Thursday, July 31, 2014

Broken - part 2

To say that God has spoken a message to me during this trip would be an understatement. He has not done it in the way I had hoped-- by handling all my administrative tasks with clear direction and efficiency, but he has ministered to me about the spiritual side of things, proving once again my point that I honestly think I gain more from my trips here than I give. 

The first thing I posted here was about brokenness and finding things broken when you didn't want them to be. Since then, through the email of a friend, my readings,  the blog of an organization here that we just met, Bible verses, and talking to others here, God has brought up the word "broken" enough times that it would be almost comical if I weren't so in awe of it. 

The clear message is this: broken does not mean "finished" to God. Perhaps it's an American way of thinking-- throw it out and start over with newer/better. Perhaps it's my desire to not always be in the mess (I prefer the fairy tale version of things). I know clearly now, though, that God is very much with the broken, and in the broken places. In fact, I even know that He prefers to break me open, to reshape me if needed, or pour me out like perfume at Jesus' feet. 

One of the things he showed me this week  was something that said, "not broken, just scarred."  This is where we are now in our ministry. We have seen some things that need to be addressed. This does not (at least not yet) mean the end of the road. It means that there may be a painful process of rebuilding the broken places, but God is pretty much the expert at that. 

Robert and Kaitlynn have done a good bit of wound care at the clinics this week.

 One of the things we see a lot here are jiggers. They are little sand fleas that lay eggs under the skin of your feet. Their larvae have to be removed, and are painful. Many many many African children have jiggers. Robert and Kaitlynn worked on one little boy's feet for four hours straight the other day. He cried, I'm pretty sure they did too, and they were completely exhausted at the end of that day. They could have chosen to wash his feet, put bandaids on them, and say they would pray for him. They didn't, though. They had seen him the day before at the clinic, examined his feet, realized they were in over their heads, and asked him to come back the next day. They then came back to the hotel and spoke to the medical team and to Africans who know how to remove them. They also watched several YouTube videos and even did some research to be sure they were jiggers and not bot flies, which require a different approach. They got the help of another team member (an Aggie!), and during the process, they had an African watching and showing them "a better way."

  Was the process painful?  Yes. Exhausting?  Yes. Long?  Yes. Draining?  Yes. Did they want to quit and have it not be their problem anymore?  Absolutely. 

But then they looked into the eyes of the person they were helping. The person for whom it was also painful and exhausting and tiresome, and they kept going.  They had to. They were brought here for this purpose. 

These faces:

These faces are the reason that I cannot put a bandaid on a problem and pray that someone else will help. Will it be long?  Yes. Exhausting?  Yes. Painful?  Possibly beyond what I can bear. 

But I will handle it in the way God has shown me this week.  I will consider it broken, but not let that mean finished. I will seek wise counsel. I will do research. I will prepare myself for the task at hand. I will be willing to wade through the mess. I will be ever so grateful that I am not alone in this process, because others care about these faces too. I will allow God to use me as He fixes this. I will remember that I CAN'T, so I will not say things like, "I can't."  I will say things like, "God is The Way.  He binds up the brokenhearted."  I will remember that often, when God is done binding, things look and feel differently than they did before. I will trust him with this. 

Until God closes a door here, I will be here. It will not always be success stories and great pictures. It will sometimes be messy and exhausting and frustrating  and heart breaking.  I will sometimes want to quit, but I will recognize that doesn't mean I should. And I will wait, expectantly, for the glory God has on the other side. 

I love every one of you for praying with me and for me during this trip. Please continue to lift up these precious children and trust with me that God has this. 

We head home this afternoon, so are excited to see our family, but still a bit weepy from the goodbyes here. 

There is so much more about our trip, and I will continue to post as I sort through it!  There are new ministries and new friends I want to introduce to you, pictures worth a thousand words, and stories that will make you laugh and cry. 

See you stateside!  

Wednesday, July 30, 2014


It's true that helping a woman helps a lot of people. 

