So many things in so little time

Once again, it’s been a long time since I’ve posted any updates.  The last time I had a free moment to type I was in a hotel room in Entebbe while I was waiting on my flight which was cancelled twice in a two day period.  I arrived home to Roanoke almost 48 hours later than scheduled.  After landing, I hardly ever had a minute to rest.  My first stop in Roanoke was for Mexican food and at CVS for some good shampoo, conditioner, and razor blades (all of which are terrible in Uganda).  The next day I was off again to the Outer Banks for my best friend’s wedding and to visit with my cousin and her family.  After a few days there it was time to head home again.

From that point forward my three weeks in the States passed by at warp speed as I spent time visiting family, friends, churches, Bible studies, youth groups, and women’s groups.  I spoke to each group about different things as the Lord placed on my heart.  I was blown away by the generosity, love and support I received.   Some of these groups even came up with their own projects to support the work happening in Uganda.  I am so thankful for each of the sweet people that put their time, effort and heart into blessing me and the people of Uganda.

Before I knew it, time had passed and I was on the way to the airport again.  After a fun afternoon with my cousins at the Air and Space Museum in Washington DC, I boarded my flight to head back across the Atlantic.  I made a four day stop in Wales to visit a friend and meet the founders of one of our partner organizations, then spent two days in London for a bit of sight seeing.  I don’t think I’ve ever packed so many activities into a one month period!

Needless to say I was exhausted by the time I arrived back in Uganda two and a half weeks ago.  I returned to find my 12 year old buddy Brian happy and content with his new family and doing well in his first few weeks of school.  I really missed him while I was away.  His English has improved, and he is now leading the youth dancers in church instead of following along haphazardly like he was before I left.  I’m so pleased that he now refers to Pastor David and Phiona as Mommy and Daddy.

Also since arriving “home” I’ve helped to host 13 visitors (5 missionaries and 7 med. School students), participated in a Women’s conference where 20 precious people committed their hearts to Jesus, assisted in revising architectural plans for a guesthouse and church in the village, attended a court hearing for a land dispute over that same village property, and seen the smiles of women and children as they were blessed by the fruits of ministries back in Virginia.  Oh and I can’t forget to mention the introduction (engagement) ceremony I attended in full traditional Ugandan attire.   Don’t be confused, the ceremony was not for me!  Each of these events has its own long story that would require a separate blog post to cover all the details.  I hope to tell you more of these stories in the near future.

It is becoming plain to me that God is doing unprecedented things in East Africa and he is using me and a network of many others across the world to carry out His plans.  I am humbled to be part of such a plan.  I am also asking for your prayers.  I need them now more than ever, as I am surely facing resistance from the enemy who is trying to defeat God’s plans.  I need protection, wisdom, and discernment every day and I’m counting on you to help intercede for the land, the people, and the projects that are about to begin.  Please continue to take this journey with me as I step forward into the unknown of God’s mission.  I hope you will find it as exciting and awe inspiring as if you were here with me.  Each prayer that goes up from your heart falls as a footstep on the soil of East Africa.  Each of those footsteps is closely surrounding mine as we follow the Lamp unto our feet and the Light unto our path.

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thank God for delays

Keeping up with a blog is more difficult that I thought.  I’m sure you’ve been wondering what I’ve been doing lately.  When things get hectic it’s really challenging to find the time to sit down and type something that makes any sense.  Right now I’m supposed to be on a plane heading home for a visit.  I came to the airport in Entebbe last night to catch my 11:59 PM flight only to find it cancelled due to mechanical problems.  Once I accepted the reality that I’d be leaving 24 hours later than expected, things actually went really smoothly.  I went straight to the Brussels Airlines office and within 15 minutes I was booked on my new flights and headed to a complimentary hotel room nearby.  When I arrived at the hotel, check in took no time at all and I soon found myself in a super nice room that would easily cost a couple hundred dollars if I was in the States.  In Africa, nothing is simple, nothing is quick, and not many things are clean or fancy.  I think God had His hand all over this one. 

