Bring Chloe Home – VISA UPDATE

Posted by on July 10, 2017 in Uncategorized | 5 comments

It was over four years ago when we boarded that plane that brought us together with our daughter Chloe on Ugandan soil. We knew very little about what God had in store for us in the years to come. The one thing we did know: we were being obedient. Over these past four years, we have been blessed to get to work alongside Arise Africa International (AAI), doing ministry in districts throughout Uganda as well as right here in the heart of Jinja.  Some of the highlights with AAI have been:

  • Training AAI village Pastors in theology.
  • Getting to share Jesus with so many in need…and seeing people SAVED!
  • Working alongside short-term international mission teams serving AAI churches and schools.
  • Seeing children in the AAI Babies Home reunited with family and also established in school.
  • Beginning the first AAI “town church,” and seeing it grow and produce SO much fruit.
  • Witnessing the Lord lead our very own children to serve and care for others.
  • Working alongside local AAI staff for regular “Staff Missions,” taking training and encouragement to our AAI churches throughout Uganda.
  • Seeing new churches planted every year through AAI.


Along with ministry highlights, we have experienced many family highlights as well…

  • We have celebrated 27 birthdays.
  • A new Via Girl (Kaliyah) was born, and we are expecting Baby Via #6 in Jan 2018!
  • We have seen God move and work in ways we never imagined.
  • We have completed 3.5 years of homeschool!
  • Two of our daughters accepted Christ here and were baptized by their Daddy.
  • And last but not least, after 5 years, CHLOE HAS RECEIVED HER VISA!!



YES, that’s right!!  Chloe has her VISA…which means we are coming to the US! But here’s the twist:


We have decided to once again be obedient to what we feel strongly that God is leading us to do; to come back to Uganda and continue working alongside Arise Africa early 2018.  What we thought would be our US homecoming will now become our furlough, where we will find much needed rest and reconnection with friends and family and work to raise future funds.  This way, we will return to Uganda refreshed and ready to begin a new season.

For now, we want to pause and ask you to celebrate Chloe’s VISA with us!!  This process has been longer and more difficult than we ever imagined, and we thank you ALL for loving and supporting us through it.  We cannot WAIT for our friends and family in America to meet our sweet daughter, Chloe Laiti Via…and she cannot wait to meet YOU!  Over the next week we are working toward raising our goal of $13,800 for airline tickets for our family to return to America…for Chloe to come to America FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER! Would you consider helping us reach our goal? Would you share our story with your friends and family? Will you stay in prayer for us as we are in this transitional season?


Thank you for loving our family well.  We could never do this without a support system like YOU that’s willing to say “Yes” alongside us. We can’t wait to see you in America!


*As of today, we have still been unsuccessful in finding furlough/missionary housing available to our family in RALEIGH, NC. If you have any leads for a place that could house our family of 7 for PART or ALL of our stay, please contact us! We will be between Raleigh, NC & Roanoke, VA from mid-July 2017 through mid-February 2018.  If you have accommodations that would cover ANY part of that time in Raleigh, be a week or a month, please let us know!* 


We are planning in faith to travel ONE WEEK from today – Monday, July 17, 2017!!


 Go to

 click on ‘Donate’

 under ‘designations’ choose “Bring Chloe Home”
(don’t see it? Then, choose “Smooth & Kelly Via” and fill in the next “optional” line with
“Bring Chloe Home.”)

make your tax-deductible donation and press “donate”.  

Thank you!!!

In Anticipation of a VISA Appointment!

Posted by on April 25, 2017 in Uncategorized | 4 comments


Chloe, almost 2 yrs. – photo credits: Heidi Hayhugh

It was just 5 days before Christmas, 2010.  We were a young family of five doing life in Raleigh, NC…when the news came.  Everyone was so excited.  We had just been accepted to become an Adoptive Family!

Across the ocean at a little Childrens’ Home in Mayuge, Uganda was a shy little girl just a few months away from turning two.  She lived with 50ish other children and they all had one thing in common; they were all vulnerable children without a safe, permanent family.

That Christmas was sweet. We celebrated the season with family and friends in the cold of winter.  The gifts were plentiful and the family time was memorable.  And similarly to the feeling of looking at that positive pregnancy test for the first time, I was filled with butterflies at the anticipation for the child we would soon welcome into our family.


The next 16 months were filled with a mixture of everyday life and tons of paperwork. We filled out this, went to this office and that office. We created a new space at home for the new SISTER who would be sharing a bunk bed with Kayil. And we anticipated the day we would get the notice of our Ugandan Court Date.