Here are five examples:

Prossy-- the woman I shared about yesterday. Changing her world means changing that of eight children also. 

And this is Hilder:
Hilder is 67. She had her first child at 14-- the result of being raped on the way to get water at the well. Now Hilder cares for grandchildren and great-grandchildren in her two room home. She also sells traditional African clothing and makes woven purses. She believes in Jesus 100%, and shared with us a couple of stories about trusting him to heal her children and grandchildren. She even preached to us about having faith!  

Then there is Jane-- the complete rockstar. 
Jane's leg is in a brace-- the effects of polio. She also is HIV+ and has skin cancer on the affected leg. Jane has 3 children and is a widow. Jane has every reason to let other people serve her, but instead, she works to support her family:  
Raising chickens and selling eggs, making and selling beads and dolls, selling spices and other food products in her home store. Jane is also in a savings group, so she takes some savings there each month, and earns interest (5%!) on her money. Money is then available if she needs it for medical care, etc.  Jane was in a group for people with disabilities, but then realized that there were separate groups for lame people and people with HIV, so she started her own group for people who are HIV+ and have disabilities. She is the founder and chairwoman of this group. The group goes out in the community, drumming and singing to draw a crowd. You might expect that then they are hoping to get money to help themselves, but instead, they serve. They take drs with them on these visits, and offer to test everyone in the crowd for HIV. If someone turns up positive, they are invited into the group, counseled, and encouraged to get on the medicines that can help. Oh, and did I mention that Jane is also working this hard to see that her oldest daughter, Innocent, is able to continue at the university ($1,000/semester)?!  No pity parties here. Jane is changing zthe world for so many people!!!

This is Peruth:
Peruth owns a three room house and cares for her children (those still at home), a couple of infant grandchildren, and her mother-in-law. It is rare in Uganda for a mother-in-law and daughter-in-law to have a good relationship, and yet here is Peruth - not simply tolerating the mother of the man who left them, but loving her, and letting her live in her home. Peruth has a restaurant near the road. 

She cooks three meals a day, and people come in, buy the food, sit at the table, and eat. Her business has suffered this month because it was Ramadan, so the Muslims were fasting, but she didn't give up. She began also selling charcoal and veggies to make up the difference. Peruth is a worker. She's proud of her store, and excited about the support she's gotten to expand the offerings at her restaurant. 

Lastly, this is Sarah: 

Sarah has a husband who only stops in occasionally. She also has a very sick 88 year old mother, who she cares for during the day at her sister's home. Sarah is the women's leader for her church, and she is the one who first helped Prossy when her troubles began. Sarah owns her own refrigerator (no small thing!) and sells bags of cold water and juice from her home.
She also sells dresses she makes, and beads and bark cloth purses. 

These women made me ask myself this:  What are you pushing yourself beyond excuses to do for your family and for others today???

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


This is what makes me wish I could shop at the market all the time. All these fresh, local foods, and no pesticides!  

And then there is this part of the market...
Literally a dumping ground for all the clothes every missionary has ever paid extra to carry over in their luggage. Seriously. Old youth group shirts, baby clothes....It's crazy.

It has made me realize the truly small value of the "stuff" we bring over. For the past two years, we have not brought clothes to Agnes' orphanage. When people ask me why, I reply with this:  "if I were to lose everything I owned in a fire, and my African friends gathered up some of their clothes to send me, I would be touched and grateful, but I would still feel silly wearing my African clothes in Dripping Springs."  This is what happened to Agnes' kids when we brought sparkly shoes and skorts. We took pictures and thought they looked adorable, but in truth, they ended up just wearing their school uniforms. 

Sigh. What's the answer?  I don't know. Now we bring vitamins and we pay for things they really need, like firewood and school shoes. The children of our church raised money (a lot!) for school uniforms (pictures coming soon!!), which blessed the lady who sold us entire bolts of fabric, the sweet tailor who sewed that many uniforms, and the children. 

SO. (In Uganda, this is how it works. They say, "so."  It is an entire sentence, and they don't follow it with anything.)

I had typed all of that into the blog last night, but had not finished the post. Apparently, that was God's doing, because He wanted to show me something first. 

Today I spent the day with God is Grace, a fantastic ministry run by Kelly Green's wife, Beth.  In a nutshell, this ministry provides one year sponsorships for women while they learn to support their families. 

Meet Prossy.  

Prossy has eight children (there were nine, but the youngest recently passed away.) She lives, with her children, in a room that cannot be more then 7 ft x 5 ft. They share this room with one piece of furniture that holds everything they own, and two chairs. There is not room for two people to lay down in there, much less nine. We ask how they sleep, and she explained that they sleep sitting in the chairs, etc. We are not talking about not having comfy beds. We are talking about no way to ever lay down flat... Even on a dirt floor, which is currently a mud floor because it's the rainy season. 

Prossy and hervhusband built a house, but then his parents took it and kicked them out. Then they moved and built this house:
It is very nice. Once it was built, her husband got a new wife, sold the house, and left her and their children in this room...
Prossy has not given up under the weight of all of this. She received a pig from God is Grace, and a friend is letting her keep the pig at her (the friend's) place. She also received wood from her pastor, and used it to build this kiosk, in order to sell things...
She had the kiosk "at the road" where the shopping happens, but the owner of the "strip" was jealous, and told her she had to pay 100,000 Uganda shillings in order to stay. ($40) This was, of course, out of her reach, so she brought the kiosk to her home and sells to her neighbors. While everyone was amazed at her resilience and perseverance, the God is Grace ladies from here in Uganda began to counsel her that she would be wise to sell things that are non- perishable. One of them even suggested that there was no one in this village selling second-hand clothes, and that this would be a good business for her. 

Once I removed the knife of conviction from my self-righteous little heart, I was able to whisper, "we could get her started with the clothes we leave!"  She clapped and cheered at the help she is receiving from GiG, because it is keeping her family alive. 

And there it is... Something I thought was silly and useless (and was willing to publicly judge) turned out to be a potentially huge blessing for Prossy and her family. 

God is faithful with our stuff. All of it. I want to be more open to letting Him show me exactly what He intends to do with it!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

A Good Sport

There was only one day I liked P.E.  It was that time the teacher said, "I have grading to do. You don't have to suit out, just use this time to study."

I'm fairly certain that God wired me in such a way that I am incapable of feeling the adrenaline rush or "runner's high" that others speak of.  

I am also fairly risk-averse, which means I don't like to try many things which might hurt me (including standing in the way of an oncoming ball.)

This explains why I amazes me to see so many children excited about using their free time to: sweat, do something that is new and perhaps uncomfortable for them, and throw their entire bodies into it. 

On Thursday, Robert led a 2 1/2 hr lacrosse clinc for 100 middle school students at the school at Pastor Henry's church. It is their final exam time for this term, and they were free from 11-2 between exams. Let me say that again: this was not their P. E.  This was their free time!  They were so excited about this new game equipment that even the teachers came (during their break!!!). 
He showed them a picture of the Ugandan National Lacrosse team and they were amazed. When he told them about the Crane's two victories, they cheered. Then he asked for volunteers. The girls and the boys all wanted to try. The teachers wanted in too, so they formed their own team!  
No need for shirts vs skins... This was uniforms vs suits!
I wish I could attach a video ( it has been raining here, and the wifi is tricky!) so that you could hear 100 kids laughing and shouting and cheering with delight. 

By now, one of the teachers, Joseph, was all over it. He ran to get a whistle and began refereeing. 

And then the rest of the students (grades 1-5) came over. The ones who stayed inside were hanging out the windows. 