I was disappointed to be delayed, but I have thoroughly enjoyed having a day by myself with nobody else around.  I haven’t had a minute like that in SO long.  In a house full of 10 – 15 people every day, it’s rare to get even a moment of peace and quiet.   Things that I need to do that should take 30 minutes take 2 hours and 30 minutes.  Anyone who has been to Africa knows what I mean.  The thing called “African Time” really does exist.  It’s this slow pace of life that sometimes has you feeling like you’re in the twilight zone.  Adding to the disorganization of life in a foreign country is the challenge of transportation.  Back home I had a Jeep I could hop into any time of the day and go anywhere I wanted.  Here, it’s a different story.  If I want to go anywhere I have to wait around on a driver for forever, or hop on the back of a “boda boda” (motorcycle) with an unknown Ugandan man and trust him to get me where I need to go.  Like I said, nothing is really simple here.  So that’s why today is great.  I’m all alone in a place where I don’t have to go anywhere, I don’t have to talk to anyone, and I can just focus on putting my head on straight before I come home for a short visit. 

I’ve had mixed emotions about coming back home.  One day about a month ago I was talking with a lady that was visiting with us from Roanoke.  All of a sudden I just burst into tears thinking about home.  It was totally unexpected, especially since I didn’t really think I missed home.  That’s when I started really looking forward to this visit.  I’m looking forward to hugging my parents.  I’m excited for my best friend’s wedding on Sunday.  I’m ready to visit my partner churches and Bible Study groups and tell them all about the work God is doing in Uganda.  On the other hand, I’m really going to miss my new Ugandan friends and family.  I’ve become really attached to some of these people over the past few months.  

One I’m especially going to miss is Brian.  The kid is really special.  I’ve never been attached to a child in my whole life, so this is a totally new thing for me.  Despite the sadness of leaving him for a month, I couldn’t be happier with the way God worked everything out.  My precious friend Phiona and her husband, Pastor David have opened their home to receive Brian as one of their own.  This couple currently has a few children of their own as well as some adopted children that they rescued from the streets.  Pastor David and Phiona are true servants of the Lord.  They were once street kids themselves, so they have a huge heart for helping children that are in similar situations.  This young couple doesn’t have an easy life, as they have a lot of responsibility in the church and even more at home.  Even though they struggle, they have never once asked me for anything.  They are humble and thankful, and praise the Lord in all situations. 

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(Brian looking a bit annoyed with his grandfather in the village and his new Mama Phiona)

God put Phiona in my life at just the right time.  It was only a few weeks into my new life in Uganda when I met her.  From the beginning I just loved her.  Her sweet spirit brought peace and encouragement into my life.  As we developed a friendship, she was the one who was there for me when Brian was in the hospital.  I relied on her to stay with him during the day when I had to work.  During that time at the hospital Brian and Phiona developed a special bond.   He had been abandoned by all the women in his life, and this one was there to pick up the pieces for him.  She prayed with him, talked with him about Jesus, and just held him when he was sad or afraid.  Even during that time, I think Phiona knew she was supposed to become Brian’s new mom.  It was a while before we finally talked about it and agreed that it was the right thing to do.  God had been planning it from the beginning. 

In the time since we decided Brian would be going to live with Pastor David and Phiona, we had to start working with the local police and government to go through the proper procedures to hand over custody of a child.  One of the things we had to do was go with Brian to visit his family in the village.  We all needed to get the real story of what happened to him.  Without going through all the details, it ended up being a really good visit.  Brian reunited with his grandfather and his aunt, and we could see that at one time the family did actually love him.  Because of circumstances before he ended up in the hospital, the family had pretty much given up on Brian and didn’t want him around. 

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About a year ago the Auntie took him to Nairobi to be with the mother that abandoned him.  The mother, Irene, didn’t want anything to do with him and sent him back to Uganda.  The rejection he felt began to contribute to naughty behaviors.  He began stealing and costing the family a lot of money and stress.  The disabled, alcoholic grandfather wasn’t able to properly deal with Brian, so the family just gave up.  Brian would roam the villages during the day getting into trouble, and at night he would sleep on the front porch of the family house in a little dirty concrete corner.  The next day he would get up and do it all over again.  The community began to get annoyed with him and when he stole food from a shop one day, that’s when he was beaten into the shape he was in when we found him. 

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(The corner on the porch where Brian was sleeping)

During our meeting in the village that day, quite a crowd gathered to hear the story of what happened.  Brian didn’t say a word the whole time, but admitted to Phiona that the things they were saying were true.  He also promised her he would never do those things again.  We believe that God has already helped Brian to change his ways.  As a result of the investigation, the probation officer agrees that there is a really good case that Brian is not safe in his village and would be better off with a family in town that loves him and cares about his future. 

