Saturday, June 30, 2012

Home again!

Thanks for all the prayers! We made it home about 7 last night to LOtS of hugs and kisses! :-). Robert and I had a great night's sleep back in our own beds and are enjoying a family day today!

We truly appreciate all the love, encouragement, and prayers! We feel like you were all with us, so if you're feeling a little jet lagged today, it's understandable! ;-)

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


In Sunday School, we often talk about what it means to behave differently in your work life than your home life and/or church life, and typically I don't say much because I am fortunate that my "work" life is my home life. The people I come into contact with on a daily basis are women and children, and most of them come to me expecting me to behave like a Christian.

It occurred to me tonight, while I was discussing with God how hard it always is for me to leave Africa, that I might behave differently in my ministry life and my home life. In Africa, my days are open to what He has to show me. I am talking to Him constantly about what I am seeing or doing, and most importantly, I am always looking for the person He would have me minister to. In America, while I start my day asking God what He has in mind, and try to leave room for Him to arrange my day, the truth is that the holes are much smaller in my schedule. In the busy-ness of what I think I need to accomplish, am I missing the people He would have me minister to because it is inconvenient or "messy?". Here, I'm totally willing to get absolutely grossly messy to do His work. Why not in the States? Am I willing to love on someone He has put in my path if it messes up my plans, my clothes, my "normal?"

Sunday School friends, thanks for being patient with me as I've been kind of slow at getting this thing that you've all been wrestling with for awhile. I want to be the same person everywhere--- in Africa, in my home, at HEB--- everywhere. And I'm pretty sure I'd like to be my African self! ;-)


Play is the essence of childhood. I believe it's a requirement for proper growth and development. We chose the preschools our children attended because they were play-based.

In Uganda I have seen children who don't have time to play. I met a father named Frank who is 19 and has a 5 year old son. We see 6 year olds caring for babies. Seventh graders here attend school 7 days a week. This is why I LOVE to see children in Uganda have the chance to play.

Today at the clinic (our last day at Elevare), we shared soccer balls and frisbees and baby dolls. We blew up balloons and pushed kids on swings. They played! Many of them were repeat visitors to the clinic, and there was a group of boys waiting for Robert to get out his lacrosse sticks today. We even had a boy who we treated yesterday for a broken arm and an infected leg there to play lacrosse with his good arm! ;-)

Robert and Diamond and I went to the orphanage to pick up Ms Agnes, her helper Jen, the head teacher Suzanne, and Grace and Patricia to come to the clinic to see the dentist. Grace and Patricia were VERY nervous, but gladly played with Barbies (we showed them how to braid their hair... Next year I'll bring black Barbies...) and held our hands as they got teeth pulled and brushed with fluoride. It was a gift to me to be able to hold sweet Grace's hand while she got her dental work done, then play with her a bit, and take her back home to curl up in her bed.

Robert and I are all packed (not much to pack since we leave it all here!) and ready to fly out tomorrow night. We are sad to leave Uganda and anxious to see our family!!

Today is Keith's and my anniversary, and I am so grateful to be married to a man who lets me follow my calling and is a fantastic father to our kids!!!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


Today was another good day at the clinic. We were back at Elevare, and for the first time that I can remember in four years of doing these clinics, we came to the end of the line! Praise God!

Robert helped bandage the leg of a boy who had an abscess on Sunday. He came back yesterday and found Robert to check it for him, and was back again today... Supposedly for a wound check, but it turns out he's a pretty good lacrosse player! ;-).

We had a Ugandan lady named Agatha Christie (for real), who I met on the street in Jinja while shopping last week, who turned out to be a lifelong friend of Agnes' (small, small world!), come visit the clinic because we had told her we'd be there. It was great to see her again. She stopped by the hotel yesterday because Agnes was going to be there to meet with me, so I've attached a picture of the three of us!

At the end of our day, Robert came to find me because he was so excited. There was man we met last year at this same clinic who none of us will ever forget. He has elephantitis in his feet, and a fungus that is literally eating away his feet. Last year, the Soles for the Savior guys, in the truest act of servanthood I've seen, lovingly washed, bandaged, and prayed over his feet, then gave him a pair of shoes. He heard we were going to be there today, and he walked back to the clinic to see us and get his feet cleaned again. What a wonderful thing to feel like we are establishing relationships.

Robert got to go up to the orphanage homes at the site today. They are so nice, and while he was there, he was grateful to get to see the place where Baby Moses is buried on the property.

Today some of our leadership went to visit Renee from Serving His Children. She is the girl who took in Baby Moses last year, and she was excited to have them return to ask how we could help them.

Tonight two of our doctors and one of our Ugandan nurse friends went to the hospital to see Ojuko and check on him and his family.

I spent the day deworming children and adults, and Robert had some good Cradling for Christ time with the kids waiting to see the doctor. By mid-afternoon, he was showing some of them how to guard and fight for the ball, and they had a blast playing together.

God showed me several years ago that He is all about relationships. That's how He ministers to us, and that's how He desires us to minister to each other. Mzungus (white people) have a bad name in many parts of Africa because they come and take pictures and leave, offering no follow up. By returning to the same places and seeing some of the same people year after year, we are proving to be different than the stereotype. We are showing that we are interested in more than a photo op, and that we care in the way God cares. You may remember that this village has a strong Muslim population, and is the place where last year Robert got bitten by ants that were planted by the village witch doctor. We have seen several people this week who believe that many of their problems are the result of a curse by the witch doctor. We have prayed with many people this week, and have had several decisions for Christ. We are connecting these people with the local pastor and church so that they can be discipled.

Relationship. Working alongside our neighbors. Follow up. Revisiting. It's how we say, "Jesus sees you and loves you."

Monday, June 25, 2012


There is a little boy in Uganda who needs your prayers. Ojuko is a 12 year old boy who was the first patient Dr Jess and I saw in the clinic this morning. He limped and walked with a walking stick and was in great pain. His right leg was very swollen and draining from an open sore. It looked REALLY bad. His mom said it started about 3 weeks ago. They had taken him to a local "clinic" where they just kept giving him Tylenol.

The minute Dr. Jess looked at him, she knew the infection was probably in his bone. The only way to tell would be to take him to a hospital for an X-ray. The mom said that she had to go home and ask the dad if it was ok for us to take him, so the poor child stayed with us at the clinic because he couldn't walk, and we gave him a shot of strong antibiotics, some pain meds, lots of love, and 14 stickers (I know because he and I counted them together several times!) They seemed to work because we had a smile right before his father came back to go with him to the hospital.

Hospitals here are free, but you have to have an adult staying with the patient, and you have to provide all the food (including for the patient), and the medicines. (you can buy them from the hospital pharmacy or get them cheaper at a local pharmacy-- everything is over the counter here-- you just have to be able to get there and pay for it.). An X-ray confirmed that our doctors were right and that the infection was in his bone. They transferred him to Jinja hospital to be admitted and put on an iv antibiotic, and on Wednesday will send him to the hospital in Kampala where they will do surgery to try to cut out the infected part of his bone and drain and clean the wound.

Please pray for this child and his family. They have a long road ahead of them. We are planning to leave them with money to cover all hospital costs, and the pastor here has agreed to follow up with this child for us.

Had this kiddo not come to the clinic today, he would not likely make it because the infection was metastatic, which means it would soon move to his bloodstream and heart or brain. Please pray that he gets the proper care at both hospitals and at home afterward. Pray that his family will feel the love of Jesus and the provision of God through this. Please pray for complete healing for Ojuko. He is absolutely precious. God has big plans for him, I know.

Pray too for the people all over the world who are injured or sick who weren't fortunate enough to have a medical team come to their village today.

We have a team member whose wife had emergency surgery after he arrived, and another whose father had a stroke today. These are the times when we really feel the distance from our families, and I am grateful for all of your prayers and emails of encouragement.

Sometimes, because of distance, circumstances, and our own inadequacy, the only thing we can do for someone is pray for them. Always we need to remember that prayer is not "all" we can do, it's the best we can give someone, and is truly a gift.

Thank you for covering a little boy you'll likely never meet this side of heaven in prayer.

Sunday, June 24, 2012


Robert turned 13 today! (8 hours sooner than he would have in America!) ;-).

This morning he was pretty homesick when I gave him all the cards his dad and brother and sisters had made for him. We went to church, and the whole church sang Happy Birthday to him! He said later, "that was the best harmony I've ever heard on the birthday song!" I suggested that perhaps I'd never be able to compete with an African gospel choir singing!

We helped the medical team in a clinic today at the place where we found Baby Moses last year. Baby Moses is now buried on the property, and will always be remembered as the first orphan at the orphanage that is being built on that property.

I was amazed at how the property looks now compared to four years ago just after it was purchased. They already have 16 children living there... 8 to a house with a house mother. They have just completed work on two more houses, so they'll be adding children soon! The ultimate goal is 200 orphans! Such a blessing! Metropolitan Baptist Church in Houston is the founding and supporting church for this orphanage. A team was there a month ago building a fantastic new playground for the children, and I have been told that the church is hoping to begin sending teams once a month so that there are always people there loving on and supporting the children at the orphanage. Wow. I visited briefly with the woman in charge of all the homes for the children at the orphanage, and am hoping to have more time to talk with her and find out how they plan to handle transitioning teenagers/young adults out of the orphanage in order to gain more insight about how to help Ms Agnes.

