All posts by JFolkestad

We are a family of five. Noah Michael, Maci Michelle, Faith Marie - Mom and Dad. We served in Uganda Africa for five years. Now we're back in America pursuing missions in our own family.

There is More

Have you ever been in a wrestling match?  If you’re like me, you  may jump to the idea or memory of wrestling with another person.  But maybe you have another tangible experience of being tangled up with something.  Maybe you’ve tried to hike through a rain forest without a path….or machete?  or maybe you have an avalanche of blankets covering you when you wake up in the morning that make getting out of bed a constrictive smothering mess?  Or maybe you’ve been wrapped up by your ear bud cables at them gym while trying to do lat pulls? -I’m not that guy.

Murch UG

In 1999 some friends and I would drive over to S.California from Las Vegas on the weekends to search for any  adventure on the beach we could find.  We spent most of our time in the water at Blacks Beach.  I remember an afternoon where we sat out on our boards in the pulsating Pacific Ocean.  Little swell that day so we paddled South to an area we hadn’t been before. We came across a huge kelp bed growing beneath the surface.  With curiosity and possibly a bit of stupidity I jumped off my board and started exploring. I dove down and started pulling myself down a kelp vine. At some point in my descent I became tangled up with multiple plants.  When I started to panic I was probably only ten feet below the surface but no one knew what I was going through.  It felt like 5 minutes when actually it was more like 5 seconds before my panic turned into a rage of survival mode. I kicked, tore and even bit my way out of that tangled green nest. I came to the surface and wasn’t able to suck in enough oxygen to compose myself. I started puking salt water everywhere.  My buddys came to my aid getting me on my board as I seeped water from every hole in my head.  They kept saying, ‘what happened Bro? Are you ok?’ Then one said, ‘Bro its ok there’s nothing but kelp down there’. I looked up finally being able to speak and said, “There is more.”

Honeyman State Park, Oregon

The bible talks about wrestling with principalities,  cosmic powers, spiritual forces of evil in heavenly places. In Genesis, Jacobs wrestling match with God turns MMA when Jacobs’ hip is dislocated.  If you haven’t spent a lot of time in areas of the world where people groups walk hand in hand with spirits, this may be hard to wrap your head around. Sometimes the things we wrestle with are unnoticeable, especially by the people around us.  They need to know there is more. More to the story, more to us,  more that matters.

Brookings, Oregon

We are now back in America! We’ve spent the last month in South Western Oregon.  Upon arrival the sun was scorching hot and sky was a rich blue. Immediately we zeroed in on our old swimming holes.

Unfortunately, since then dozens of fires have flared up due to a lightning storm. So now, the visibility that we do have (sometimes only a 1/2 mile) is filled with an ashy haze that blots out the suns’ brilliance. The outdoor activities we were so looking forward to are but dreams at this point. We still love you Oregon.
When we left Uganda we knew we were going home to stay this time. We knew we were going back to a church family that had lives and priorities.  Being home for a month I guess you could say we’re currently in transition mode. The emotions and intentions that go along with this transition are difficult to describe.
I read an article a while back put out by the EU. In it, they asked foreign expat aid workers what they longed for the most while being on the field. 85% of them said ‘attention’.  Not money or better tooling, but attention.  A human need that even Jesus himself experienced.
What were our expectations for coming home?  After pastoring a difficult people group, would we be pastored in America?  Did we need it?  We thought we were going to get plugged in, caught up and reunited. Unfortunately there has been no reunion.  The transitional preparations for our arrival were nonexistent.  If you’re a Pastor on the mission field reading this, I can’t express enough the importance of having an experienced, empathetic, Jesus chasing Shepard to lean on.  If not, your mission could collapse and your transitions may ruin you or your family.
Fortunately,  He who is in us (my family and I) is greater than he who is in the world.  This transition/trial that we are going through will only make us stronger. I’m so thankful to have had that time in UG with my family. The memories and stories that we share will never be taken from us.  The friends, flocks and foes I made in UG will always be in my prayers.  I may not have an American job but I know God will forever use me as a Pastor. And right now my flock is my family- my first ministry.
Fish Farm Manager, Henry with students

I’ve read a lot of books and articles where missionaries try to articulate their transition time from country to country.  All are different depending on region and circumstance. We’ve come back to pot farms, robot vacuums and big trucks.  It all seemed new and exciting at first. But, now it’s normal. I’m currently surrounding myself with men I admire and respect, and am helping them with whatever God has on their plate.

