Monday, October 24, 2011

When my heart is breaking...

We're coming to the end of rainy season here in Uganda (for now). It's a season I've come to love. It brings with it so much...days stuck inside, red dirt turned to mud all over everything, stir crazy kids and aunties from too much time inside, a slow down on an already slow pace of life, and many candlelit nights due to power being out. It brings creativity to keep children entertained and snuggles to calm fearful littles.

It also brings rest from work--because when it rains here you just cannot do much of anything--and it brings a deep cleansing...the rain washes the streets clean as it trickles down in streams away from town and it washes away the stench of rotting trash and fish drying in the sun, amongst other scents. It cleans the layers of dirt off the bodas and the cars and everything.

The rain also brings with it this beautiful refreshing newness. A newness that only comes after the rain. After the covering in mud and the fearful stormy times, after the darkness of no power and the craziness of being stuck inside for days on end. After the long days and nights of rain and more rain, the clouds clear and this newness of life is seen. The fields are greener. The streets are a bit cleaner. The remains of mud linger, reminding you of the rain that has just passed. But the air is clearer and the weather has cooled some. It's a bit quieter as everyone comes out of the places they've found refuge to find the sun shining again, beckoning them to life. After the storms have passed, life begins again. Life that has taken shelter in the storms ventures slowly back into the sunshine.

As the rainy season pounded here, I walked through one of the hardest, stormiest seasons I have ever been in. As the storms raged outside, the storms pounded hard in my life here. At Ekisa, we lost Shamim who I wrote about most recently.

Then a few weeks later little Ajuma, who I have been fighting on behalf of along with my friends Kelsey and Megan, went home to be with Jesus. Little man who had dialysis for months in the hospital in Kampala. Whose blood got flown to South Africa. Who rarely smiled when I was around but loved smiling with his mom and dad. This little boy who I truly believed would be getting a transplant once God made clear the path for that. He got to spend a few months healthy, at home and loving his family, before our Jesus called him home. I don't really understand it. This broke my heart and continues to weigh heavy. But in some ways it allows me to breathe a little easier and to rejoice...Ajuma is no longer in pain and he is home, Home where I long to be and I cannot believe he beat me there. I believe he is beaming around the throne room. My God, He gives and takes away. Blessed be His name.

One week after Ajuma went home, another little girl from Ekisa was called home. Selina had been sick for a few months, but we kept praying for healing. Jesus decided on the ultimate healing and brought her home. We miss our Lena Lou dearly. Her smiles, her dancing, and her silly car riding. Emily wrote beautifully about her here. We had a beautiful memorial service for her and Shamim at Ekisa a few weeks ago. He gives and takes away. Blessed be His name.

The day Selina went home found Namusisi at the hospital preparing for her baby to come. We had a few scares the week leading up to this, but this was the real deal. And so as Emily and Emily went to mourn with our Ekisa family, Jessica and I were ssked to hold down the fort with Nam. As we are mourning together at the hospital and waiting for labor to begin in earnest, we were informed Nam needed and emergency C section. If she didn't have it, both her baby and she herself were in danger. And so through tears and pain, we prepared and prayed over Nam and she headed to the operating room. A little over an hour later, precious baby Grace came out of the OR, and shortly after his dear Mama came too! Her baby is incredibly healthy and Nam is on the road to recovery from her C section. {Please pray as she is still fighting some infection from the operation}.

Only a few hours after Selina went home, Grace was born to life here. Friday September 30th was a day I got a front seat to see heaven touch earth...God bringing one life home and gracing us here with a new beautiful life. The newness He brings after the storms. He gives and takes away. Blessed be His name.

Less than one week after Ajuma went home, I became foster mom to little baby KL. He came to our home so sick. My roommates worried that he might not make it through the night and that if he didn't my heart couldn't bear it. God had other plans, and not only did he make it through the night but through the next three weeks. He is getting healthier each and every day. He came to us with a feeding tube and a canula to get medicines three times a day. Now he feeds from a bottle like a champ and he only gets meds when he needs them. He is interacting more and getting quite a little personality. He is sleeping through {some} of the night and snuggling lots. He is part of the newness God is working in me after this stormy season.