So, this is the end of the story of Brian’s former life, and the beginning of a new story.  It amazes me how many people God has brought into Brian’s life.  Before, he was abandoned and forgotten.  Now he has this huge extended family of people from all over the world who love him and want his future to remain bright.  Sometimes we call him President Brian or Pastor Brian because we know God has big plans for his life.  God’s ways are never easy to understand, but He always has a way of rescuing us from horrible situations and turning them into outcomes of goodness and love.  If those terrible people would not have beaten Brian that day, it’s very likely the kid would still be stealing bicycles and sleeping in that concrete corner every night.  Now, thanks to God’s mercy and a group amazing people, Brian has a warm bed to sleep in, a family to love him, a church that he loves, and a future of possibilities in front of him.  

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Now I am here in a hotel room reflecting on my first four months in Uganda and trying to put all of these feelings and experiences into a package that makes some sense. Then I have to figure out how to bring that package home and share it with everyone who will be asking what I’ve done so far in Africa.  I still wonder: why did God want me to give up my life to come here and what does He want me to do next?   I have to learn to take it one moment and one person at a time and not get to far ahead of the plan, but not fall too far behind.  I know in my heart that even if God sent me here to make a difference in only one person’s life, it would be worth it all.  If the only reason I’m here is to learn to rely on Jesus and grow in my relationship with Him, then everything else is just extra.  Before I came here I just wanted to go somewhere and love God and love people.  It’s easier said than done.  It’s easier hoped for than actually lived out.  To truly love, it cannot be accomplished within ourselves.  The One who is Love must love others through us.  May that be our prayer in all that we do, no matter where we are in the world.  

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give? promise? trust?

In my last post, I wrote about the feeding program for malnourished children.  This week, quite a few new children showed up.  A couple of them were pretty severely malnourished, and a couple of them were quite fine and healthy and didn’t need assistance.  One of the new children was a two year old named Rachel.  A young lady brought Rachel hoping to find someone that could help her.  Rachel isn’t malnourished, but she’s a total orphan.  In Uganda, there are a couple of terms to describe an orphan.  One term is TOTAL orphan, which means both parents have died or both parents are nowhere to be found.  “Orphan” can just mean they have been abandoned by one parent, one parent is dead, or they are living with an auntie or grandmother.

Rachel is a total orphan.  Her mother died recently, so someone brought her to this young lady to take care of.  The lady already has a family of her own that she can barely care for.  The addition of Rachel has put her into a desperate situation.  If she can’t find a way to feed Rachel and her other children, then these children could easily get to the point of being malnourished or worse.  When we see  people suffering, we automatically want to help in that current situation.  In missionary work and humanitarian aid, what we sometimes neglect to address is the underlying cause of the problem.  How did the people get into these situations in the first place?  We should be pro active instead of just reactive.  Prevention can be just as much or more valuable than treatment.  So many factors contribute to people’s suffering.  If we can address the root of the problem, then many of the problems can be prevented from ever happening.

Instead of just putting a Band Aid on the things that are wrong, we aren’t doing a service to the people if we don’t get to the cause of the problem.  There are so many ways to address the cause once it is identified.  The challenge is having the patience, the plan, and the people to carry it out.  The Ugandan people are strong and resourceful, and highly community oriented.  Many of these issues have to be addressed at the community level through education and empowerment.  It’s a collective effort, not an individual project.

Helping people out of their suffering is not an overnight process.  It takes time and it also takes creativity.  It doesn’t take super heroes.  It just takes ordinary people.  Throughout the Bible, God chose ordinary people.  Imperfect people.  Every day I see just how imperfect we are as humans.  Every day I get into situations where I don’t know what to do or say.  I can’t give everyone money who asks me for it.   I can’t make promises that I know I won’t be able to keep.  I can’t trust most people until they have proven themselves to be trust worthy.  Some of the things I deal with on a regular basis come entirely against my nature.  I want to give.  I want to promise.  I want to trust.  If I do all these things freely, I’ll quickly find myself being taken advantage of, misunderstood, or disappointed.   Thankfully I serve a God I can always trust.  A God that will never let me down.  I God that is always honest with me.

So as much as we wanted to help Rachel, we couldn’t right then.  We couldn’t promise that we would help this lady take care of her family and new orphan.  Promising to help would mean a lifetime commitment to this little girl.  Once you give a little to help them get by, you can’t just stop helping before the girl is grown and through school.  Furthermore, giving handouts sometimes only disables the people even more.  It can make them dependent.  You see, it’s a really tough decision to face when you see people suffering.   We need your help in praying for the Lord to give us (and missionaries all across the globe) discernment in every decision.  It’s not easy when someone’s life and future is at stake.