They all had an incredible time!  Robert even let the little kids line up for a turn!  
They gave up free time to try something new. They released stress from exams. They laughed and played with each other and their teachers. They connected with a boy from America. And they were inspired. Many of them picked up the game quickly, and one of the teachers said to me, "who knows?  You may be looking at some players for the next world championships for Team Uganda!"  

Fun. Day. 

Through another connection Robert made to an American family who has been living here in Jinja for 9 years, he was invited to do another clinic this morning.  There is, literally about 200 yards from our hotel, a home for 14 street children.  They are all boys, ages 11-17. A perfect crowd!  
Once again, the adults had a blast too!  The man in red is Fred, the "uncle" of the home. 
We brought our new friend Ryan, who is a soccer player. After awhile of lacrosse (he was a trooper as goalie!), he was able to connect with some of the kids by playing their game. 

So grateful for this opportunity to be in the lives of some boys who are desperate for male friendship, and to have another place to visit when we come here!  

Sports is making this happen. Yes, sweat and balls flying at you is apparently a great way to make new friends and begin to open doors to share Jesus!  

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Working for...

Meet Rogers. 
Rogers is the prison dentist we met four years ago during a visit to the prison. (A visit which, I should tell you, was one of my most fearful African experiences. We walked inside a huge, thick door, and the guards locked it and took our passports. I just kept saying, "You don't understand. I'm not called to prison ministry!" ). 
Rogers is still the dentist at the prison. He  comes out each summer to be our dentist for our clinics.  Upon working with him four years ago, our American dentists proclaimed him among the best-- even in America. I enjoy working with him, and especially seeing how kind he is to the children he works with. At clinics like this, we primarily do tooth extractions because there are not follow-ups. Rogers tells us he would prefer to try to save the teeth, but cannot do that in a clinic environment. Over the years, we have "hooked Rogers up."  He has a portable chair, equipment powered by electricity, and plenty of tools and medicines. 

He does, however, still have to improvise!  

That pressure cooker on a propane tank is how we sterilize the dental tools. (A huge step up from cleaning them in our hotel showers like we used to!). 

Contrary to photographic evidence, I worked hard today as Rogers' assistant. We even removed an impacted wisdom tooth--- the same procedure I had done about six weeks ago!  Tough. I worked hard to be brave for the sweet girl who was having it done!  

Robert and Kaitlynn counted out pills for the pharmacy this morning. 

When the clinic started, Robert was in charge of wound care. I was a nervous mama, but he has a lot of experience and is really pretty good at it!  

Once all the wound care patients were seen, he went with Pastor Matthias to get bananas-- for EVERYONE at the clinic!  

By the end of the day, he was doing his favorite thing... Entertaining the clinic kids by teaching them lacrosse!  

There is a sign at the front of Pastor Matthias' church, where we did today's clinic:  "we labor for God's Kingdom."  

Every one of us worked today. Serving bananas, assisting with dentistry, counting pills, holding babies... Whatever we were doing, wherever we were, we were working. The real question is:  "What were we laboring for?"    

We have talked a lot here among our team this week about serving wherever you are. We have 18 high school students from Tampa with us, and we've talked about the fact that they don't have to be in Africa to serve. I don't either, and you don't. 

Today, we all (not just the team here-- you too!!) did jobs that might or might not have been or felt like our "calling."  We did labor. What were we working for?  

Rogers, while laboring in a prison, has earned the respect of many other dentists in America and Uganda, and has just started school to become a maxillofacial surgeon. He also is about to become the dentist for the President of Uganda.  God is absolutely taking note of Rogers' labor. 

Tonight we got to see our old friend Pastor Zach, the "ghost of Uganda."  The Muslims here have tried to kill him eight times because of the work he's doing for the Kingdom.  God continues to protect him, though. (If you haven't heard our stories of Pastor Zach, or had the opportunity to meet him, look on you tube for the "ghost of Uganda" video. I think it's there! )

I want to work wherever I'm sent, but mostly, I want to be sure I'm laboring for the right thing-- the only thing that's eternal-- the Kingdom of God.