Installing a roof
I always loved being in East Africa. Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Sudan, Congo, Somalia….
They say you either get bit by Africa or you don’t.  I was bit.
And now, I cant stop thinking about it. The work that needs to be done, my guys who are still preserving, a lost generation that needs a boost.  I recently had guy tell me that ‘it will pass’.  They way you’re feeling. The empathy, the excitement, the things that matter….they will pass.    I don’t want it to pass.  I want it to be harnessed. Harnessed in a way that can be translated to a sleeping giant…America.  May God use us in way we never knew possible. May the things that matter to Him (things we can’t even comprehend) matter to us.
To the people who prayed for us while we were ‘out of sight’,  may Gods’ presence touch your life today. A thank you isn’t enough.  I’ve always admired those who can pray for the forgotten.  In America, it’s out of sight-out of mind. It’s not that way for the rest of the world.
To those of who gave to our mission financially, may God bless you for your sacrifice and offering.  From the beginning of our mission I choose to guard myself from knowing who you were. And even now I don’t. But if you’d ever like to hear stories or see photos of where your money went and what it is still doing I would be excited and blessed to share with you.  We were so thankful when a single donation came in to pay for our airfare home.  Also, the elders of ECF agreed to donate some transitional funds that we were able to use to purchase a vehicle. Over the past five years you have answered a tremendous call. Now that we are home, our current financial status is dwindling. Our monthly support last came in on June 1st.  I’ve consulted missionaries and organizations for counsel concerning the financial transition period. I’ve been told 4-6 months is a time of debriefing and transition.   If you feel so led to give to our time of transition we would appreciate the bodys support.  You can contact me with any questions.
To those who came to UG to support us, you are legends. The Ugandans still ask how you are doing today. No joke….all of you. Most of you impacted lives or broke down walls that allowed Christ shine even brighter in each person you interacted with. This made our job easier.  We were a Paul to Barnabas, a Peanut Butter to Jelly, a Phineas to Ferb…..you helped us. This was the attention we soo needed. Thank you for coming.
If you are ever interested in returning to East Africa please talk with me. God is always moving.
Last day with Wycliffe
Currently Wrestling,
Jason Folkestad

A NEW SEASON – THE NEXT CHAPTER – A FRESH START

I didn’t know exactly how to start this blog out; so I looked up the word ‘depart’.  When reading its meaning there was also a lengthy list of synonyms. Words similar to depart like abandon, escape, exit, retire, vacate, retreat, evacuate…..many synonyms. None of them aiding me in a search for a single word describing what we are about to do.

ALL PACKED AND READY FOR A 4hr JOURNEY TO THE AIRPORT

Michelle and the kids are probably over the Republic of Sudan right now…on their way to Dubai. I saw them off as they caught their first flight back home.  The girls had an emotional day at school yesterday,  saying their goodbyes; so today was a  day of sadness…and excitement.  Africa has had our kids for the past five years, and our kids will always have Africa.  But now they are about to begin a new season, the next chapter, a fresh start to what may be the most important years of their lives.

PRAYING ON THE LAST DAY OF SCHOOL
FAITH AND THE NILE

I’ve learned a lot concerning relationships since coming here.  In 2013 we came to Uganda alone. Only knowing one Ugandan family, the Kaggwas.  Since then, many of the relationships we’ve built are stronger than anything we’ve ever known to be possible.  Much of this has to do with our equally yoked purpose here in Uganda.  Serving and working in  Africa is not for everyone.  The benefits are few, the gains is little and often you walk away with nothing. So when God introduces me to people who truly understand what we’re passing through I expect to hear God speak through those people. And He has. It’s been very rewarding and it’s allowed me to  see people differently.

MICHELLE DRIVING IN UG

Mukisa Wycliffe, forever an African Folkestad, for the time being will stay in Uganda.  He’s been with us since November of 2016, so parting with him has been hard. The process of his adoption was a rats nest. We will pray and wait for that door to open. Until then, he is attending primary school at Calvary Chapel Entebbe and apart of a faithful organization called Asifiwe Ministries. http://asifiwechildcare.org/    Wycliffe wasn’t meant to leave Uganda just yet, and he is in great hands. We’re excited to see what God will be doing with him the next time we meet in Uganda.

When we plant a seed, we expect it grow. Right? But when should it grow?  Well the American in me wants it to grow RIGHT NOW! Sometimes we plant seeds and  trust that someone else will water them…or put work into it.

I am still here…in Uganda.  We decided it would be easier for Michelle and the kids to get back to Oregon while I transferred our house over to new renters, handed off all our possessions, and watered the seeds that I’ve planted.  Two ministries have really taken off.