With our Court Date in sight, Jonathan and I packed our bags and boarded our flight to Uganda on April 4, 2012. We spent Easter in Uganda together with the Arise Africa Secondary Students and were then surprised with the gift of getting to go visit our daughter in the Childrens’ Home for the first time.  It was a precious Easter gift. Just a few short days later we picked her up from the home for our Court Date – April 19. It was a whirlwind of firsts and overwhelming moments and emotions…but in all, everything went well.  In no time Jonathan and I had to say goodbye to Chloe at the Childrens’ Home as we waited for our ruling.

On May 3, 2012 we found out that we had been granted Legal Guardianship! We could be her Mommy and Daddy! We could bring our daughter home to her family! Or so we thought…


Meeting Chloe – Easter Sunday 2012. Photo Credits: Dacia Hamby


The next ten months are kind of a blur to me.  It was filled with ups, downs, rejoicing, and disappointment. It was filled with uncertainty, frustrations, and mind-aching paperwork. It was filled with 10 months of our family living between two continents…and a LOT of airfare.  And ultimately, it was filled with a USA VISA denial for our daughter.


Since we had been denied bringing Chloe home to America, we decided we would Bring Home to Chloe.  And that’s exactly what we did on April 4, 2013 when our family of six united on Ugandan soil all together for the first time.

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Uniting as one for the first time – Entebbe International Airport, Uganda.
Photo credits:

As our family grew together, and then even grew larger with the birth of Kaliyah, we came find our “new normal” as a Ugandan family. We have worked alongside Arise Africa International in ministry throughout Uganda, God has used Smooth to begin and pastor Jinja Town Church, and we now have so many sweet friendships here that make this place our second home.  We also grew closer to being able to apply for a full Ugandan Adoption as we reached three years of being Chloe’s Legal Guardians.



Our sweet, sweet Chloe Laiti – April 2016

On December 22, 2015 – five years and 2 days after being approved as an Adoptive family, we were granted Full Adoption for Chloe from the Ugandan High Courts.  It was another joyous Christmas present for us all!


With the Ugandan Adoption Decree in hand and the 2+ years living in country completed (a legal requirement), we were finally able to apply for an American Immigration VISA for Chloe.   2016 came and went as we waited for our turn for a VISA appointment at the Embassy. As 2017 arrived…still no appointment. But as Easter approached once again another sweet Easter gift was given to us: A VISA appointment for Chloe!!



Yes! You read that right. On May 3, 2017 we have a VISA appointment for Chloe in Nairobi, Kenya!!  Exactly five years after we found out we were granted Legal Guardianship for our sweet daughter! And just over four years after Bringing Home to Chloe…we again have the chance to obtain an American VISA for our daughter.


Would you commit to pray for us as this date approaches quickly? Would you be willing to pray for the consular that we see on that day? Would you pray for our safety as we travel to Nairobi? Would you pray for God’s peace to surround us and fill us as we re-face a similar process that turned our world upside down nearly five years ago? Would you outright pray that we are granted Chloe’s VISA without anymore extra paperwork and delays? And most of all, would you pray that God would be glorified in the most awesome way?


Thank you for rejoicing with us. Thank you for supporting us and loving our family. And thank you for following along on this journey with us.  We could not be here without people like YOU saying YES to supporting us through your prayers and finances.

As you could expect, we have a great need for extra financial support this month as this trip to Nairobi could last two weeks+ and it is quickly rising significantly above our monthly budget.  If you would like to give toward Chloe’s VISA appointment trip to Nairobi, you can do so securely by going to and choosing “Smooth & Kelly Via” under the “Designation” drop down menu item.


We will keep you updated!!  May 3!!! Hallelujah!



Posted by on February 21, 2017 in Life, Uncategorized | 0 comments

I’m so glad I’m not an animal because people just come kill you and eat you. -Kayil


Go go go, Chloe!! -Mom
I already went. -Chloe, puzzled & confused


It’s like…to get a comfortable mattress here you should buy one, and then run over it with a steam roller a bunch of times. Or, maybe pay a bunch of kids to jump up and down on it all day.  -Smooth


Babe, you’re grumpy no matter what time you wake up. -Smooth


Mommy, can people be allergic to ice cream? -Chloe
Yes. -Mommy
I am soooo glad I don’t have that allergic. If everybody had an ice cream and I had cake I would be…Oh wait…if I had cake I wouldn’t be sad. -Chloe


(Driving) Hey Mom, can you stop going over bumps? -Kayil


Why don’t they just REMOVE the K because it’s SILENT!? -Karis


If we marked out all the stuff we don’t really need in real life, school would be a lot easier. -Cana


Daddy says the only reason we need to know Roman numerals is to know which super bowl you’re watching.