Maybe you’re reading this and God has put it in your heart to be a part of Rachel’s life in some way.  At the very least, maybe you will pray for this precious girl.   Every life is important to Jesus.  May we all follow His words and “care for orphans and widows in their distress” and be advocates for “the least of these”.

Rachel and the young lady that's caring for her.  She was too sleepy to pose for the picture.

Rachel and the young lady that’s caring for her. She was too sleepy to pose for the picture.

My beautiful friend Phiona holding a sleepy Rachel.
My beautiful friend Phiona with baby Rachel.

Wanale Feeding Program

Every Thursday we make an hour trek (in an SUV)  to the top of Wanale Mountain for our feeding program for malnourished children.

Wanale Mountain

Wanale Mountain

There’s a little clinic there that we use to evaluate the children each week.  Angela, our nutritionist weighs each child and measures the circumference of their arms.  The arm circumference puts them in a red, yellow, or green category based on their age.  Some children are given a week’s supply of packets of Plumpy Nut, a peanut butter like substance with high levels of nutrients.  Other children are given a combination of milk powder, baby soya, and g- nuts (similar to peanuts) for their weekly food.   They come back each week to be evaluated again to determine if their condition is improving.  Also, the care givers for the children receive education about malnutrition, health, and hygiene.  Eventually, as the children progress they can be discharged from the program looking and feeling healthy again.

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Weighing and measuring

Weighing and measuring

Milk, Soya, Gnuts

Milk, Soya, Gnuts

Some of the children in the program come with their mothers or grandmothers.  Sadly, there are some that come just with their brother or sister, or even by themselves.   I’ve never seen a dad around.   Many of these children just need love, and in some situations, this clinic is the only time during their week that they experience that love.  Just having someone show up that cares enough about them means so much.  Also, this time during their week is possibly the only opportunity they have to hear that God loves them too.  Each week, Carlos shares a short devotion with the mothers and children who come in to listen.  This is when you see their smiles.  When they hear there is hope, and there is a God that loves them; I believe they are encouraged and blessed by this message.

Singing!

Singing and Praising!

Paul, one of the children that had been in the program for a while was discharged on one of my first visits to Wanale.  When they told him he had finally reached his healthy weight and measurement, he began to cry.  He realized that he wouldn’t be coming back next week, and he was sad.  He had made friends and been cared for by people with compassion.  As I watched Paul walk away from the clinic and up the hill by himself with a box of Plumpy Nut on his head, I couldn’t help but cry too.   Well, the next week Paul came back.  He knew he didn’t need the treatment anymore, but he came just to be there with us.

Paul and Carolina

Paul and Carolina

Not all children improve like Paul.  Some come back week after week and either don’t improve, or get worse.  Some don’t show up for weeks at a time.  In the cases where the children are getting worse, the issue is most likely that the mothers are feeding ALL of the children in their family with one child’s weekly food supply.  If that happens, the local nurse will begin cooking the food and ensuring that the malnourished child is the one receiving it.  In the case that the child doesn’t show up for a couple of weeks, the village health worker will go to the home and even sometimes threaten to report them to the police for not properly caring for their child.

There’s one little family that comes every week.  There are four children and they’re all in the program.  Each week they come by themselves, in the same clothes, without a parent.  There’s another girl who comes alone who is 14 years old.  Her name is Sharon and she’s no taller than a 5 year old and walks with a stick.  Each week Lameka, the village health worker walks home with her and carries her bag of Plumpy Nut for her.  It’s really a group of amazing people that keep this program going.  The dedication of the local health workers, and the partnership of the Kissito staff is key to improving the health of these children.  Just as important,if not for the generosity of the sponsor of this program (the folks at Gentle Shepherd Hospice in Roanoke, VA) many of these kids would have no real hope for treatment.   This program is one of the highlights of my week, and I’m so thankful to be part of bringing HOPE to a hard to reach place.

Thumbs up!

Thumbs up!

Sharon and Maegan

Sharon and Maegan

the real story Part 2

One day while Brian was still at the hospital, Glenn and Carlos went to Brian’s village with the police to visit his grandfather.  This was an important step in the process of getting a plan together for Brian’s future.  The police have given us a letter of approval to keep Brian as he recovers.  From there, steps must be taken in partnership with the village authorities to visit the family and assess the situation that the child comes from.  As Christine had described, the grandfather was an alcoholic, and his grandmother had left long ago.  Brian’s aunt was taking care of the grandfather and had a small baby.  The mother was still in Kenya.  As suspected, the family had little interest in Brian’s well being.  They said they hadn’t seen him in months, and never even made an attempt to find him or report him missing to the police.  They said he was an “unruly” child.  No wonder this kid is so starving for love and attention.