The Kirugu Aquaculture Farm – This farm is located within the village of Kirugu where we started our ministry.  The farm has grown into an educational attraction. Students and farmers from all different levels have come to soak up the work we’ve poured into this farm.

VICTORS SECONDARY SCHOOL

Tuzimba, African Earth Construction – An engineering and construction ministry that promotes using African resources and God given ingenuity to design and construct structures that are more affordable for the average Ugandan.

SUPER ADOBE STRUCTURE

 I will continue to help these ministries grow. More information concerning this will come later. But, at this second, it’s 2:48am. I’m done. Sula Bulungi, Mukama aku mukisa.  Good Night God bless you. Jason

Loving the Lost

Written March 2nd 2018

Greetings from the other side of the planet….Uganda.

A bit closer to the equator; where today it rained in the morning and reached 87 degrees 60% humidity by midday. You can almost watch the bamboo grow.

You may hear little from me, but we’re still here. Working-serving, serving-working…it all becomes normalcy. I don’t generally like to reach out or write a blog; it sounds as though I’m bragging….or whining, maybe both.

But now, things have changed.

We’re still working in a little village called Kirugu. It’s located on the River Nile about 15 kilometers north of Lake Victoria. And in our village there is this boy…

He is introduced in the video below.

Bonface, a 2 year old Ugandan boy, who is apart of our village community. He has a condition called Hydrocephalus. He currently has too much access fluid in his head and if it’s not treated soon it will leave him permanently damaged. I don’t typically reach out for funds, but as of recently I was told our “missions budget” is at $0.

I’m trying to raise $1k by asking the church community to respond; so Bonface can be operated on to relieve the pressure in his head.

There is a lot to do here on the mission field, but when it comes to priorities, the people come first.

If you’re interested in helping, please let me know.

J.Folkestad

Written 72 hours later

We’ve hit $1k!

Written March 29th 2018

Hey American Crew

Surgery complete for this little dude. You can check him out and a small bit of the story in the video below.

We’ve tried to help a lot of kids here in Uganda. The most challenging obstacle with vulnerable children are the parents. In this case Bonface’s mother Fatima was very irresponsible at times. Considering her child was getting a life altering surgery for free, you’d think she would jump through hoops to make it happen. Not so much. She was late, absent, and difficult. It wasn’t until my last visit (in the video) where she genuinely seemed thankful. I pray that the generation that we are focusing on in the village will radically revolutionize its future.

If you’ve never spent time with a people group like the ones we work with, this story may be hard to wrap your head around.:

Once Bonface was admitted into the hospital the Doctors found out that a ‘Muzungu’ (white guy) was paying the invoices. When this happened they immediately revised those invoices to more than double the original quotation. I refused to pay the inflated fee, calling them on their greed. When the surgery was through Bonface seemed well enough to be discharged, but the doctors said he couldn’t leave until his fever went down and the remaining balance was paid. They were holding this two year old boy hostage. While this was happening I was in the village working on the farm. On the second day of his extended stay at the hospital a number of the mothers relatives showed up at my farm very upset. They accused Henry and me of devising a plan with the Doctors to have Bonface killed so we could use his body parts for a ritual sacrifice. ????? Can you imagine? Trying to help a young helpless boy and being accused of premeditated witch craft. On top of that the Doctors holding the boy until I paid a ransom. I was NOT happy, and Doctors got to see it firsthand after I drove three hours and showed up at the hospital. We didn’t pay a single schilling over the original quotation. You think life is hard? Come live in Uganda.

The missions was Bonface. Mission complete. I asked for $1k, I got $1,700. He ended up needing a hernia surgery as well. Trust me…it was needed. Guess what the total cost was for Doctors, medicine, transport and food?  -$1,700. Bonface’s future is more important than we realize. Thank you guys!

Jason

Sent from a dirty iPhone from somewhere in Africa.

The Season of Christ

 

banner-01-01According to each individual person, some seasons mean something. Most of us have embedded events or circumstances in our memory that play a significant role as to  how we feel about holidays. We celebrate holidays to recognize there original significance. Though many would argue Christmas is one of those pagan holidays; you can’t help but sense the sentiment of faith, hope and love around this time of year.

