A few years ago a trip like this was a dream. We had a group of kids, many still living in the village with their grandparents or parents if they still have them alive. We had a uniform for each child, a set of drums and literally nothing else. Only a prayer that the Lord would provide a way………a way to touch the hearts of people here in America from some of the most humble that walk this earth. We faced many obstacles and some naysayers said we were doing the wrong thing. Yet in the end, God would be glorified.
Over the past two weeks, we made many travels outside Tyler showing these children the great state of Texas. We got the opportunity to visit Austin. After meeting these deputies, Jude said he wasn’t going to shake hands with anyone else. Of course Pastor Emmy snuck up on him and shook his hand just a few feet later.
Here we would have a home concert in the backyard of a home some called “the garden of Eden.”
So grateful for the families of the Westlake area who came together and opened their beautiful homes.
I remember Laban staying with a host family and sitting down next to their fireplace. There he would utter these famous words, “what is the purpose of this?”
To be honest it wasn’t providing heat and we weren’t cooking on it, so we are still trying to find an answer for Laban. I love these kids and the perspective they bring. Really, it’s refreshing and a reminder to us all that there are so many things in our culture that serve little purpose but making something look good.This kinda reminds me of 2 Sam 16:7 that God does not look at the external, rather he sees our hearts for who we truly are. If the we could see inside the hearts of these 13 PCM children…….oh my gosh Lord would that be some real beauty. We are grateful for so many of you that have this past month.
During this excursion to Austin we even had some time in Austin to have funs at Zilker park……Epa loves playing ball with the boys and girls 30 years younger than him,
and sometimes although very rare, the old man can still bring it up from his heels and bring back some glory from days past. Don’t ask him how he felt the next day.
So grateful for Mary Jacobs and Kelsey Carr for organizing this whole event in Austin. No two college students have done more for PCM than you two. We shall return in 2014 !!!
Soon it was off to Rockdale, Texas and home to Pastor Jack Chelf and his congregation.
We are so appreciative of First Baptist Rockdale. No gift was greater to our ministry than being able to use their mini bus for the whole month of April.
I wish there was some way to share the joy we had in this bus and all the songs that were sung in it during the month. FBC Rockdale you have a special place in our heart.
The bus made its way through the streets of Rockdale and eventually made it to our next destination: Orange, Texas. Wow, wow……..we have quite the following there now, the former home of PCM Director of Ministries “Deuce” Hayes.
There the kids took an air boat ride in the swamps and spent time with Bob and Judy Hayes along with the rest of the North Orange crew.
Rusty Dollar and Karen Holmes helped set up a program at Community Christian School, a school that has already done so much to love on our PCM kids. They have found unique ways to raise money for the children the school is sponsoring including this recycling bin.
The Uganda choir loved spending the morning with the students at Community Christian School and learning about what school in like in the USA.
Rusty’s wife Michele (Deuce’s sister) and their daughter Morgan as well as Bob and Judy Hayes will be traveling with a PCM team in just a few weeks to experience Uganda for the first time !!
From Orange, the choir took the short hop to Port Neches, DC’s old stomping grounds and home of her parents, Debbie and Jerry White. Emanual loved seeing Jerry’s tools and dreaming of what his father Pastor Charles could do with all these wonderful toys. Quite a lot I promise you.
We had a very warm welcome from First Baptist Port Neches and both at the church and in the host homes. We wished we could spend more time in Southeast Texas for sure.
The bus rolled north next to 1st Baptist Lufkin for our first ever trip there. The house was packed on a Wednesday night and we were thrilled to worship with them.
Afterwards the pastor looked up at the ceiling and said, “we have never seen this much dancing here at this church and the ROOF IS STILL STANDING.” Wahoooooo, I love our children. They are bringing down walls of what separates the American church and teaching all of these churches that though their worship may be a bit different, it’s okay to sing and jump and dance for the Lord. He sees the heart of these kids and oh let me tell you, it is a beautiful sight.
The children made their way back to Tyler where all 17 stayed at the home of Epa and Kiconco that night. We watched home movies from 5 years ago and the children laughed at each other for how much they had grown and how badly they were mispronouncing some of the worship songs when they were so much younger. Funny how we never noticed that back then. These kids like to get their worship right. ;o)
Together they brought out our neighborhood for a block party and sang and sang for those that live closest to us. We will never forget that night.
The next day the bus made it to some key supporters and friends to thank them. First stop was Impressive Image Works.
The kids got to see where all their shirts and printed material comes from . Thank you Epplers for all you have done for us the past few years.
We visited Dory’s Garden, home to one of our very first sponsors ever from 2008, Dorothy Hersey.
I can’t begin to tell you how grateful we are for all of our new sponsors. We started very humbly in the summer of 2008. I remember the first few families signing up to sponsor children when we were so desperate for help. I don’t know what they were thinking back then, but I am grateful for you and the faith you put in us to love on your children.
One of the biggest joys on this tour has been the overwhelming response to sponsor children. We brought many with us to sponsor. We had nothing left to sponsor at the end of our trip. We even have a waiting list with dozens waiting to hear back from us. Thank you thank you thank you…………
Today, with much joy, I am glad to announce that we have grown to 811 sponsored families. That is exactly 1/2 of our PCM children. We are blown away at your generosity!! Mukama Asiimwe. Thank you if you are sponsoring with us. Nothing is making a bigger impact for our children in Uganda.
One of the sponsor meetings I most looked forward to seeing was Dianah and her sponsors. Many of you have gotten to know Dianah over the month and her story.
Her dad abandoned her and she has grown up in the loving arms of her mom, Pastor Joy. She has been asking politely all month about meeting her sponsor. That meeting eventually occurred and it was a beautiful sight.
Thank you Lord for letting me see that. Few other pictures capture what this “Beautiful Exchange” has been to all of us.
Many of you remember Dianah showing us her first cookie at the age of 17. One of PCM supporters was so moved that she actually brought Dianah 4 dozen cookies.
Thank you Julie Ross for your love for these PCM kids.
My parents hold the record for the oldest PCM USA visitors and the children affectionately call them “JaJa” and “Muzee” for grandparents.
Of course Jaja introduced them to their first ever gingerbread man
and a ride on Muzee’s golf cart.
Esther and Supermom had a birthday during this trip so we decided to celebrate all the children with a party for them.
First up was teaching them about piñatas and giving them a go. Deuce provided the theatrics with a piñata that seemed to raise and lower with no predictability. Thank you Susan Gunter for paying for this party. The kids will never forget that day.
Thank you Rich and Page Wolowski for flying in from Michigan to be with us for a weekend. Get ready, choir tour #2 is headed your way to Michigan in 2014.
One of the biggest joys of the month was partnering with Dance and Drill and Lynn Ramey and her team.
Our kids sat in amazement at Caldwell Auditorium. Never had they seen so many people and dancers.
Lynn and her amazing dance groups had been practicing since August. After just watching 3 of the recitals, the children looked at me and said, “we are going to be the losers.” Finally our children got their chance and oh did they take advantage of it. I think they practiced this dance 3 times. When they were done after their first performance, the crowd gave them a standing ovation!!! The joy on their faces from receiving such love from the nearly 2000 people propelled them to heights still unknown. If you were a part of one of those audiences that weekend, I just want to say thank you. You have encouraged, inspired and loved our children like I never thought would be possible. Dance and Drill, you have given us a dump truck, shoes, clothes , food and medicine. But what you gave that day was the greatest gift that you could have ever given.
One of the students had generously given the group a trophy after hearing from Pastor Emmy that they had never even seen a trophy before. They now have. Thank you Dance and Drill for the love you have shown PCM.
We had time this month to worship in a lot of places………
One of the best mornings though was coming back to Grace Community. Three years ago, we made our first big church appearance during a service there. The end result of that day was about 50 sponsored children and many cows donated. Today, the children would return and dazzle the church with their worship. We will never forget Milly, Laban and Jude dancing down the aisles for their Jesus.
Thank you Pastor Doug for being the first USA pastor to visit PCM in Uganda and for your church’s love for PCM. We love Grace Community.
The choir made their way to Dallas where they would first meet my Uncle Walt and Aunt Carol. Walt was a pediatrician in Dallas for 43 years and my mentor for my early career.
They were coming to see us we perform at our first school in Dallas, Covenant Christian Academy. There we would find a welcome group of students worshipping with us for chapel. They were so impressed with our PCM kids that the senior class is considering making Uganda the destination of their senior trip next year. Wahooooooooo…….let’s see what God does with this possibility.
We did have a church in Dallas cancel on us and as a result, found a way to fill that with a trip to the Rangers game for the boys. The girls decided on a shopping trip. Thank you Alan Pigg and Jason Mazingo for hosting that event.
Really…….a lot of fun was had inside the ballpark and at the Sheraton hotel.
Here was my roommate Amon reading me stories from the Bible. Oh how I love that kid.
The next day we traveled down the road for our first trip to Houston, to the home of Jennifer Weston, mother of Mary Jacobs.
I’m not sure this photo gives this backyard justice, but I have been in very few more beautiful places. Jennifer had rented chairs and lights and had a ton of family and friends ready to greet the children.
Few performances of the month were more beautiful than that one that night. Thank you Dianah and Teacher Emmy for leading us. We look forward to hosting you Jennifer and Mary next month in Uganda.