On Wednesday they discharged Brian from the hospital after a couple of days without the tube and eating soft foods.  We were surprised at this decision, but happy to have him back home again.  I’ll admit I was really getting sick of going to that hospital every day.  Even just a few hours of sitting there is exhausting.  I saw a lot of things during the time I spent there, so I know Brian saw so much more.  One day a woman died in the bed just a few feet away.  One day a young man came in covered in blood from a motorcycle accident.  The toilets are only a hole in the ground, so I avoided those as much as possible.  The hospital we were in is actually one of the cleanest and nicest in the area.  Even at that, the wards are open rooms with beds lined up in a row.  Anything that happens is basically in plain view of everyone there.  Family members sleep on the floor or in the bed with the patient.  Needless to say, Brian was a HAPPY kid when they told him he could go home.

A picture Brian took from his point of view laying in a hospital bed

A picture Brian took from his point of view laying in a hospital bed

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More pictures from Brian's point of view

More pictures from Brian’s point of view

The past few days, Brian has been eating a special diet as directed, and has been improving every day.  The doctors said a surgery to bypass the blockage was inevitable.  God is proving them wrong.  We don’t really have any other way to explain it than that.  I think he understands that God is watching over him, and his smile shows us that he knows he is loved.  He has even said he wants to be a pastor when he grows up.  Last night he sang over and over again in his high pitched little voice “I believe in the Father” partly in English and partly in Luguisu.  Who knows how or where he learned the song.  He sang it over and over again while we sat in the dark in the middle of a power outage.  Carolina and I laughed and laughed and Carlos finally asked him to sing another song because it was the longest song he’d ever heard.  It’s moments like that I realize again that I’m where God wants me to be.

Somehow I’ve become a “mother” to an 11 year old African within the first two months of being in Uganda.  I feel kind of like a mean mother because I have to be strict about his eating and I’m continually hovering over him making sure he’s not sneaking food ( I found out today I’ve failed at this because we discovered a pack of cookies in his room).  Being a mother isn’t easy.  Now I understand what a responsibility it is.  Thanks Mom for dedicating your life to raising me!  Thankfully I’ve had Carlos and Carolina here to help me with all of this.  They’ve both worked in orphanages in Venezuela for years and know how to handle children in these types of situations.

Yesterday we thought Brian ran away and normal life stopped as the people in our house and office postponed our duties to go search for him.  For about an hour nobody had seen him and we automatically thought the worst.  We’ve done so much for this kid and now he’s run away… not cool.  Finally we saw Brian walking up the path of our compound with a big smile on his face.  He had come to see what all the commotion was about.  Apparently he had just been in a room with two of our volunteers playing with an Iphone and “supervising” their meeting.  The guards had overlooked the closed door when they were searching for him.  At that point we all just burst into laughter and Brian thought it was hilarious that his disappearance caused such a disturbance.

In Brian’s previous situation, he was gone for a month or more and nobody bothered to look for him.  Now, he has 20 people and a search party out in less than an hour.  God really must love Brian.  Please help us pray for what’s next.  Pray for a good tutor for him so he can learn some things before starting school for the first time next term.  Pray also for a loving and honest Ugandan family to raise him.  Most of all, pray that God will use Brian to love others, just as God loves him.

the real story Part 1

It’s been almost a month since I first wrote about Brian.  There have been many new developments, and the full story is long so I’m breaking it up into two posts.

Brian, an abandoned 11 year old boy claimed his mother poisoned him and left for Kenya.  We met him in the hospital here in Mbale, close to death.  So much has happened since then with this kid.  He was in the hospital for two weeks, had surgery, and then he came to live with us as he recovered.  (Read more in my post titled “Brian’s Story).  We had an open guestroom complete with a twin bed and dinosaur blanket, so it just made sense to give him a safe place to be and the company of loving people.    The first night we brought him home we realized he had never brushed his teeth – ever.  So, we bought him a toothbrush and Sally gave him lessons on what to do.  It was a team effort, as we all took turns giving him his medicine, coloring with him, and tucking him in at night.  It all sounded like a good idea until we realized how hard it actually was to keep up with him.   It actually made it harder to have so many people looking after him, because there wasn’t just ONE “parent” responsible for keeping up with everything.