Noah in Ugandan school room
Noah in Ugandan school room

But in some parts of the world the holiday season is another reminder of hopelessness.  Here in Uganda, the schilling is king. For most, the schilling is Christmas. Often this time of year the Ugandans will ask me for their Christmas.   It sounded really weird to me the first year. “What do you mean your Christmas?”, I would ask them. They’re asking for a gift (schillings). It would be like asking some random stranger in America, “Can you give me some money for Christmas?” And some people in America will ask you for money. You’ll typically find these people on the corner in a Walmart parking lot, or roaming the downtown streets rummaging through trash cans.  The Ugandans I’m referring to are not like that.

busy market Jinja Town
busy market Jinja Town

I was in town today ready to hop on my bike when I got a tap on the shoulder. I turned to find a Ugandan man. This man was possibly the same age as me.  While he was sporting a dress coat I shook his thickly calloused hand as he said “Oyambe nze” (you help me.) He went on to tell me a story about his struggling livelihood and how he wanted to get his family Christmas but he had no schillings. He revealed some seriously white teeth while smiling during his story (Ugandans are known throughout East Africa for their perfect teeth). He then asked me for ‘his Christmas’.  Without thinking too much I reached into my pocket to see what I had. A couple crumpled two thousand schilling notes ($1.25). I looked at the crumpled notes in my hand and thought, “this can’t be this guys Christmas”.  I placed the notes in his hand, as if shaking it again, but didn’t let go. It’s custom culture here to hold one’s hand while communicating. I found it to be very useful in keeping  someones attention. Often squeezing their hand and looking into their eyes when you want your words to sink in.  I wanted to tell him Christmas wasn’t about schillings. But I didn’t know how. On Christmas day, I thought, we’ll be having a big meal and exchange many gifts. Am I speaking hypocritically if I tell him he doesn’t need schillings for Christmas? The story this man had shared with me included a horrible event that had just taken place in Western Uganda in a town called Kasese. I had already known of the event and may even of have had more intel on the circumstances  than him but I listened.  He teared up when he said his brother was one of the 50 murdered by militants who lined up a group of young men and executed them with a machete to the back of the head. It seems these elevated events are happening all over Uganda on a regular basis.

Uganda Military
Uganda Military

From my perception living along side the Ugandans;  it’s not the world we live in, it’s the world they live in. If I find myself in these horrible circumstances- I get away, I fight back, I out smart the oppressor. The Ugandans are often to busy surviving to recognize what’s developing outside their survival box.  So, I held his hand and I said, “go home.  Go home and spend time with your family. Go home and reconcile with the people around you. Go home and thank God for every day he gives you.” Yes, my family and I will feast on Christmas. We’ll exchange gifts and maybe go out for ice cream (December is the HOT season here). We’ll also go swim in the river, play games, read a story aloud. We’ll spend time together. Christmas, like most holidays, has nothing to do with the schillings. It has to do with time, people and Jesus Christ. If you can find a healthy blend with that trio your season will have substance. Otherwise the Christmas foundation you’re creating will be tasteless, forgetful and eventually crumble.

People. They’re the reason we do what we do. Love – Hate. Live – Die. Strive – Survive. Like an endless wave, we are constantly being moved by people.  What you wear, what you eat, how you speak, the way you think, the length of your grass, the car you drive, Facebook, Instagram and Pintrest.  Because of people.

Ugandan children at a village school
Ugandan children at a village school

We mingle with a lot of people here in Uganda. Many of them, young kids learning how to survive.   We’ve spent over three years in Uganda and God has continued to push us to our furthest abilities. Recently we were led to an orphanage buried away in a local sugar cane field. The orphanage was not well run and even now is under investigation. It was at that time we felt led to bring one of these children into our home. We have begun the process of adoption for a young 8 year old boy named Wyclife Mukisa.

Faith, Maci, Wyclife, and Noah
Faith, Maci, Wyclife, and Noah

We call him Wyci (Wee-Key). Wyci was abandoned as an infant and grew up in the hands of a third-world orphanage. When Wyci was abandoned he was in a very poor state. So poor that his condition left him unable to walk until he was 5 years old. We have since taken him to a blood lab where he tested positive for Malaria, Tuberculosis
and an Immunodeficiency Virus. His condition doesn’t affect the way we feel about him only that it allows us to care for him that much more.

Solar lights charging outside a house
Solar lights charging outside a house
Noah and Wyci -inseparable.
Noah and Wyci -inseparable.

In the midst of village ministry here in Uganda, this little boy has, all of a sudden, gotten our full attention. The village of Kirugu is now fully equipped with solar lights in every home. The Church is becoming a place of refuge and joy.  Village families are beginning to understand what it means to enjoy life and all that God has given to us. There is so much work yet to be done. But right now, during this Christmas season, we are focused on Wyclife. You’ll have to trust us when we say -he’s worth it!

Wyclife (age unknown) at the orphanage.
Wyclife (age unknown) at the orphanage.

