Since we moved to Uganda in 2016, we have often used the phrase “I never imagined I would say/do/have…” and we have learned a lot over the last 7+ years. One of the main things that has surprised us is the large garden we have at our house. With both of us being “city” people, garden and farming were never in our vocabulary.
We started with a few small beds of fruits and vegetables that we couldn’t get in Uganda, and we have expanded our garden to have many options. We grow our own sweet corn, colored bell peppers, jalapeños, lettuce, squash of different types, tomatillos, sweet potatoes, strawberries, cantaloupe, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, and green onions. We have banana trees, mulberry/blackberry bushes, jackfruit tree, avocado tree, mango tree, and orange trees. We also grow local foods like beans, maize, potatoes, tomatoes, and greens to share with our neighbors. It has been a blessing to be able to make meals out of the vegetables from our garden, and to share our abundance with friends around us. It is certainly not something we imagined we’d do with some of our time, but we continue to expand our family farm.
When we moved to Uganda we brought our one dog: an English Bulldog, named Jezebel. Over the years, we’ve had 5 dogs, a couple litters of puppies, 2 hedgehogs, a rabbit, and now we have added 6 new chickens.
Leland and Adalyn started scheming about wanting to have chickens a few years ago, but I said I would not have much to do with them because I already had a lot of work to deal with in the garden. While it took several years for planning and actually making it happen, this year we bought our chickens. We currently have 6 chickens that Adalyn can identify, each with their own unique name: Applesauce, BBQ, Crispy, Drumstick, Egg-selent, and French Fry. And already we’re averaging one egg per day, with more layers growing and hopes of producing more soon.
Adalyn loves animals, so she enjoys all the animals at our house. And she enjoys helping in the garden, while also eating the fruits and vegetables (jackfruit is her FAVORITE).
And of course, she hasn’t neglected the 4 dogs we currently have and always makes time to play with them. While the Sawyer Family Farm is not something we expected when we moved to Uganda, we have enjoyed the adventure. Below are several more photos of our family farm for your viewing pleasure. =)
This month I had the pleasure of reuniting with the first women’s discipleship group. This was the first time we were all together to share and spend quality time with one another since we concluded our meetings at the end of 2021. I have made phone calls to each of the ladies throughout the year and we worshipped together at the women’s conference in December 2022, but this was the first time we were ALL TOGETHER to share what God has been doing through and in each of us over the past year.
We started the morning together in praise and worship. It was a beautiful time to worship and thank God for our time together and for watching over us while we were apart. We shared challenges from the past year and how the Lord had stood with us throughout the year. We shared ways we could be continuing to pray for one another, both personally and in regards to making disciples. While each of these women has different challenges, styles, and ways they are discipling others, the confidence I saw in them was truly a testament to the Holy Spirit working in their hearts.
When we started the journey together in January 2018, our group was very different. For different reasons, some of the ladies had to stop being part of the group, but that didn’t stop us from loving them, caring for them, and praying for them as we continued meeting. And while we had the challenge of Covid-19 and TWO lockdowns in the middle of our regular group meetings, these ladies remained faithful in gathering together. But not only did our group dynamics change throughout the years, each woman grew spiritually. It was amazing (and frustrating, at times) to watch them wrestle with what God was teaching us and how that applies to our lives. It’s not just about learning who Jesus is and how He wants us to live; it’s about faithfully living our lives for Him and serving Him in all areas of our lives.
When we completed our time together at the end of 2021, I challenged the ladies to follow Jesus’ call in Matthew 28:19-20: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” If I’m honest, I was unsure what they were going to do when they went back to their homes, communities, churches, and villages. I did not know if our time together was wasted or if they were truly changed, but I could only give our time to God and know that His timing and His Kingdom work will continue to expand, no matter what. So I prayed for the ladies, called to check on them occasionally, and made plans to continue with discipling others.