The month of September wore me out, body and soul. It was a month of holding onto that anchor within the veil and begging Him to remain strong as everything around me seemed to fall apart. It was a season of clinging to His truth as the rains battered.

October has been a month of newness and recovery. He's bringing me into a place of sunshine and newness, of regeneration and blessings. He's got me hidden under His wing and recovering. Just leaning on His name and pressing into Him. He's bringing sweet gifts of encouragement and newness. He is turning my heart towards His in a posture of thanksgiving. Be looking soon for a "capture gratitude" post inspired by a dear friend. He is restoring me and teaching me. He is good, in the storms and after they have cleared. He has brought dear roommates and friends to walk alongside me in all of this. And He's brought His word to my heart over and over. He is giving me eyes to see His gifts even in the storms and after them.

He gives and He takes away. My heart, and my life, will choose to say BLESSED BE HIS NAME.

These songs have spoken deep truth to my heart in this season...I pray they will encourage your heart too:

"When my world is shaking, heaven stands. When my heart is breaking, I never leave Your day You will set all things right"

{sorry for the cheesy video...just listen to the words}

Out of these ashes beauty will rise, for I know a God who is holding this crazy world in His hands, and He is not surprised by any of it.

Friday, September 9, 2011

God of Our Healing

Ok, so clearly it has been awhile since I've blogged. It's not that I haven't wanted to, I just have struggled with finding the time. And the words.

With a quick 4 weeks spent in Kampala serving at Baby Watoto {which I LOVED} shortly after my family was here, followed by my move back to Jinja and quite possibly the busiest and most intense four weeks I have experienced since being here, time to blog has been a bit limited. But here I am, back again, with an update on the last little bit of life.

The main ways I have spent my last month has been loving on sick kids...the illnesses vary, the intensity and prognoses may be different, but the heart and reality are the same: God has put some beautiful, sweet littles in my life here who are battling with some yucky stuff and He has asked me to help be a part of their healing.

For a few nights, this meant staying up with AR and E, some of the cutest little babies who I get the sweet opportunity of sharing a home with. They both caught some sort of weird bug which led to long nights of many diapers and IVs being run to rehydrate and throw up being cleaned up. All of us took shifts with them to make sure all was well throughout the night. We had some long nights, but it was fun to stay up and get to know my new roommates in the silly bonding late night hours can bring.  And man, aren't these smiles worth it?

photo courtesy of Mandie Joy

Then there's this little boy named Ajuma. He is the most serious child I have ever met. I have NEVER been able to get him to smile. Part of that might be due to his personality, but I think a lot of it is due to his circumstances. You see, Ajuma's kidneys are failing. And due to this, he has had to spend more time in hospitals than any 9 year old should ever have to. His family got connected with my friend Kelsey through the Malaria Treatment Fund, which I wrote about a while back. When Kelsey returned to the US for school, she asked me to take over Ajuma's case. So here we are.

After his malaria was treated, it was clear from the swelling in his body that something much more serious was going on. After a number of tests here and in Kampala (the capital city), it became clear that he had acute chronic renal, his kidneys are failing. He went into pretty urgent dialysis at the national hospital...the only place to get dialysis in this entire country. He finished one round of dialysis, spending three months at the hospital, and is now back and forth between check ups and home (home is an island 7+ hours from the capital, 5+hours from me). He is waiting on a transplant, possibly from his dad. But problem is, it isn't possible to get a transplant in Uganda. And it isn't possible to even get properly cross checked to confirm if a donor and recipient are good matches for a kidney donation. So I have had the challenge of navigating the system of hospitals and testing here and have (with the help of dear friends) successfully gotten 4 different types of testing done to cross-check and cross-type and fly blood to South Africa so that we can confirm if this precious father who is willing to give one of his kidneys to his sweet son is going to work. And now we wait. And I try not to worry about how the transplant will be paid for. Or where it will happen. Or how we will get them there. Or if Ajuma will make it. I bring it back to Him and lay it at the cross. "Cast all your cares on me, for I care for you, I care for you"