We are so grateful for my cousin Becky and her daughter Sarah who served as hosts during our Houston funs. Yall really treated us well. We would love to come back next year !!
Probably the single most person our children were looking forward to seeing in the US was Nelli, law partner to Jennifer, who single handedly pushed through the visa paperwork allowing our children to come to the US.
Nelli, these children are grateful beyond any way I can communicate for your efforts. You have allowed thousands and thousands of people in the US the opportunity to see the Father’s Love in Action. We are so grateful for your love for PCM.
Upon our return to Tyler, Teacher Emmy would have the distinct privilege of escorting my oldest daughter to the prom.
He was the perfect date for the evening and of course won the unofficial dance contest hands down. Emmy, you have performed so admirably this month. We love you and have big plans for you with PCM.
Emmy, we were disappointed though that you didn’t touch the ceiling at Rockhill Baptist Church in your worship time in Brownsboro. We did however meet many new friends there.
The next day would be our last full day in Tyler and we used it well. The morning started with an invitation to visit Lane’s Chapel Methodist Church, our first ever Methodist church to perform at. Thank you Melodie and Pastor Jeff for welcoming us with such love. We can’t wait to return to your church in 2014.
Our final performance would be the home church of PCM sponsors and supporters Bubba and Jenni Squiers. Flint Baptist Church.
No one welcomed us with more love than your church did this whole month. You people are incredible from jumping up and down in the parking lot to all staying afterwards in the gym letting us thank the children for their service. Pastor Sam, you have something special with this church and we are grateful to know some of your people.
That night we were able to thank the children one by one for what they had done. It would be their last public performance as a group. There were many laughs, many tears, but in the end God was glorified. This group had accomplished its goal. Thank you Emmy and Supermom for preparing them so well.
Thank you Kiconco for your vision and belief that God could do something really special with a group of children off a dirt road with no uniforms, no desks, little food and brown water.
Who would have ever dreamed 5 years later a small group of them were paving the way for dozens and dozens of teams to follow. You are a treasure for your ability to dream, to believe and to love your Jesus.
This trip would have never happened without this family. Deuce and DC, you have stood with us first and believed as well. You must have made a million emails/calls/spreadsheets/texts to make this choir tour a reality. We are grateful for your sacrifice and love for the PCM family.
Lori, there never has been a excel spreadsheet that you have not loved, and there is no way we could have made this trip succeed without all the time, effort and organization you bring to the table. Tim, thank you for sharing your spouse with PCM. Really she has done so much.
Two of the biggest unsung heroes of this trip were Luke
and Kathyrn Bilberry.
Many of you never saw what they did because they were always behind the scenes. Every one of our children knows both of you by name for the endless love that poured forth out of your hearts. We are so thankful you are on our team.
We saw some staff like Lauren say goodbye…….
and we even welcomed a new member to the PCM family. Nick Smith, our new CFO. Wahoooo.
Thank you PCM Board members for believing, for encouraging and for loving our children this past month.
On the way to the airport we got word that a DFW supporter wanted to feed us lunch. He had moved to north Dallas to a ranch and wanted the children to come visit. There we would find something really incredible. All month we had been protective of the children from pets, horses and ATVs. In just a few short minutes, all of the children would experience all of them.
Probably the most amazing change was watching sweet Esther, who showed up at my home afraid of my 8 pound tiny schnauzer, to being the first to jump on board the horse and give it a ride around the home. Incredible !!! Esther was even one of the only kids to ride more than once. Thank you Arch and Sheri for hosting us. That was the perfect ending to a successful tour #1.
There were many tears at the airport but for sure they were tears of joy.
The children made it home to Entebbe and were greeted like heroes at the airport. We at one time were worried about re entry. Instead, they each exited that plane into the loving arms of proud family members.
Gaudy’s grandmother had an accident and hurt her leg in route, but she was there.
Amon’s mom had a bad case of malaria but managed to find the strength to show up and greet her son.
Amon asked nearly every group to pray for his dad that has backslid from Christianity and abandoned his family. We would learn from Pastor Emmy that he has now contacted Emmy and wants to meet. Thank you for all that prayed for this……..God is already answering that prayer.
In another joyful ending, Dianah’s father has now begun to communicate with the family again and wants to meet with his daughter.
Thank you for praying for these children………they are changing the world here in the US and even in Uganda.
If you are still reading this you deserve a medal, a banana or maybe just a hug for endurance reading.
Thanks to all of you who came out to see, love one hug and listen to our children. This has been a Beautiful Exchange.
11 You turned my wailing into dancing;
you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
12 that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent.
Lord my God, I will praise you forever.
With much love,
Epa and Kiconco