To those who have faithfully remembered our work in prayer;
to those who couldn’t understand why we would move our family so far away yet encouraged us anyway;
to those who braved vaccinations and 20+ hours cramped in coach and wandering airports to personally deliver their hugs and see our life;
to those who filled bags or barrels or boxes with their blessings;
to those who ‘snail’ mailed a Christmas card or letter with love;
to those who financially invested in the farm and our family even during a tumultuous economy,
we write this letter of gratitude and thanks to you:
We will forever be connected with Uganda. It has shaped our family through experiences of great joy and deep sadness, through cultural diversity, and lifelong relationships. We have learned and lived in community and interdependence.
We came to Uganda five years ago with the orphan-child and a farm on our minds, but it was all just dreams and hopes.
For the orphan, we dreamt of family.
In the past five years we have slowly built relationships with orphans who no longer label themselves as such. They have names like Moses, Barbara, Geoffrey, Sigali, Ibra, and Patricia. And we are humbled to be part of their stories. They have called us family. The love of one such as these is precious and not easily gained, and we hold it as a treasure. We are far from perfect, but we pray they never feel betrayed or their gift of love scorned.
God called us to fulfill that dream of family for the orphaned even further by bringing two beautiful babies without family into our family forever. Legally and permanently. They remember nothing but us as their parents, themselves as our daughter and son. We have seen them grow secure in the assurance of our love and confident in their position in our family. There is nothing that can separate them from our love, and they believe that. And we learn from them--the security and confidence that is ours because of the unending love of the Father. Being called into adoption has challenged us, grown us, blessed us, and encouraged us beyond what we could have possibly thought or imagined.
For the farm, we dreamt of prosperity.
There was a creative process to Enterprise farm. We started with ideas. We had a vague picture of what we wanted to create. So after finishing up New Hope Institute of Childcare and Family in 2007, we set out to make things happen. We tried to fashion it, form it, organize it, improve it, arrange it. There was a lot of blood, sweat, and tears as we expended ourselves in this project. We made plans, designed, sketched out, attended meeting after meeting, and eventually what was just an idea became a reality. After the first year we began seeing the farm take shape, but we weren’t satisfied. Now, after five years, we step back and admire it. It has been both an exhausting and exhilarating journey. I am convinced that the farm’s brightest days are still ahead...however I remember the beginnings.
Isaiah 40 speaks of how ‘Every valley shall be exalted, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain.’ Leveling and clearing. I’ve learned a lot about both.
During these five fledgling years of the farm, we have strived to conquer all obstructions, from termite mounds to our own preconceived notions about how things should be done. Farming in equatorial Africa is nothing like farming in North America, and farmers in Africa hold a very different way of doing things than farmers in America. Often we were the ones who had to lay down our ways.
Where there was disorder, we have strived to create order. A waist-deep swamp with towering weeds was turned into four large productive fish ponds. A monstrous anthill was leveled, and on top of it was build a 1300 square foot nursery house. The thickest of bush was slashed, and the land was transformed into a 10-stall dairy barn with pasture. We repaired walls, restored and maintained roads. We built relationships and fences and at times had to repair both.
There were days of struggle, when I was absolutely spent and thought all was in vain. There were days when I wanted to ignore or neglect the work, and I struggled against my own selfishness. The process of development is exhausting, and it can be draining. In times like this I had to raise my head above the challenge in front of me and allow the people and community around me to give greater context and purpose to my work. The challenge was still there...but it was worth it. And often times it wasn’t quite so big.
Five years of all this. And now it is time for us to move on...to a new season. A new family--my cousin’s, in fact--will be coming next year to usher the farm into its new season. We could not be more confident that they are the perfect people to continue what we have begun. Their stories, experiences, relationships, and accomplishments will be different from ours; but we know one thing: They will experience the beauty of both shaping and being shaped by this place.
On September 3rd, we will board a plane as a family of five-soon-to-be-six. We will feel empty after all the goodbyes--or the “see you again...when God wills.” We will be so filled with emotion that we might not feel much of anything. Or we might cry...and cry.
We are off to new places. Oregon, in fact. The story of this is too long to tell, but we can assure you of this: We are so thankful that in leaving a place and people we love, we have such excitement and adventure ahead of us. We are excited to put down roots, invest in a community, and continue to live out our values with purpose. We are eager to be shaped by people we have yet to meet and learn from experiences that have yet to unfold. We are scared of loneliness and doors that have not yet opened, but in it all there is peace. And hope.
So again, we thank you. Each of you have enabled such transformation in us and, we believe, in the community of New Hope. You are forever part of our story, and you will always be part of New Hope’s story. You are part of Frank’s story and Kizza’s story and Moses’ story and Kikonyogo’s story.
Please continue remembering us in your prayers and thoughts, as we remember you in ours. If you are in Pennsylvania, perhaps we will see you soon. But as Uganda-dwellers, this is our goodbye.
And into the next chapter we step.
Shawn and Family