This last week God handed to me part of the responsibility for this sweet baby Shamim who is part of Ekisa. She is a unique part, not an orphan, having a mom who loves her dearly and is living at Ekisa with her. And who is fighting for her baby girl. Oh does this mama bear, Mama Shamim, fight in her strong, quiet, persistent way. And she works...she serves Ekisa beautifully and loves her sick baby girl with joy. Shamim is fighting TB and HIV, along with this nasty ear infection that has caused brain damage. She was doing pretty well until this last weekend, when her ear infection rared up and she fought a new infection, one so common here: malaria. With Emily W home in America and Emily H in Kenya with one of our Ekisa kiddos on an emergency surgery, looking after Shamim (and the rest of Ekisa) became my responsibility for a few days. What a huge thing to be entrusted with! And to feel like I know enough to keep things going...or at least not falling apart : )

But when t came to Shamim, I had NO idea what to do. At the ENT's urging on Saturday, we sent her quickly to Kampala for him to examine. This led to an emergency surgery to drain her infected ear. And then more high fevers for her. And then desperately needing a blood transfusion with no blood to be found. And many calls back and forth to nurses and doctors as I tried to figure out what was going on and what we needed to do. Our rockstar Ekisa volunteer Jessica took a trip to Kampala Monday help figure it out while I held down the fort with our 15 kids and our 8 month pregnant teenager at Ekisa. And then that night I left for Kampala with my phenomenal friend and roommate Mandie because the blood this little girl had needed all day long and that they had continually assured me was coming still had not come. As we pulled into Kampala at almost 1 AM, I got a call confirming that they had finally run her first part of her transfusion. We went to check on little Shamim and to see the second unit of blood get started. And then we turned around and headed back to Jinja after our late night jaunt to capital city. Three days late, Shamim is still fighting. God has provided the blood and provided some amazing doctors here to care for her. We're not sure where this is going to go. Her little 21 month old undernourished body might not be able to handle much more.

But we know the Jehovah Rapha, and so I am believing Him for healing...whether it looks like healing on this side of Heaven or wholeness with Him forerver. And I know my God has bigger plans than I can ever imagine or even seek. And so I walk in trust. In the midst of circumstances that often threaten to overwhelm, I reach out my shaking hand to grasp tight to His. My only sure foundation. The only One who knows the beggining and the end and everything in between. The One who whispers truth when my ears are filled with lies telling me to give up and stop helping. The One who holds AR and E and Ajuma and Shamim in His hands and who loves them more deeply than I can ever imagine. And the one who holds me.

He is the One leading this. He has called me to follow Him into the hard places, to help be a restorer of broken places and people and an extenson of His love and healing. And so I respond in the only way I can, with all of me, ventured wholly on all of Him. And I know He is working it all together for good. And so I choose trust. I choose it today, for this moment, and I pray He helps me choose it tomorrow again, as I awaken and in each moment. I want to choose to abide in His presence, and to walk in it each day. And so I run to the hard places as much as i shrink back these places lead me into the throne room face down so much more often throughout the day than on the days where most is well. And so these days, I live in the hard places. And I cry out for Him in it. And He is good and faithful to answer and to not only enter into my miry pit, but to pull me out with Him, leading me to glory. I live on my knees in this place....

update: I wrote this last night as I continued on my knees for sweet Shamim. This morning she took her last breath on this earth and went to live in wholeness and peace with our sweet Jesus. She's no longer in pain. She's no longer suffering. Man I wish I could be there for that party! I imagine she's dancing in the throne room this night. We love you Shamim. I can't wait to dance alongside you one day beautiful girl!

beautiful Shamim...
photo courtesy of Mckenzie Baird

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

I went to Kampala dreading it. I was so excited to finally get to serve with Watoto, this ministry I heard about well over a year ago and have been dreaming of serving with ever since. But I was not excited about Kampala. I live in small town Uganda and from there, Kampala is the big, busy, dirty capital full of traffic jam and accidents and riots and thieves. It's the place where you go for court dates and adoption appointments and only when you need to. