2019 – A Year In Reviw

Our family is no stranger to life being full of unexpected transition, but when you start your year living in one country and end your year living in a different country, that is some next level adventure. Our family found out in March that we were not going to be able to renew our visas in Tanzania. After much prayer, searching and one scouting trip, we decided that Kampala, Uganda would be the best fit for the next season of our life. We moved to Uganda in August. This year has been full of surprises, struggles and blessings. As I write this my overall emotion is gratefulness. I do not think there has been another season that has so stretched and strengthened my faith in God’s provision and protection. Almost every night as I am trying to let go of the worries of the day, I say out loud that I choose faith over fear. That mantra has helped me go to sleep at night and has been on my tongue as I wake in the morning.

We spent the time between finding out we were leaving Tanzania and actually leaving in August working frantically to get the Kisongo Center and the Market Center running without our daily support and supervision. Through this process we learned so much about what it means to have a truly sustainable project. Sustainable is foreign aid speech for a project that runs without help from non-nationals. Sustainability should be the goal of all projects, as we are empowering independence, not creating personal job security. It is easy to talk about, but much more complicated in practice!

We are proud to report that both the centers are thriving. There have been some growing pains, but our staff has risen to a new level of responsibility. The Market Center has exploded, with over 40 kids on the roster! One of the big changes was that we fully committed to play-based learning by hiring a teacher that was dedicated to teaching this age group in a developmentally appropriate way. At first, we had a lot of push back from parents, who wanted to see their three year olds doing copy work with paper and pencil. However, after a few months, parents were not only telling us that they could see a noticeable difference in their child, they were telling OTHER PARENTS. We are so proud to be demonstrating how young children learn best through play.

The Kisongo Center is our steady rock. It carried on with very little difficulty. Enrollment has hovered around 30 kids. Several of the kids who have attended since we first opened in January 2018 will be entering kindergarten in January. We are excited to see how they do in comparison to their peers. We feel confident that the care they received from the center will have a life-long impact that can be demonstrated through their school performance. By following as many of our graduates as possible, we will be amassing data to support this theory. Our goal for Walk In Love is to be a data-supported outreach, proving that our projects are truly working to change lives.

Staff Going Away Party

Our work in Uganda is IN PROCESS. Sometimes I feel like we are going to have to wait for everything forever. I realize that we have accomplished a startling amount in a short span of time. When we arrived in August, we had no NGO, no visas, no contacts. We now have our NGO, Walk In Love Uganda. We have visas for the whole family. We have made several great contacts with other people doing similar work. We have started building a foundation of cultural understanding. In November I put out a little teaser about an upcoming announcement about our work. That announcement is STILL COMING. We are deep in the works of a partnership between Walk In Love Uganda and two other huge organizations (like based in Vatican City kind of huge). We were so close to finalizing the partnership and getting started when an issue came up between the two other organizations. We are assured that everything will be worked out and that our plans will come to fruition. The issue has nothing to do with us or our plan. This partnership will be so advantageous that we are content to wait on the two other parties to resolve the issue. I already have the announcement blog written. We are just waiting on a signed contract between us and our partners. Please be praying that this will happen soon after the new year and be ready to be generous with your support!

Sneak Peak

Our girls ROCK!! They killed it at this international school thing. We could not be more proud of them! They made friends, did extracurricular activities, and scored well on exams. Most importantly, they LOVED every minute of the experience. We were only two days into Winter break when Tabitha was starting her countdown to going back. I feel like the transition into “regular” school actually made us grow tighter as a family. The girls have shown a remarkable level of maturity and openness as we have navigated the growth. Thank you for your prayers for Camille and Tabitha.

New Friends

Matt loves Uganda. The culture is very different from Tanzania and he calls it the promised land. He has been doing all his Matt things. He is still lifting weights. He is constantly experimenting in the kitchen. Recently he has perfected making gluten-free buffalo chicken wraps, complete with the wraps made from scratch. He has been studying the Dead Sea Scrolls and day trading, which makes for some interesting late-night conversations. He has been faithful in making new relationships in government offices as we have navigated becoming residents of Uganda. Africa is such a good fit for his laid-back personality.

Teaching about Family-Based Care

I have had the most difficulty with the transition. I struggle writing that, but the vulnerability feels good. Our whole community dissolved in Tanzania. Eight families left the country this year, spreading over the globe. I miss my friends. I miss being known and knowing others. I hate having to rebuild. I know transitions are a part of missionary life, but it does not make the process less painful. I am so thankful for WhatsApp groups and FaceTime. I have been more homesick in the past few months than all the years in the past. I am counting down the weeks until I am sitting on my parent’s back porch, even if it will be August in Texas. Through my struggle, I have had some of the best Bible study time of my life. I did an in-depth study of the book of Revelations. This is the first time in my 38 years to do so, and it has been faith changing. I am still trying to find a balance with my rheumatoid arthritis and life. I think I am close to being at a good place with balancing diet, working out, stress management and flare-ups. Thank you for your prayer in that area. I do love Uganda. I see so much good about our being here. Every day, Faith over Fear.

Fun with Street Art

What comes next for our family? Well, more of the same. When asked how long we planned to stay in Tanzania our answer was always until God moves us somewhere else. He definitely moved us to Uganda and we will be here until He takes us elsewhere. We hope for a good, long stay. We are excited to be a part of the movement away from orphanage-based care to family-based care that is happening all over Africa. We are also involved with a small local Hebrew Roots (What is that you ask, email me) church. The church is one of the reasons we felt sure about moving to Uganda. Matt is excited to share his knowledge and the girls and I are helping to start a children’s ministry. We hope to come back to the States this summer. We will be in South Dakota and Texas for sure, but we REALLY need to expand our fundraising scope, so if you have connections to any group that might be interested in supporting our work, please let me know. Thank you so much for all of your support this year! We are deeply grateful and look forward to working with you in 2020.

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12/23/2019 at 9:26 am

What an amazing year! Can’t wait to see you all. I’ll bring my iron.

Diana Smetana
12/23/2019 at 2:16 pm

Loved reading your blog! Ron and I are so thrilled that you and Matt are dedicated to letting God lead you in the work in Africa. We love you and will be praying for you as you start another year. Our God is faithful.
Your girls are precious! ❤️

    12/31/2019 at 2:12 am

    Dear Diana,
    Thank you so much for your sweet encouragement. We are so blessed by your support. We look forward to seeing you this Summer! Much love!

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