When we met last week, it was encouraging to see how God had changed their hearts and was continuing to lead them to spiritual maturity. They had gained confidence in reading scripture on their own, turning to God during troubles and temptations, and trusting in God’s timing even when they were unsure. And they were confident in leading others to know Christ better through Bible studies, discipling ladies in their communities, reaching out to their neighbors, and walking alongside those not yet comfortable to be part of the church. The discussions we had were deeper than they had ever been, and I have complete confidence that God is using these women in different ways to serve His people and expand His kingdom. What an encouraging thing to see that even when we are unsure of what God is doing in people’s lives, His is always faithful.
As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater. So is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
We are happy to celebrate 7 years of living in Uganda. It is hard to believe it has been that long, and at the same time, it doesn’t seem like it’s been that long at all. Like any place, there are things that frustrate us, but there are also many things we love about living here. There are many things we count as blessings and there are many things that make us shake our head and laugh. It’s a fun mix, and God is always faithful in reminding us that He’s got us.
So with that being said, We want to share some fun everyday life items with you….
We have always loved how easy our access to tropical fruits and vegetables has been. We can get a pound of potatoes, fresh green beans, tomatoes, onion, green bell peppers for about 30 cents. We have a large assortment of dried beans for about 6o cents. Our avocados and mangos are huge and also sell for very cheap! The avocado tree we planted when we first moved here finally started producing this year, so we have avocados in our own yard. Pineapple is another delicious treat for less than a $1 (a whole pineapple). We do not have the selection of produce like an American grocery store, but we have gained access to a lot more options over the last 7 years. We can consistently get zucchini, broccoli and cauliflower now. And sometimes red and yellow bell peppers. Those items are a bit more expensive at about $1 each. The broccoli and cauliflower are often small and about the size of my hand, but still nice to have available. There is a farmer who lives on the mountain and he comes to town to sell his fruits and vegetables. His biggest treat for us are the strawberries. We buy a container of strawberries for about $4. I don’t know what they sell for in America, and I don’t care because we can consistently get strawberries and that makes us happy. We can buy 1 small red apple or a hand a bananas for 50 cents each (and the bananas are amazingly sweet). We can sometimes get grapes at the supermarket for about $3.50 a container. We grow black raspberries and mulberries in our yard, as well as sweet potatoes, asparagus, lettuce, cherry tomatoes, green onions, and jalapeños (because Leland loves his salsa). We have had some success growing yellow sweet corn, butternut squash, tomatillos, yellow squash and cantaloupe. As two city kids who knew nothing about farming, Leland and I often feel very proud of ourselves and our endeavors to grow our own food. (We do have a lot of help from the guys who work with us.) I think we eat healthier than we did in America, but we also work harder for our food. 😉
As far as our grocery store, there has been so much improvement in the last several years as well. Our main supermarket has pretty much everything we need (note I said need and not want). It’s a good-size store, but we can go months without items being in stock. For example: I haven’t been able to get frozen beef since November. And import canned goods are not a guarantee. It’s an adventure to go grocery shopping because you never know what will be there, and it’s always a nice surprise when you find something in stock. It’s like a treasure hunt. =) But sometimes you pay for those products we recognize from the U.S. For example, a can of pink salmon (rare find) is $8 a can. I don’t buy those. =) Cereal can also be about $5 for a small box (no value sizes here). A small container of peanut butter is about $6, unless you buy the local stuff, which is much cheaper. There are some items we just splurge on because we can’t imagine life with out it…like cheddar cheese. We pay about $8 for a small block of cheese and we ration that block of cheese! =) When we first moved here, we had to bring our own shampoo, conditioner and body wash. Thankfully, those items can mostly be found in town or in Jinja (about 2 hours away), so we don’t have to use our luggage weight on those items – instead we bring back more cheese. 😉 There are 3 familiar brands of shampoo that may be in town: Tresemme, Herbal Essence, Head and Shoulders. Needless to say, we’re not picky. But there’s a whole aisle of lotion/creams/oils available for skin rehydration.