Sally teaching Brian how to brush his teeth for the first time

Sally teaching Brian how to brush his teeth for the first time

Christine, the nurse who first told us about Brian’s background, is a good friend of Carlos and Carolina’s, and sometimes comes to our house to babysit their daughter Isabella.  One evening she sat with Brian and asked him some questions about his past.  As it turns out, the story about the mother poisoning him wasn’t true.  He had been so hungry that he took a pastry from a village store, and the store keeper kicked him to chase him away, which most likely contributed to the pain he was in when he first went to the hospital.  I think he was probably ashamed to tell the truth because he knew that he shouldn’t have taken the pastry. Or maybe we still don’t know the real story.

As Christine talked more with Brian, she realized that she knew his family.  The grandfather, a drunkard; was the primary guardian.  His distant relatives had threatened him and didn’t care at all about his well – being.  Brian’s mother had been in Kenya for a few years with his little sister.  He never knew the father.  As Brian described his family situation, even though he doesn’t speak English, I could tell from his body language how sad his life had been.  His body was tense as he twisted the stretchy bracelet on his arm tighter and tighter the more his story came out.

From the first day Brian was at our house, we quickly realized that this kid was HUNGRY.  He had been malnourished for a long time, so I think he wanted to make up for all that lost time.  He was eating often, and was happy and smiling, so we were hopeful his recovery was going well.  One afternoon things got a little scary.  Brian’s stomach seemed to grow throughout the day, until by afternoon his belly was extremely distended and he began complaining of stomach pain.   He began to cry and we were all freaked out until the pediatrician that lives with us came and talked him through it.  He had a bad buildup of gases that were causing him an extreme amount of discomfort.

Brian playing with my camera

Brian playing with my camera

 

After things calmed down and we could think straight, it became obvious that we needed one person to be his “mother” and take the responsibility of feeding him and monitoring his eating.  As we began to discuss, and person after person was eliminated as a candidate, it became obvious that I was the person left for the job.  Kind of crazy considering I have NO experience with kids.  Even though we continued to be careful with his diet, Brian had a few more episodes with stomach pain.  The last one was so bad we took him back to the hospital again.  There were three of us there, so I stepped out of the emergency room to get some air and it hit me.  The overwhelming sadness of the situation with this boy had me in tears.  I began to understand what it was like to be a mother and care for a sick child.  I sat in the chair outside the room and listened to him screaming as they put a tube in his nose and into his stomach.

An X Ray and a scan showed that there was a blockage between his stomach and intestines that wasn’t allowing proper digestion of food.  The doctor’s recommendation was another surgery to create a new passage from the stomach to the intestines.   It was time to make a decision and nobody was quite sure what to do.  Due to circumstances beyond our control, the surgeon left early for a few days trip to Kampala, so the only option was to keep Brian in the hospital, wait, and pray.  So that’s what we did.  Many of you have been praying for him, and your prayers are being answered.  It is so obvious how much God loves this boy.  During his time in the hospital, people have been coming out of nowhere to pray over him.  Our cook Phionah stayed with Brian at nights, and my other friend Phiona, stayed with him most of the daytime hours.   The two Phiona’s  have made sacrifices in their own lives to care for a boy they hardly know.     I am continually in awe of the faith, boldness, and selflessness of Ugandan believers.

Brian and Shakim

Brian and Shakim

Phiona brought her son Shakim to the hospital so Brian would have a kid his own age to keep him company.  Shakim followed Brian around all day and insisted that I sit and rest while he looked after the patient.

Story to be continued….

Pray for Brian

Brian was doing good for a few days after his surgery, then he began to have a couple of bad days. He had to go back in the hospital yesterday. Please pray for his healing. We know God has big plans for this boy’s life.

a chance to hear

I’m following up an earlier post about our plans for a Crusade near the Kenya border.  I’m happy to report that the three day event went really well, as many people had the opportunity to hear and receive the Good News of Jesus.  We are thankful for all of your prayers, especially because this area is a really hard place to be.  There is a lot of witchcraft and mixed religions, so in the past it’s been difficult to reach people’s hearts in this village called Lwakhakha.

I’ve actually never attended an evangelistic crusade before, but I’ll admit this was SO much fun!  There was a lot of singing and dancing, and there were tons of kids.  When we arrived each day, even before we stepped out of the vehicle we would be swarmed with kids.  Our hosts would finally get us to a shady spot so we could sit in plastic lawn chairs until it was time to start.  Ugandans are extremely good hosts, and always make sure that their visitors have a special place to sit.  As for me, I’d just rather fit in with the rest of the crowd, but they are honored to have visitors and want to treat them with special respect.