Do I have guts? -Chloe
Yes. -Me.
Ewwww!!! -Chloe


I don’t like sitting down; it’s no fun! -Karis


A Volcano wouldn’t be a good place for camping. Cause you could die. -Chloe


That lava kinda looks like pink lemonade. I wish it was pink lemonade; it’s delicious. -Karis


Can I give you a fun fact real quick? -Cana


Mom can I skip this part in math since it’s not going to help me at all in life? -Cana


That was not an argument; that was me being right. -Smooth


‘He is going to the store.’ You can change that to ‘He’s going to the store.’ -Kelly
OR, ‘He is eating cotton candy.’ -Chloe
Yes. So we could say, ‘He’s eating cotton candy.’ -Kelly
Wait. Where’s the cotton candy? -Chloe


Oh, good job, my brain! -Chloe


Look mom, the chickies cracked! -Chloe


I think it’s hard for turtles to hold hands. -Chloe


I wish I was a grown up; grown ups can do anything. -Chloe


Oh man! You spilled out the secret. -Chloe


I feel like middle school was invented so kids would have their brains fried for the rest of their lives. -Cana


Mom, Chloe’s crying.
Chloe, close your eyes and think about rainbows. -Kayil


We were stuffing that cake in our mouths like a cheetah! -Chloe


Oh, here we goes again. -Chloe


How much is 35 Kenyan shillings?-Karis
It’s about 35 cents. -Mom
Ummm…. -Karis
She means in Ugandan Shillings; she doesn’t know US dollars. -Smooth


I’m on the lookout for fingos! -Karis (flamingos)


Either those people are from the blonde and white club, or they are from Sweden. -Smooth


Dog dog monkey cat moo cow. See em…turtoo, monkey, turtoo. -Kaliyah


Mommy is the big Boss anyway; she’s older than daddy. -Kayil


Jinx! You buy me a coat! -Kayil
It’s not ‘buy me a coat’…it’s buy me a COKE! -Cana


Why do they call it Facebook? There’s no book of faces anywhere! -Karis


I’m glad you are having very fun, but I just want to have enjoy day. -Mom


I can’t eat any more cake. It’s not that I’m too full, just that my tongue is too sugary. -Chloe


I wish Kasim was a Christian because I really like bacon. Oh and I also want him to know Jesus. -Chloe


Why is he making fun of Donald Trump? -Karis
Because he’s easy to make fun of. -Daddy
He makes fun of the PRESIDENT?! That’s SO rude. -Chloe


Chloe skittle-daddled out of my bed. -Kayil


You need to eat greens. They are good for your eyes. -Bonnie
But they are not good for my mouth. -Karis


Looking for lovey is the worst part of my life! -Smooth


Okay, run in and get Cana. -Mommy
But we don’t know where Cana is! -Chloe
Yeah, but we know what Cana looks like! -Karis


If we had that huge house, we could have 3 kitchens! -Chloe
I’d rather have 1 kitchen and save the space. But I’d want LOTS of toilets! -Karis


If we go to jail it’s none of my fault. -Chloe



Selfie Portrait by: Kayil Via, far right



That is What Jesus Does

Posted by on January 24, 2017 in Jesus, Life, ministry, Uganda | 4 comments

In all honesty, I wanted to stay home on Saturday morning.  But, I had made a commitment to be at worship team practice, so I was there – bright and early.

Jinja Town Church Worship Team Practice in full swing

Jinja Town Church Worship Team Practice in full swing

I was tired, honestly.  We had just hosted a tremendously impactful team for the past week and a half, and I had not yet found my normalcy or energy again.

Yet, when a young man came limping into the gates of our Arise Africa compound, unable to speak, yet communicating his desperation quite clearly, God poured compassion into my weary heart and I knew then how I’d be spending my morning.

He came alone, only with a handwritten note.  He had travelled far from his village to the Jinja Hospital, only to be turned away when he didn’t have the proper money. In all honestly, the hospital probably turned him away simply because they didn’t want to take the time to ‘fool’ with him.  See, he is deaf.

In his note he didn’t plead for hospital fees.  He didn’t even seem to have some far-fetched story.  He simply explained why he was in Jinja and that he needed 8000 ugx (about $2.50) for transportation back to his home village.


Emma communicating with Ochulu during worship practice.

His eyes were tired.  He tried to use his voice without success.  People looked on helplessly, not knowing what to do.  But in an instant, my friend Emma & I decided together, without even really discussing it, that we needed to successfully communicate with this man.

As the worship team continued with practice, Emma and I began writing back and forth with him.  His name: Ochulu.

We told him straight away that we would be more than happy to give him the transport money that he needed.  He was so happy.  But, that was just the beginning of the conversation.  God was pressing me firmly that I was supposed to find a way to share the Gospel with this man.  So the writing continued.

His english was sharp.  We communicated back and forth over pages and pages of paper for the next almost 2 hours.  He told me he believed what I had said about Christ, but that he was not yet Born Again (saved by Jesus). He wanted to know more.  So we wrote about what it meant to be Born Again. Giving our lives to Jesus. Following His word. We discussed so much.  And then I wrote to him…

“So, are you saying that you want to be born again right now?”

He wrote one word. “Yes.”

Emma and I made eye contact and without a word praised the Lord together.  I stopped the worship practice and explained to them that our friend Ochulu had just made the decision to accept Christ.  We circled around him and prayed over him while he prayed in his heart and mind a prayer I had written for him on paper. We thanked God for the decision Ochulu was making. And we prayed over his leg and hand, asking for healing.

Laying hands on and praying for Ochulu while he gives his life to Christ!

Laying hands on and praying for Ochulu while he gives his life to Christ!

As we said “Amen” Ochulu looked around at the friendly faces, and I have no doubt that he felt the love of Christ in that moment.  His eyes were filled with joy, and his face filled with a smile.  He took our hands and lifted them up to the heavens, as if to show his gratitude.  He was overcome with joy.

So was I.

But God wasn’t finished yet.  He continued to press into me that I was to show a genuine, Christ-like love to Ochulu.  In his letter, he wrote that he knows that he is “deaf and dumb.” In this culture, that is what he is called.  He is seen as “lesser-than” and most people would shove him aside, treat him like garbage, overlook him, and never show him kindness.  I knew that on this day, Christ wanted me to show him that he was special and loved.  I would NOT be treating him as “deaf and dumb” today. No, I would be treating him like someone seen and loved; like the cherished child of God that he is.

20170121_113406“Are you hungry? What would you like? Posho? Beans? Greens? Rice? Matooke?” I wrote.

He checked “Rice” and “Beans.” And just like that my friend Sharon took care of getting the lunch together. He also chose a Pepsi, which made him very happy, and we sat down together in the dining area and communicated with our pens and paper.

While he ate his lunch, I found out that Ochulu had been in a motor vehicle accident where he saw many die, but he survived.  Only that, his legs were broken.  Now, it seems one has not healed correctly, and he was trying to seek help…which he didn’t receive from the hospital that day.  But he didn’t ask for help.  He still only wanted to get home for now.

But he received much more than medical help or transport. On this day, he received Christ.

And, what I didn’t know early Saturday morning as I hit snooze one more time was that God was helping me keep my commitment to be at worship practice that morning so that I could worship Him…even without touching a guitar or singing into a microphone.  He had me there to worship Him by sharing his good gift of salvation with my new friend Ochulu. He had me there to welcome a new brother into the Kingdom of God. He had me there to love well.1485203141517

After hours of communicating, Ochulu made two requests:

1. That I would take a photo with him & send it to his parents so they could see his friend that showed him such a “good heart” on this day.

2. That I would give him a “Good News” Bible, which is the easiest to read English version available here in Uganda.


I was glad to do both of these things for him…and again, he repaid me with smiles that filled his face and prayerful hands lifted to the heavens.  Then I gave him transportation money (plus a bit extra) and helped him get to the taxi stage, where he would find his way home.


Photo & Good News Bible…check!

As we waved goodbye to Ochulu, I turned to Emma and said, “Do you see that? He is like a totally different man!”

In which Emma replied with a smile, “That is what Jesus does. It’s what he does.”

A Look Back and a View Forward

Posted by on December 31, 2016 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Screenshot 2016-12-31 at 4.48.07 PM Screenshot 2016-12-31 at 4.47.46 PM

If you follow us on social media, you’ve seen our “Celebrating 2016″ photo collage series over the past few days. As we close out this year, we can’t help but reflect on what God has done, and what he has allowed us to be a part of this year. In 2016:

12 churches were planted
Over 800 people became followers of Jesus
Over 300 teenagers in Jinja were reached through Jinja Town Church’s outreach program
1000′s of people in villages received free medical treatment
Over 200 pastors, representing 22 zones around the country received practical and theological training
We helped empower AAI Pastors’ Wives in a multi-zonal conference and ongoing sustainability program
We’ve said many happy “hellos” and sorrowful “goodbyes” to friends, family, and loved ones
We’ve had long days and sleepless nights
We’ve experienced countless joys and blessings
We’ve battled dirt, dust, and disease
We’ve had both failures and victories
And the Holy Spirit has grown us and stretched us in ways we never thought possible

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But we are not only looking back on 2016. We are also prayerfully looking forward to 2017. We have always tried to follow Jesus one step at a time, and we believe that 2017 will be the year when God calls us to take the next step. This means that 2017 is going to be a transitional year for us as we prepare for God’s next calling on our lives. With this transition comes the need for continued financial support.

As you are considering how you can be a blessing to others in the new year, we ask that you would consider joining our team of monthly supporters. Having a daughter that we have been unable to travel with to the US, has severely limited our fundraising opportunities during our time in Uganda. Currently, we are at about 60% of our necessary monthly funding, which means, we need help. We cannot do what we do without people like you on our team. With that said, we trust that God will continue to provide.

What are we asking? We are prayerfully asking for you to commit to supporting us monetarily for a 6-9 month period, beginning in January. You can easily do this by going to -designating your gift for “Smooth & Kelly Via.”

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We want to THANK YOU ALL for your support of our family. Every prayer, every email, every financial gift, & every package has meant so much. We cannot say thank you enough. And, for those already on our monthly financial team – Thank you!

We sincerely hope that you have a Happy New Year, and we pray that God will bless you abundantly so that you might be a blessing to others in 2017.

With Love,
The Vias
Smooth, Kelly, Cana, Kayil, Chloe, Karis, & Kaliyah

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Hi! I’m Kaliyah Jade! – An Update!

Posted by on September 23, 2016 in Uncategorized, updates | 0 comments

Here is an update an ALMOST 20 month update on our Kaliyah Jade!!



  • She LOVES animals.  Most everything is a ‘dog-dog,’ unless it is a ‘meow.’ And she has found a sudden, insanely strong love for turtles.  Cows, goats, monkeys…they all make her laugh, and they are ALL….’dog-dogs.’  She attempts to give our ‘meows’ love and hugs daily (poor meows).
  • Her vocabulary is exploding.  She can say all her “sissies” names.  She can say please, Mommy, Daddy, night-night, more, gone, car, ride, slide, go, no, poop, shoes, hot, yummy, eyes, nose, mouth, sissies, passion {fruit}, lovey, passy, apple, ouch, meow, dog-dog, turtle, Poppee, cheese, chips, me, mine, bye, pizza, ball, baby, Meme…and the list is growing every day!
  • She loves to wear shoes.  She can even go get her own now; she just needs help putting them on (and sometimes matching them.)


  • She tries to jump, but can’t get off the floor.  When she does, she plops on her bottom; she thinks it’s hilarious. (It is.)
  • Bathtime is a wonderful time for her.  It’s in the running for her favorite time of the day.  She makes the inclined back of our tub a “slide,” sliding over and over until our floor is soaked and she has laughed until she’s tired.
  • Food…this girl can be picky.  But she loves posho (she calls it so-po) and beans.  She also can’t get enough passion fruit!
  • She sleeps with her passy and lovey.  They are her most prized possessions in all the world.
  • She’s a Daddy’s girl!
Kaliyah and Kayil watching the goats!

Kaliyah and Kayil watching the goats!

  • She’s grumpy when she wakes up…just like her momma.
  • When she hears music, she dances with her pointer finger in the air.
  • Now that she has a “puddle jumper” floatie, she has a newly found love for the pool and all things water.


  • Any incline is a “slide” in her mind; she will do her best to slide, or at least run up and down the “slide,” over and over.
  • She doesn’t like loud machines.  Vacuums, motors, blenders, etc. scare her terribly.
  • She also fears airplanes in the sky.
  • She would rather be held by a “new” man than a “new” woman.
  • She LOVES soda and gets VERY upset if you have one and you don’t give her any. (Thanks, Poppee.)
  • Turtle and Meow You-Tube Videos make her very happy.


  • She gets very uneasy in a room full of people.
  • She hates loud music.
  • The girl LOVES being outside.
  • Having Hello Kitty on her clothes makes her very happy. Basically anything with Hello Kitty (Meow!) on it makes her happy.
  • We still can’t tell if her hair is going to be blonde, red, or strawberry-blonde.  And it’s still very thin and wispy. Sigh.
  • She always sleeps through the night now, but she didn’t consistently until she was 17 months old.
  • She still loves watching Praise Babies.
  • Her nicknames are “Kia,” “Stinker,” “Stink,” and “Munchkin.”


  • Many Ugandans don’t pronounce her name correctly, so she ends up being “Korea.” Like the country.
  • She loves riding in the car…especially now with her new toddler carseat.  She exaggerates every bump and turn, bouncing in her chair and saying “whoa!”
  • She loves riding her “bike” with her sissies.


  • She wants to do everything her sissies do! She wants to be a big girl so badly.
  • She gets jealous and doesn’t want any of her sissies to cuddle on mommy or daddy, especially when she is. She will literally whine and push until they give up.
  • She taught herself to count. Two. Two. Two. Two. Two. Two. Two.
  • She loves looking for her “belly hole” with Daddy…and finding a “belly hole” on others.
  • Her super ticklish spot is her neck!

She is SUCH a sweet addition to our family…our little Ugandan born mzungu!
We can’t imagine our family now without her!!

Camp Kid Jam – A Letter from Cana

Posted by on September 6, 2016 in Life, Travel, Uncategorized | 1 comment

btyI just wanted to take a moment to thank everyone who helped me get to go to camp. I am very grateful to everyone who gave me money to go to camp. I was so happy when I found out (Momma and Daddy surprised me) and I want to say that I couldn’t have done it without you.

Camp Kid Jam was so much fun! I got to go up on stage and tell everyone about my life in Uganda because I was voted Uber Kid. When you are Uber Kid, you have to wear a cape for the rest of your time at camp and you earn extra points for your team. 13725035_614083915514_3268552203230858594_oWe were split into teams during the week; I was on the Orange Team.  Every team collected points to be counted at the end of camp and my team WON! I got to learn new songs, watch Bible stories acted out, and see leaders go on stage and get buckets of sauce dumped on their heads. I also learned about the disciples and their lives with Jesus.  My favorite part of watching the Bible stories was when Pastor Aaron fell out of the wagon, which was supposed to be a boat.  It was really funny. Miss Kathryn lead my Small Group.  In small group we studied our Bibles together, answered questions, and played games. I enjoyed my Small Group, even when they asked me funny questions about living in Uganda…like “Do you have a Target in Uganda?”Screen shot 2016-09-06 at 2.14.48 PM










80′s Night at Camp Kid Jam!


Captured during one of our Late Night/Jam Sessions



Me…in the 80s!

Not only did I get to go to camp, but I also got to see family members that I haven’t seen for two years! I got to go fishing with my grand-parents, go skating with my cousins, and meet my new cousin, Cohen! I also got to go to my church in NC, Journey Church. I even went to see the new Ice Age movie with my Granna.  I had so much fun.


I have a lot of cousins!


Here I am with my Granna!


Meeting my newest cousin, Cohen. He’s adorable.



I loved getting to be at Journey Church. This is my Children’s Pastor, Mr. Aaron.

Once again, I would like to tell everyone who helped me how grateful I am.  You really helped me more than you know. I couldn’t have done it without you.

With love, Cana

There for the One

Posted by on August 29, 2016 in Culture Lessons, Jesus, ministry | 5 comments

I want to tell you a story.  Recently I traveled with an Arise Africa team to a fairly local fisherman’s village for a day of teaching in the local schools & church.  On this day, my primary role was documenting the day from behind the lens of my camera.  But, of course, sometimes I find myself talking with this one, and playing with that one, and before I know it…I have walked away from the team altogether and I haven’t even taken a photo in an hour.

And so it went on this day.  After documenting the great work that our visiting team was participating in, I began walking through the local village greeting here and there with my translator.  I talked to workers mending their nets for the next season’s catch. I greeted ladies carrying firewood on their heads for the evening’s cooking.  I agitated a few local men by looking on their gambling charades…oops.

But down near the water I saw him, sitting on his mat just outside his semi-permanent home.  He wore no clothes.  He had no toys.  He was just watching the world go on around him…the ducks as they passed by. The children as they ran past. He watched as goats walked to and fro.

Immediately my heart was drawn to him, but in all honesty, my body hesitated. There’s some sort of fear in me when I don’t know how to communicate quite well with someone. And I knew that I would have some communication barriers.  Still, I pushed through my fear and asked my translator to go to visit with this young boy.

As I walked near, I prayed that God would lead our time together with this boy at his home.  Then, I sat on a nearby wooden seat and began to try and interact with this young boy. A face peeked out of the darkened doorway; it was Jjaja (Grandmom). She smiled and welcomed our presence and our conversation.

I found that my new friend’s name is Yunufu, and was very excited to have company.  When I first walked up, I didn’t know if he would even acknowledge me; boy did he ever.  He rested his head and hands on my leg, he clapped as I sang, he made noises of delight, and his smile…was just a delight.  I was certainly “most welcome” with Yunufu.

As I sat there with Yunufu, I began talking with his Jjaja through my translator.  She shared with me his story, how his dad is “away,” and his mother leaves him with her to take care of.  How the people in the village believe he is cursed and how he isn’t accepted by many in his family.  I know this is common culturally here, but I also saw that she has a love for her grandson…which isn’t always so common in this situation.

She told us that she is a believer and that she is his primary caregiver.  She bathes him, feeds him, and moves him from inside the home to outside on his mat, where he can watch the goings-on and enjoy the fresh air.  He doesn’t walk or crawl, and he is non-verbal, but he does interact with others.  She is the one that told us his favorite things – noises, singing, clapping, smiles; I imagine this is how she communicates her love to him from day to day.

I encouraged her to keep taking care of Yunufu. I knew she must be very tired; I knew she must wonder if her work was all in vain, especially with her neighbors telling her so day in and day out.  I shared with her about people all around the world, even in America, with his unique disabilities, and how they are not a curse – they just mean that God has allowed him to have special needs and that he needs a lot of love and care from someone very special like her.  I knew that I was waaaay outside my “comfort zone” knowledge-wise…but I also knew that, with the help of the Holy Spirit, I could speak to the spirit-filled heart of a tired and worn out momma caring for a child that she loves.


After the conversation was over, my translator moved on to greeting others.  I could tell he wasn’t quite sure why I was still content to just sit and be with this young boy for so long.  But that was okay.  I continued to stay. I prayed silently in my heart over him, over the home, and over his sweet grandmom.  And I sang every song I could think to sing, and I clapped, and I danced, and I made eye contact with my friend, and we laughed together for the longest time.  I smiled at Jjaja and she made it known that I was welcome.  I wanted this day, this moment to be special for him; a change from his daily routine.  I wanted him to know that he was special and that this visitor had come to be with HIM…at HIS house (In this culture, having visitors to your home from far away is a real honor.)

As my translator passed back by, I said my goodbyes and I walked back to the church with him to meet up with the team.  As we walked, he told me thank you and that the Jjaja was so encouraged by what I had told her.  That everyday she takes care of her grandson and that so many people look down on them.  But that I had given her a new hope. And I had reassured her that she was doing the right thing; that she would continue loving Yunusu.


That week, one of the guys on the volunteer team asked me, as we are asked often…

“How do you do it? How do you live here day in and day out and see all the needs and not…burn out? Not run away? Not lose heart?”

And I knew the answer right away.

You have to be here for the one.  The one child. The one family. The one hurting person that God puts in front of you that very day.  The one lost person who needs salvation. The one panicked mother needing urgent medical attention for her baby.  The one young man who just lost his grandmother.  You focus on the one God gives you that very day.   If you look up and focus on the incredibly vast number of needs, that are here every single day and go on, and on, and on… without end…you’ll sink.  You’ll  burn out. You’ll run away. You’ll lose heart.


On this day, I was sent with the team to document. To tell the day’s story of ministry through the lens of my camera.  And yes, I think this is a dynamic part of my ministry here, because I believe that “Storytelling Changes the World.” (from: The Archibald Project). And I believe that people NEED to see, through photographs, the ministry that teams are a part of when they come to serve alongside Arise Africa.  But on this day, my one…my one was Yunusu.  While all the other children passed him by…while all the other children were running and playing and listening to the mzungu team play their instruments and teach through drama and blow their bubbles and play tag…he sat at home.  He watched the world from his mat.  But God brought me to his mat that day, and it nearly wrecked me.  But I am so very glad He did.


My Translator picked up my camera and captured these moments. I’m so thankful.


No one is called to do everything, but everyone is called to do something.

If you can’t feed a hundred people, then just feed one. -Mother Teresa

Do for one what you wish you could do for all. -Andy Stanley 

Fulfilling a Big Promise

Posted by on June 11, 2016 in Life, Travel, Uncategorized | 0 comments

We are a family that’s big on promises.

Don’t get me wrong.  We have broken our share of them.  We’ve over-promised, forgotten promises, and broken promises…along the way, but that’s not the point of this blog.

Let’s start again. We are a family that’s BIG on promises.  We try not to throw around the “promise” word lightly, as we have learned over the years (see above) that when you use the word “promise,” it needs to be kept.

Rewind to early 2013.  We were preparing to #BringHomeToChloe, moving half way around the world to Uganda.  Our girls were 7, 5, 3, and 3.  Let’s focus on the 7 year old.  Our Cana.


When we left America, she was finishing 2nd grade.  She was a rising 3rd grader.  And for her, this fact was a big deal.

Why? Because that meant she was eligible for Camp KidJam, the Summer Camp that our church (Journey Church) attends every year. She had been psyched. Then she realized…we were moving before she would get to go.  Cana was so excited to move to Uganda, but she was really disappointed that she would miss Camp KidJam.  I’m talking tears.  Long talks.  She. Was. Sad.

So, Jonathan and I sat down with her and counted out our next few years and we estimated that we would be back in America in enough time for her to attend her LAST Camp KidJam before she aged out.  We were so sure of our timeline and that we would be back on American soil, beginning our new season of life in America, that we…PROMISED that she would get to go to Camp KidJam as a rising 6th grader.

She has not forgotten that promise.

In fact, every summer, she has talked about Camp KidJam.  Her friends that were going…how she wished that she could go…but that it was okay because she knew the year was coming that she would be able to go.

Well, it’s 2016.  Cana is only 2 or so weeks away from finishing her 5th grade homeschool year.  And we are realizing that we are NOT going to be beginning that new American season any time soon…seeing that we are still here in Uganda. Waiting. 


Our Cana is a smart girl.  A few months ago, she started working the numbers and realized that the probability that we would still be in Uganda for Camp KidJam was extremely high.

She. Was. Devastated. I’m talking tears. I’m talking late night cuddle sessions with mom talking and crying over would could, should, and would be.  I’m talking major sadness.  I’m talking a forever memory of never getting to go to camp and, for her, that was a VERY big deal.

Did I mention that we are a family that’s BIG on promises?

So, Jonathan and I made a decision.  A big, crazy, promise-filling decision.  We signed her up for camp.

That’s right.  Cana is going to Camp KidJam.  And she will be traveling over 8000 miles to get there.  (So, it better be good, lol!)

So, in just a few short weeks, Cana and I will be packing our bags and heading to America so that Cana can join her friends and attend her last Camp KidJam.  She is beyond excited.  And I admit, I am too…this Momma can certainly use some American R&R.

We can’t wait for Cana to get to experience Camp KidJam.  She has looked forward to it for over 3 years now.  But, this is about more.  It’s about a promise that we made to our sweet 2nd grader when we flipped our family’s life upside down and moved to Uganda.  We want her to know that Mommy & Daddy make good on their promises.  And that we don’t make them lightly.


Of course this is a very expensive promise.  And yes, we know that this financial burden is one we made for ourselves. But, we also believe in making our promise a reality for our Cana, and that will be absolutely priceless.

We believe that some of our friends and family may want to help us fulfill this promise to Cana by helping lighten the financial load.  If you would like to donate to our airfare/travel expenses, we would be more than grateful.  You can do so at World Reach Partnerships  , designation “Smooth & Kelly Via,” and type Cana Via in the “Participant” entry line just below.

Would you also pray that God will bless this crazy act of parenting faith that we are stepping into?!

Thank you all.  Love from all of us Uganda Vias!

So Your Adoption is Final; Now What?

Posted by on January 10, 2016 in Adoption details, Court, Jesus, Life | 0 comments

Yay! Your adoption is FINAL! That means you’re finished, right?

No. It doesn’t.

I know that’s not the answer you were looking for, but it’s the answer nonetheless.

BUT, don’t be discouraged.  Finalizing our adoption is HUGE!!  And it is a MAJOR milestone to celebrate!!

It’s just not the last one that needs to be completed.

For those who aren’t living this story, it may not be so fresh on your minds (lol), let me remind you that back in 2012, it was the visa which was denied; not our ‘Legal Guardianship.’

What’s the difference?

We were granted ‘Legal Guardianship’ in 2012 from the Ugandan Court.  This was never a problem; we were granted this without issue.  This placed Chloe into our custody as our responsibility and made us her primary caregivers.  She was removed from the Babies Home and placed fully into our care.

The visa is what we applied for here in Uganda at our Country’s Embassy to allow passage for Chloe to travel with us to America.  This is what we were denied and, consequently, the reason we had no other (good) choice but to move to Uganda to keep our family together.

Fast forward to now. 2016.

We just went before the Ugandan High Court Judge and we were granted full adoption of our sweet daughter.  Praise. Jesus. This changes our status from ‘Legal Guardians’ to ‘Full Parents.’ And, it makes Chloe officially a VIA…on paper that is (she’s been a Via for years in our hearts.)  Note: You have to be “Legal Guardians” & live with your child for 3 years in country before you can be granted a full adoption in Uganda.  

{Insert some legal steps, paperwork, and waiting here}

Our next big step is to apply for Chloe’s visa at our Embassy.  This is where they will review our documents to confirm that Chloe has in fact been fully adopted and, Lord willing, grant her an American visa.  This is our last big legal step and our biggest prayer request.  For me, a lot of anxiety lurks over this step in the process.  This is the place where we were denied. Where our world stood still.  Big life decisions hinged on this part of the process 3 years ago.  

BUT GOD.  Our Embassy is for us, for Americans, for justice, for helping us, and for doing what is right.  We have completed the requirements laid before us in 2013 to adopt our daughter and allow her a visa to travel to America.   We have walked this journey above reproach and there should be no hint of fear in me.  But I can’t tell you there is not.  (So, with that said, I covet your prayers.) Note: The visa we will be applying for requires living in country with your child for at least 2 years. 

So, to answer the anticipated question from all of our awesome friends, family, followers, prayer warriors, and encouragers…our next big step is to apply for an appointment for Chloe’s visa at our Embassy and, Lord willing, get her visa!!

We will keep you updated over the coming weeks as we continue this exciting and long anticipated part of the journey.

Thank you for continuing to support our family in numerous ways.  We are so thankful for you all.