At the clinic I got to assist one of the doctors, and we saw mostly children... A dream! I need to tell you that God truly gives me the desires of my heart. This week I have gotten to be teacher and doctor in Africa... The things I have always felt called to and passionate about!

Robert asked to help with wound care
today, and I was shocked! I love that he was willing to try something new, and when he came and found me a couple of hours later, he was talking excitedly about abscesses and stitches, etc!! ;-). He may have some of me in him after all!

Last week after church, I talked about how restful it is to gather with your church family. This week, I will say again... If I could do African church all the time, I'd be sooooo happy!!!! ;-). We were visiting with a woman who came from the church to translate for us at the clinic and we said, "we don't dance in church.". She was SHOCKED and said, "don't dance???!! What do you do to praise the Lord??!!". I have video that I can't wait to show you! I can't get it on my blog, but I've attached a picture. During one song that was apparently about going into the world, all the people PIcKED UP THeIR CHAIRS and began dancing around the church conga line style holding the chairs over their heads!
It occurred to me yesterday during church (as I watched everyone wipe sweat from their faces 3 minutes into the hour long praise portion) that people in Africa give their ALL to church. They bring everything... Their best clothes, their most energy, their money... All of it dedicated to the One they believe deserves nothing but their best. They dance forward to give their offerings each week, praising the Lord all the way. They give everything to God, but go away refreshed. It's one of those upside down mysteries of the Gospel. We have much to celebrate every time we go to church. I believe that if we bring our best, we'll leave feeling our best.

It was a fantastic day with much to celebrate. I am so excited about what I see God doing in Robert's life, and pray that he will continue to grow in his relationship with the Lord, always listening to where God is calling, and always ready to obey. On the plane on the way here, at one point he was asleep with his head on my shoulder and the flight attendant came by and asked if he wanted a drink. He woke up and said, "apple juice please" and suddenly he was 2 years old again. I got all teary thinking about my baby being old enough to turn 13 in Africa. I was reading Kisses from Katie and had been telling him in the van on the way to the airport that I always thought that's what I would do after college... Just move to Africa...but God had other, better plans for me. As if he had read my thoughts, a few hours after the apple juice incident, he said, "Mom, do you know why you had to wait to come to Africa? So I could come too." I couldn't be more grateful to God for always knowing the best plan.

Robert, happy birthday!!! I'm so incredibly proud of you, and I can't wait to see what your next 13 years bring...

Saturday, June 23, 2012


God gave me the word again today. It may strike you as depressing, but it's what we felt today.

This morning, when our team arrived to set up the medical clinic, there was a father there with his 9 year old son. They had slept there overnight because he wanted to see the dr today. Robert and I were not there, but were told by the doctor that the boy had sickle cell and was in very critical condition. He was in congestive heart failure. They brought them in first and upon examination, (one of our drs is a pediatric ICU doctor) told him they needed to get him to a hospital ASAP. The father then told them that they had been at the hospital, but he didn't trust the hospital so he had taken his son out of the hospital to come and wait for our doctors. Praying all the way, they got this child back to the hospital, where he only lived a few more hours. Some of our team were able to minister to his family at their home in their grief, but the anguish we felt at knowing how small we really are, and the thought that someone had thought that we were that able to save their son was overwhelming. So far our medical team has seen about 3,000 patients. Every time they leave a clinic, there are more people who could not be treated.

Today Amanda said to me as we were driving back, "when you look at a map of Africa, Uganda is so small." It's true. We see such great need here and are overwhelmed by the small sample space this represents. The task seems insurmountable.

At Agnes' this year, we have been talking about our concerns about Ms Agnes' increased age and ability to continue to care for 40 children, about our concerns with how to handle transitioning the older students out of secondary school and into what God has in store for their future, and about how hard it is to oversee something from thousands of miles away.

Today some of the girls on our team sat down with Agnes and all her girls older than 11. We talked to them about growing up as a woman, shared with them the importance of God's plan of abstinence, and prayed with them. As I looked into their eyes, I wondered how they will make it without families and tribes as they try to become adults. Who will want to marry them? Will it be what's best? Will they be able to wait until they are older than teenagers to start families? Will they have the everlasting knowledge that God loves them?

We have talked this week about the starfish story... And Robert has reminded me, "it made a difference to that one." Still, when surrounded by the need, you can start to feel that the the task is too great, and we are too small.

Then God whispers, "it IS an impossible task for you. That's where I come in. I am not asking you to save all of Africa, or even all of Uganda, or even all of Ms Agnes' children. I am asking you to 'go where I send thee.'

When we start to feel there is no way, we remember the One who is THE WAY. When we are discouraged that we can't heal all the sick, we point them to the ONE TRUE HEALER. When we can't see what lies ahead for these teenagers at Agnes', we remember that God KNOWS THE PLANS HE HAS FOR THEM.