So, we would sit in the plastic lawn chairs and quickly become the evening’s entertainment.  More and more kids would come and stand in front of us, completely content to just stare.  It was like they were watching a movie or something.  We decided we now understand what it’s like to be an animal in the zoo.  Thank God for our Kenyan friend Lindsey who finally got the kids to start singing with us.  While they sang I would scan the faces of the kids in the crowd and try to focus on them as individuals.  Each face is so precious.  I wonder how much heartache is actually hidden behind their smiles.  Life isn’t easy in Uganda, especially for children.  Maybe they don’t know the difference.  Maybe they’re truly happy.  All I know is that I just wanted to pick up every one of them and give them a hug and tell them they are loved.

The precious kids of Lwakhakha

The precious kids of Lwakhakha

The first night of the Crusade we almost didn’t make it because the vehicle we were supposed to take broke down before we left.  At the very last minute, our friend Uthman, volunteered to drive us.  Uthman is our Information Technology expert at Kissito.  He just happened to get back to the office early and heard we needed a ride.  When we got to the site he ended up helping the pastors set up the A/V equipment and then translated for Glenn when he preached the message!  God sent Uthman at just the right time, and He knew exactly the person we needed to help us.  On the way home that night, somebody pulled out in front of us on a bike so we ended up stuck in a ditch in order to avoid a collision.  In the States, that kind of problem will set you back at least an hour or two until the tow truck comes.  In Africa, it’s only a matter of seconds until men start running out from nowhere to help.  I’ve never seen anything like it.  We were out of the ditch in less than 10 minutes and on our way!

Out of the ditch in no time

Out of the ditch in no time

Day 3 of the event was really special.  We started with a Women’s Conference for the ladies, and also a Men’s leadership conference led by Glenn and Carlos.  Sally, Lindsey, LoVorn, Rachel, Carolina and I spent the morning sharing with the ladies, encouraging them, and praying for them.  We ended the conference with the most joyful and spirited singing and dancing I’ve ever seen.  There’s no way to describe church in Africa until you experience it for yourself.  When the rejoicing came to a close, the air was filled with dust inside the little church (unfortunately most village church floors are made of cow dung!).   Despite the poo in the air, it’s times like these that I know I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.  Joy like these women have can only come from trusting in the Lord.

After the conferences and lunch, we started the final evening in a really beautiful way.  Carolina shared her testimony about her daughter Isabella, and then danced a solo in the most beautiful outfit she had put together just for this occasion.  Carolina and Carlos have been parents to the most beautiful Ugandan baby girl for the past 6 months.  Her mother died in childbirth and her father handed her over to Kissito Healthcare in hopes that someone could care for her better than he could.  Carolina had recently been told she couldn’t have a biological child, so Isabella was truly a gift from God.  Despite the odds of the adoption actually going through in court, the judge gave Carlos and Carolina (Venezuelans) full custody of Isabella!  Carolina wanted to dance at the Crusade to show her appreciation for what God had done for their family.  I don’t think the Ugandans had ever seen anything like it.  I hadn’t either.

God did some really awesome things in Lwakhakha and I’m thankful to have been a part of it.  You see, the needs in Uganda are never ending, and it’s very easy to get overwhelmed by the magnitude of those needs.  You can feed people every day, but the next day they’re hungry again.  You can give people new clothes, but eventually they become threadbare.  You can give people money, but the next day they are poor again.   When people have the chance to hear about Jesus, they have the opportunity to choose to gain access to the great Provider.   The treasure found in Him is eternal.

Eager to hear

Eager to hear

*for those of you following Brian’s story, he is improving and eating like crazy!  He even brushed his teeth for the first time.  I will have more to report very soon.

expect great things

As I’ve mentioned, I have a team visiting from my home church in Virginia.  My dear friends Glenn and Sally Clark are full time missionaries based in Roanoke, VA and they’re here with a team of two lovely ladies, LoVorn and Rachel.  I can’t believe they’ve been here for almost a week already!  We’ve experienced so many blessings in a short period of time.  I’m honored to be working with Glenn and Sally, as they have committed to head up the Missions efforts of Kissito Healthcare International.  I’m the full time boots on the ground here in Uganda, and Glenn and Sally will be traveling back and forth about three times per year.  As we work together, our mission is to connect churches in the United States with local Ugandan churches in order to form long term partnerships.  These partnerships will unite people of different origin, race, and culture to spread the gospel while promoting transformational community development.