We rarely go to the capital city of Kampala, which is a good thing because that means we can get most of the things we use without traveling the 5 hours to get there. We used to have to go on regular trips to Kampala to get bags of dog food and dog shampoo. Both of these items are expensive but necessary for our big dogs. Thankfully, we can get these items in Jinja (only 2 hours away). And there’s even a deli in Jinja that partners with an import company from Kampala, so they bring some America (think Walmart) items to Jinja. We get excited when we find some fun unexpected items like buffalo wing sauce, ranch dressing, grape jelly, Clorox antibacterial wipes, paper towels, or powder coffee creamer. It’s all about perspective. For us, we have adjusted to life without so many American products, but we do still get excited when we see something from home. And we have been blessed with people who either bring us or send us yummy treats from America, so we are not lacking. We are very thankful and abundantly blessed.
We are celebrating our time in Uganda, but it’s also an interesting time because we have had more people ask us what is next. It is a bittersweet to think about about what might be next for our life and the ministry here. We can honestly say “we don’t know” and that’s okay; we have peace in it. We know our time here isn’t finished yet, but we also know we’re not supposed to stay here forever. So the questions and thoughts on our minds are about making the most of the opportunities with our friends and ministry partners here, about how we can help the ministry continue to thrive for generations to come (with or without other missionaries), and about how God is going to continue to use us while we are here. We are nowhere near seriously thinking about what’s next for our family because we know we are called to be faithful to where He has called us right now. So we are here now and we are making sure we are present in everyday life!
Matthew 28:19-20 have been some of our key scriptures in the work we do in Uganda. After Jesus’ resurrection, He commands his disciples, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
This is the call for every follower of Jesus, whether around the world in a different culture or in your own home, workplace, neighborhood, or village. We are all called to make disciples of Jesus.
Adalyn turned 10 years old today. Double digits! For those parents who have already walked through this journey, you know how quickly time flies and how fast kids grow. Adalyn is a blessing to our family and we are so thankful for who God has made her to be. She is funny and compassionate; she is fiesty, sarcastic and adventurous; she loves being at home but she also loves traveling to experience new things; she loves our life in Uganda but she also misses her family and friends in America. She is independent, courageous, smart, thoughtful and forgiving. We love her dearly, and we hope you enjoy watching her grow with us.
One of the women in my discipleship group, Mary Agnes, shared with me how she saw a need in her church and used her experience with discipleship to give her courage to help train and disciple other women in her church. Mary Agnes is losing her eye sight, but she is one of few women in her church who can read. When the men or youth are not around, she would be the only other person who could read scriptures. She realized there was a need for others to be able to read the Bible in their local language, so there were more people who could help during the church services. This was her basic objective without realizing the impact it had.
There’s always mixed-emotions with our trips back to America. While we love seeing friends and family, it is also busy and exhausting. Yet it is also life-giving and refreshing. And then we also have to say goodbyes, which are always hard. Our life as missionaries is “both/and”, a paradox of emotions (yay ducks and yuck ducks). And this trip was a whirlwind! We stayed for 2 months, so a bit longer than home assignments pre-Covid. With visiting more churches this time, it was busier, with even more travel. But it was also SOGOOD! For those who are interested and don’t already know, here is a recap of our summer travels in the U.S. We left Uganda at the end of May, spent a couple days in Istanbul to break up the long travel back to America and to adjust back to “western culture”, then continued to Dallas and Houston for a couple days to get over jet lag and see our parents.
Since we have been in Uganda, we have used this graphic to talk with discipleship groups about their spiritual journey and where they may be on this path to spiritual development in regards to truly following Jesus. Like many Christians, they immediately said they were spiritual young adults or parents because of age, how long they have been a Christian, etc. But as we continue through the journey together, they start to recognize their spiritual immaturity and the real conversations start to happen. These men and women start sharing how they have grown over the time we have been meeting together, and we have seen spiritual growth in them as well.
But something else happened to me… As I was walking through the different development stages with the women’s discipleship group and we were discussing the “Spiritual Child”, I realized I was in this phase for most of my ministry in the U.S. I never would’ve made this realization if I hadn’t walked through this journey with the discipleship ladies.
Adalyn turns 9 years old this year. This will be her 6th birthday while living in Uganda. She has grown up in Uganda – she has gone from a spunky little toddler to a tall girl who has her own unique personality (still spunky). She is caring, sassy, athletic, silly and compassionate. She loves almost everything active, but she also loves chilling as a family with movies or video games. Here are the annual questions for her birthday.