The first time we saw Wyci he was playing futbol. He was slower, and he would stop often to catch his breath. But he would light up when we took the time to sit and talk with him. And we thought “as this kid gets older, his chance to be a part of a real family will be slim”. Now we are so excited to announce that this little Ugandan boy has a real, loving, affirming, Christ-chasing family.

The work that we do here in Uganda is fully supported by donations from individuals, families and even businesses.  We recently received our year end financial report statement. The giving trend for our support is on a steady decline.  If you’re interested in giving or even knowing more about exactly what we do in Africa, please don’t hesitate to contact us or Edgewater Christian Fellowship.

http://edgewaterfellowship.org/

We are hoping to be in Oregon next summer to introduce you to the newest member of our family.  May the Lord richly bless you while you make unforgettable memories this Christmas season.  -Jason Folkestad

Wyci surrounded by mosquito net wearing a germ mask while reading before bed.
Wyci surrounded by mosquito net wearing a germ mask while reading before bed.
At Church
At Church
Michelle watching Noah and Wyclife swim in the River Nile
Michelle watching Noah and Wyclife swim in the River Nile
Camping on Christmas Break
Camping during Christmas Break
At the mall in Entebbe Uganda
At the mall in Entebbe Uganda

A Kids Mission

What is a kids mission in life? To do well enough in school to get a full ride to an ivy league University, find a career, lease a reliable car, get married,  buy a home, raise a family, retire at a young age, and die much older?  Kids are so innocent that they rarely think of any of these things. Kids want to have a good time. Even when they are learning, they want to have a good time. Jesus himself said to a crowd of adults in the book of Matthew “become more like children”.  I do not believe He meant become as ignorant as a child or throw a temper tantrum when you don’t get your way, but rather HAVE A GOOD TIME. Kids are innocent enough to turn the other cheek and still want to know more about God.

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At the UG airport. Saying our goodbyes.

We recently had a family of friends come visit us here in Uganda. The Blands.  In a America we were neighbors; sharing the same small flag lot directly across the street from our kids school in Oregon. We lived life together. Neither I or them ever thought we would see each other in Africa. But we found very quickly that God is much bigger than our pessimistic thoughts. And we had a good time!

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Installed a swing at church. Kids loved it!

Throw a futbol in-between a group of kids and watch the good times begin. It doesn’t matter what the kids skin color is. All that matters is that they have a chance to communicate in child like ways. Playing, swinging, laughing – they love it. Sure they get to speak an unknown language sometimes and that also can be fun. “Samba Samba!” (Pass Pass). They learn this one quickly when playing futbol.

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Maci and Olivia hanging in a new hammock.

 The Blands were a blast!  Their kids are practically the same age as ours. It seemed like they were always doing something; even when it seemed like there was nothing to do. Kids are flexible and imaginative that way.  Our kids sooo appreciated and needed their friendship.

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Kids playing in the tree house.

                                                                    We spent some time out in the Kirugu Village where we are working with the local people. We attended a couple Sunday church services and spent weekdays in fellowship and labor with the local community. Kirugu was blessed when the Blands brought over 350 solar lights for the village. New Hope Church now has a team of people who help distribute these lights to each and every home in the village. Shauna Bland gave me a scripture to cast along side this solar vision for the village. 1 Peter 2:9 “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”   These lights represent hope for the hopeless. The Blands were able to see the lights in action as we walked the dark village after the sun set.

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Installing a small pig house at Gertrudes house. She is a Ugandan widow who has taken in many orphans. Pastor Glen Litwiller had a heart for her when he was here last year.
While we worked the kids were kids. Playing in the red dirt roads and climbing on any tree willing to hold them.  Eli and Shauna were ready and eager to do anything God put in our path. Some visitors are hard work…they were easy. Pastor Ronnie of New Hope Church has expressed how thankful he was to have the Blands in his community. The neighborhood is still talking about their visit and all the work they did.   During their visit we had the opportunity to visit a school that was in need of a bathroom for their students and teachers. As we team up with Daniel Kaggwa and Sign of the Dove on this project my prayer is God we give us some new insight on how to design this bathroom.

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Ethan and Faith hanging with the local students.
Before the Blands arrived my kids didn’t have much of a summer. I’ve simply been too busy to present them with some fun summer activities. So I had an idea of taking the two families camping to end the summer in style. After Eli and I researched where we wanted to go and stay I believe God knew exactly what we needed. After a six hour drive north we ended up at Murchison Falls, where the River Nile meets Lake Albert. When a Westerner thinks of Africa and all its glory this is the area tucked away in their mind. Even though a hippo woke me from a dead sleep with its butt pressed against our tent, we had a great time. Thanks Blands – unforgetable!