Already, God has opened up so many doors to connect people and provide a way to begin this work in Uganda and other parts of East Africa.  One example of this is the partnership between New Life Christian Ministries in Roanoke, and Christco Church in Uganda.  Christco’s leader here in Uganda is pastor Benjamin Otim.  Kissito’s president, Tom Clarke, has shared a friendship and partnership with Pastor Otim for a few years now.  Christco operates a private hospital in a village called Butiru, about an hour outside of Mbale Town.  Kissito and Christco Hospital have a long standing relationship, and have recently committed to expanding thanks to this amazing commitment from New Life in Roanoke!

Pastor Otim, Tom, and Peter representing the Kissito and Christco partnership

Pastor Otim, Tom, and Peter representing the Kissito and Christco partnership

Last Friday, Glenn, Rachel and I traveled to Butiru to meet with Pastor Otim and the Board Members of Christco to discuss the vision and partnership.  Our meeting was held behind the hospital in a little open air building with a tin roof and plastic chairs, overlooking eight acres of beautiful land.  As the breeze flowed through our little meeting place, so did the presence of God.  We discussed the way forward, and we all agreed that God is doing big things here.  We have to EXPECT those great things from Him and He will surely deliver, more than we can ever even imagine.  As we shared more details of this common vision, I had a feeling of amazement at how God brings people together from an ocean apart to carry out His mission.  There is no better feeling than to know that somehow you’re part of something greater, something that only God fully understands.

Our meeting spot

Our meeting spot

The vision for this land is simple, yet far reaching.  Kissito is committed to strengthening the operation of the health center, and also incorporating a malnutrition stabilization center for severely malnourished children.  Additionally, through the partnership with New Life, a new church and discipleship center will be built next to the current hospital.  You might ask: “How does healthcare and ministry work together”?  That’s a question that I’ve heard many times in my first month here.  Like the vision, the answer is also simple, yet far reaching.  Pastor Otim shared a verse from way back in the Old Testament which states it very clearly.  Exodus 15:26 says:  “…for I am the Lord who heals you”.   So the vision for this project is that people, families, and communities will be transformed both physically and spiritually through the marriage of healthcare and discipleship.  All throughout the New Testament, it is made clear that Jesus met people’s physical needs time after time, having compassion on the sick, the needy and the oppressed.  As followers of Jesus, we are called to imitate Him in our actions.

As God brings people together to carry out the vision for this project, lives will be saved, the connection with the community will be strengthened, disciples will be made, and people’s lives will be enriched by the gospel as it spreads from near, far, and to the ends of the earth!  As our group looked out over the land, we could envision the possibilities; see the flurry of activity as people come together to build, teach, strengthen, and encourage.  There are SO many opportunities for people to get involved.  Maybe you’d like to get involved too!  The needs here in Uganda are great, but the Ugandan people have a willingness for change and development.  They just need someone to help them utilize their resources, expand their skills and knowledge, encourage them, and most of all LOVE them.  Maybe you would be willing to be a part of it!

Boys in Butiru- could they be Uganda's future doctors or pastors?

Boys in Butiru- could they be Uganda’s future doctors or pastors?

Glenn explains it best when he tells the story of Noah.  What if Noah hadn’t been obedient to do something crazy like build the Ark?  All of humanity would have been destroyed by the flood.  It only takes ONE person to make a difference.  YOU are that ONE person.  We are the people that God uses to carry out His mission.  Otherwise, who else is going to do it?  Check out this video from New Life explaining more about the challenges in Africa and the vision for this new project in Butiru!

New Life Uganda Project

Update on Brian

Thank you all for your prayers and for following Brian’s story. There’s good news to report. Brian had surgery two days ago and today is continuing to improve. He had some serious infection and a hole in his intestine from the poison that was in his system. It’s quite a miracle that he made it so long before even having surgery. Brian has new visitors each day as more people hear about his story. An “angel” even paid for the surgery and bought him some comfortable clothes for his recovery. Five more days in the hospital, and then Brian will need to go to a home where he can be cared for as he regains his health and strength. Please be praying that we can identify a trustworthy relative or a loving family for Brian to stay with as he recovers. An orphanage is not an ideal place for a child here in Uganda, but we will have to look at all the options and help the authorities choose the best one for his well being. There’s no doubt God has big plans for this boy’s life. Thank you for being a part of it through prayer!