total artificial snow!  

The morning came early, and after eating about 7000 calories of make-it-yourself waffles…yeah, you know you gotta have one or maybe two, we headed for the slopes.  With the rentals buckled to our feet and poles in hand, I quickly remembered Emma had never, and I mean never been on skis.  It had been 20 years since I had felt the feeling Emma was having.  And then I remembered, SNOWPLOW…this is when one kicks out their heals in order to slow down and eventually or maybe hopefully stop.  The bunny hill was our first feat.  Within 30 minutes, Emma had conquered it. 

Next up was a green slope (the next to easiest slope besides the bunny hill) called “Old Mane”.  Let’s just say her first attempt wasn’t her best, but by the end of the day, she had all the “greens” conquered, and I was a proud dad. 

For those that have ever been or are avid skiers, you know that half your day is spent riding back up the ski lift, which gives you and your friends or my case, my daughter a good deal of time to talk and enjoy looking at God’s creation.  It’s also a time when your toes and fingers can and will become numb. 

Emma and I talked a lot on those two days of skiing.  I learned a lot more about her and she learned a little more about me.  It’s funny how much more a 13 year old knows about her own father, than he does about her. 

On our way out of town, Emma requested we stop at the local bookstore we had driven by several times right in the heart of Galena, the name “Book World”.  As we entered, I felt like I was in that little book store from the movie, “You’ve Got Mail”, not a very big world at all, but all the charm Emma and I hoped for.  And it was in this little bookstore that I found “Cabin Lessons”.  Mind you, I was browsing in the biography section looking for what my old college professor used to call “One of the dead guys”.  This is a book written about a man or woman that has gone before us. Or simply put, dead. 

Why in the world (in Book World), would a title such as “Cabin Lessons” ever be present in the biography section, I’ll never know.  Underneath the title read, “a nail by nail tale; building our dream cottage from 2x4s, blisters, and love.  To this day, I don’t know what caused me to grab it and buy it, but I did.  I left with a $15 book I really hoped I would like, and Emma left with a bookmark!  Makes me laugh when I think about it. 

Spike Carlsen and his wife Kat, in the book “Cabin Lessons”, decide in their middle 40’s, to buy a small piece of land over looking the northern part of Lake Superior, and hand build their life long dream.  Along the way they learn much about building a cabin, but even more about some of life’s greatest lessons…and 4 rules; rules that apply when building the cabin. 

1.  It’s gotta be Fun.
2.  There’s no hurry.  We have forever, so let’s do it right.
3.  We decide everything together and do as much as we can together.
4.  Hey, remember, it’s gotta be Fun    

“The first rule guides are minds; the second our hands; the third our hearts.  And the fourth?   Well that’s what the angel with the tool belt who whispered in our ears when we got side tracked, p.39”

I have no intentions or desire to ever hand build a cabin.  I can’t even make a bird house.  I’m glad God gave me friends.   But I have taken a liking to these 4 simple rules, and as of late have begun to try to apply them to life in general. 

Here’s what’s come of this little experiment thus far…I don’t take myself to seriously, in anything, about anything.  Besides, I’m one man amongst billions, seriously, one soul, only one.  God’s given me one life to live, and to live to the fullest.  A wise man once told me, “Todd, we won’t be remembered for the money we made or the things we acquired, or even the feats we conquered.  We will be remembered for how we lived and how we loved.”  And in the end, that’s all that counts.  

 Wendy and I have been trying to think of the best time, the best time to announce our return to Uganda.  We’ve dropped subtle hints here and there, but nothing official.  For those of you with surprise, welcome to the party.  Never in a million years did we ever think we might even consider the idea.  But God did.  God knew we left a piece of our hearts in Africa and I guess when I think about it, deep down, I knew it too.  I just didn’t know how big of a piece it really was. 

It’s taken us a better part of a year to come to this decision.  A good friend of mine shared he’d never seen me take this long to make a decision, even when it came to something of this magnitude.  This friend has known me since high school.  He’s also a board member of The Kissing Well.  In short, this was my response…

“When we left for Uganda the first time, we had no idea how deep the water was.  This time, we know exactly how deep it is.”  Still learning to swim, we understand the certainty and uncertainty of what lies before us (or underneath us!).  This makes me nervous and downright afraid at times.  Fear can either cripple a man or excel him…I choose to run, run to, not run from.     

That said, Wendy and I want to express our thanks to all those who have leant us a  helpful hand or a listening ear since our time back.  We also want to apologize for the moments we might have seemed a bit reclusive.  Sometimes a person just needs to be alone and think.  Processing and healing takes time.  Time alone and time with others. 

The other day, Wendy and I were discussing why we were going back to Uganda, and for some of you, maybe many, you might be asking yourself the same question.  This was our conclusion.  Besides the many arrows that continue to point us back to the mission, the many relationships, the children, the school, the staff, the warm climate (and right now, that’s a huge one!), the fact is, we want to go.  Do we need to go?  That’s a more complex conversation, but in short, the answer is no.  God doesn’t need Wendy and I to accomplish His mission at FNC, nor any of you reading.  But through out history, God continues to use human beings to be His hands and feet. 

As most of you might be already aware, Michael and Mariah (Co-leaders of FNC) are now married.   Wendy and I couldn’t be happier.  After all, two are better than one.  Last September, Wendy and I began the conversation with Michael and Mariah about the possibilities of what it might look like for us to return to Uganda.  We weren’t surprised with their enthusiasm.  We’ve always held a special bond with those two.  But we did make sure to ask a very important question.  Do you NEED us there or do you WANT us there?  We explained to them it was an even greater decision for us to leave this time than last.  Our girls are older, and that makes moving all the more complicated, not to mention a million other logistics.  They both spoke freely and we conversed about it over the next several weeks. 

The conclusion was this, “Better Together”.  Both Mariah and Michael have and continue to lead the mission and all 25 + staff extremely well.  In fact, in many ways they’ve surpassed us.  But at the end of the day, it was both of them saying aloud, “We are better when we serve together.”  That was enough for us. 

The last blog I wrote was entitled “1.0667 N. 31.8833 E.”  The exact coordinates (Uganda) our hearts have and continue to point to.  There are several factors that still need to come together in order for us to go, and some of them already have.  Unless God begins to shut this door, our plans are to be on ground as a family once again, full-time in Uganda come June 1 of this year. 

“When the want to outweighs the need to.”  The statement almost sounds irresponsible.  But when you put it in the context of following the will of God, there’s truth within.    

Wendy and I and the girls all covet your thoughts and prayers as we move forward.  In your prayers, if God lays it upon your heart to help us "get" to Uganda or would have a desire to help us while we "live" abroad, your generosity is more than appreciated.  I've rarely met a person who enjoys fundraising, but this time around, we're going to need some help.  Thank you to all who have and continue to support what God has laid upon our hearts.  

Todd G.