Of course the task is insurmountable. If we could handle it, we wouldn't need God. He does his greatest work with insurmountable odds. I have decided that this is where I like to be spiritually... In a place where the soil is ripe for miracles, and where I am so reminded of my own inadequacies that I can do nothing but rely on Him.

Friday, June 22, 2012


I think if I spent the majority of my life with a child in my lap and a book in our hands, I would be happy.

Today we delivered books which had been donated to us to the school at Ms Agnes'. The children (and teachers!) were soooooooo excited! The school currently only has a few Bible storybooks, so the children don't usually get to hear books read aloud. This means, of course, that they rarely if ever get to hold a book.

We started by going into each classroom, calling the children out of their desks to the floor, and reading aloud to them as a class. Then we took children one at a time outside of the class to read with them.

I worked with the preschool/ kindergarten aged children and I can say that the perfect word was "delight. " They wanted to look at all the brightly colored pictures and turn all the pages. They pointed and named the animals in the books. We had a third grade teacher with us today and she worked in the P3 (3rd grade) class. She gave each child a book to sit and read for awhile, and they were amazed! Their schoolwork is all copied into a composition book, so obviously they can read, but to experience STORIES and pictures was simply incredible.

We spent all morning reading with the children. I could have stayed forever! God gave me a little gift, though, because as we wrapped up to go serve lunch, the P1 teacher had gathered the children back on the floor and was reading aloud to them!!! Our small investment will pay HUGE rewards for these precious children.

If you are a book lover and have shelves full of books at your house as we do, just imagine not having ANY. To me that would be a different form of starvation. Now these children are fed.

The remainder of our team arrived yesterday and we are excited about what is left! We will spend this weekend at the orphanage because we can work with and love on all of the children there when they are not in school.

Thank you for your continued prayers, and for helping us feed these children physically, spiritually, emotionally, and mentally!

Thursday, June 21, 2012


I love children. I love teaching them, hugging them, wiping their tears, sharing their smiles, and seeing them play.

Every year we take soccer balls to the children here so they will have something to play with. You saw on the blog a few days ago their old soccer ball, which was made of plastic bags tied together. The truth is that they play so hard with their one or two soccer balls day in and day out that they wear them out each year before we arrive with new ones! This year Robert brought them lacrosse sticks, and every day at 10:30, when it's time for recess/PE, the kids run to grab sticks to play lacrosse! I'm not sure who looks forward to it more-- Agnes' children or mine! ;-).

Today we arranged with the teachers to have some time in the classrooms with the children doing art. Currently, their art education consists of the teachers drawing a basic object on the board, and the children copying it. They are graded on how perfectly their drawing (of a cup or chair, etc) matches the example. We went in today armed with LOTS of donated art supplies ready to have some fun! First of all, we took water colors, and not only had they never painted before, but the idea of using water for paint was such fun for them! We showed the how the paints worked, gave them some paper, and said, "paint whatever you want to!". And they didn't move. They stared at us. Paralyzed.

They've never had the freedom to just draw and create. Even when we've sent supplies before, they have used them for their schoolwork. This was different, and we were determined to free them from this state. At first, they began drawing for us the things they had been taught: cup, chair, etc. We praised them every time paint or colored pencil hit paper! Then it happened... One child drew US... A van full of smiling (white!) faces. They all giggled and we began to see them loosen up a bit... Through their art! I was telling a teammate today that I have a total fascination with children's art-- how it progresses, how they value the process, what it shows about them, etc. To see children, some of whom are 11 years old, experience free art for the first time was a complete wonder for me! Eventually, we got some amazing self-portraits (my favorite type of children's art!). Here is what's incredible: our children see themselves all the time. There are mirrors all over our homes. We even buy mirrored toys for our babies. We take pictures of them constantly and frame them. Every time they walk past a window they have the chance to examine themselves. These children have none of those things. Aside from the pictures we take and show them, they honestly don't know what they look like. This means that their self portraits are true treasures because they show what they IMaGINE that they look like. I have only roughly 8,000 pictures from today, and I can't wait to show you! Stay tuned for our plans for the art that didn't get hung up in their classrooms with great pride!

We also finished praying over the beds at the orphanage today. It is incredibly emotional, as I love each of those children like my own, and am so moved to hear and see others praying for them, and to spend time begging God to watch over them, and letting Him lead my heart to specific prayers for each child.

I also got to kneel by Jen's bed and pray with her. A woman with my same name, likely my same age, born to almost polar opposite circumstances than my own. Powerful. Why did God choose me to be the one born in America to a loving family in a home with clean running water? Have I made him glad He did?

Children need to play. Not with expensive games or toys, but with lots of creative freedom. Whether they are inventing new rules for a "football" game, or drawing, they need the time and resources to do it.

Today we let the children at Agnes' Children's Care and Primary School BE children. Praise God for caring enough about the little things (and little ones) to make that possible.