Harris Family Update – February 2023

“…choose this day whom you will serve… But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” 

JOSHUA 24:15

This month I (Noelle) want to share with you some of what life looks like for our kids.

The lovely Apio Cynthia

Time has flown by since we left the USA with two baby girls.  Three more children have been given to us from the Lord and our ministry has grown as a result. I think the idea that raising children is discipleship was instilled in us when we were in our parents’ homes. Almost everything we do with our kids is purposely developing them for the Lord. I won’t to go into detail on our house rules and parenting philosophies, but I’ll do my best to show you what being a “missionary kid” looks like for ours at this stage of their lives:

Emma (Left) at Homeschool Co-Op

Their day starts with breakfast and family devotions at the table. They memorize verses, read a portion from the Bible as well as the Voice of the Martyrs magazine, and we all pray together before Matt goes off to work. They meander through their tasks of morning hygiene and chores, then usually look through story books or start drawing pictures before school-time officially starts. Our wonderful friend and housekeeper, Gladys, comes at 9 to pick up Noah and Charlotte. They play next door with Gladys’s neice, who is about a year younger than Charlotte, while Apio, Emma, Maddie and I finish as much homeschooling as we can before lunch. The beauty of homeschooling is that you can be flexible and slow down or speed up as needed with each child. Currently Emma and Maddie are both working through various subjects in either 1st or 2nd grade. Noah and Apio are both working slowly through 1st grade (even though Noah is not yet 5, he insists on having lessons).

School normally ends by lunch time. Then, depending on the weather, the kids might crowd on the couch and have me read books to them or clamber outside and onto our water-tower “playground” with neighbor friends. There was a time when all the neighbor girls would do chanting games similar to Ring-Around-The-Rosie, I think that has phased out, and they now play “Family” or they go around finding soda bottles, the plastic rings of which they’ve looped together to make long ropes. When they’re not make-believing or scavenging for treasures, they’re playing football (soccer). Many times one or two of our kids would come in from playing outside because the laughs of a few kids was at their expense, typically involving hair-pulling or hitting (a common “game” for most kids here). The change among them all was immediate once we started the Football Academy. When they started playing as a team on the field they started treating each other like friends off the field. That was a welcome and prayed-for change.

Noah’s little friend. We put him back in the tree.

Toward evening I send the neighbor’s to their own homes to bathe, and our kids come in to do the same. Living in the village requires almost daily showers since most of their playing involves the simple nature around them. We finish the day the same way we started it: singing, verses and prayer, though there’s normally a little dancing involved this time.

I am constructing this map of our village from Google Earth to guide my weekly outreaches.

Throughout the week our kids take part in a few activities that I believe will help prepare them for serving the Lord in the future. One is a Homeschool Co-Op which we recently joined, and I also teach in. Other homeschooling Westerners join up once a week and share a class. This helps my kids remember how to relate with other kids of similar backgrounds and culture, and also how to learn from someone other than their own parents. They also take turns going on outings with Matt and me. On a weekly rotation Matt takes the kids with him on an errand. Matt reads to them and they eat something nice together. We also rotate through which child joins me in my weekly visits to neighbor’s homes. Since Charlotte is now out of “baby phase”, taking her to people’s houses is not such a daunting task. One at a time I take the kids with me to go and either encourage a believer or evangelize to an unbeliever. My current strategy is to walk down the footpath and visit the house furthest away (up to 1 kilometer), then the next week visiting the one that’s closer, and then the next one and so on. This is an exciting thing for me, but just like I complained every time my mom would take me to visit her little grandmas in the nursing homes, my kids complain to me too. One day they’ll see the special lessons learned, just like I did.

Noelle teaching a birdhouse workshop at Co-Op

Even with this longer update, I feel as though I’m only showing you a very tiny piece of our lives on the mission-field. As you pray for the work God is doing here in Uganda, please remember to pray for our kids as they continue to grow in body, mind, and spirit. I am encouraged, despite tantrums, fights and complaining, when I overhear my kids playing “secret school” inside a blanket tent, whispering Deuteronomy 6:4-6 “…You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength…” Pray for these beautiful little missionaries.

Best Friends! Behind: Aweko, Left to Right: Emma, Esther, Maddie, Eva, Apio, Akutu, and Charlotte in front
Thanks for all of your prayers, love and support
Matt, Noelle & Family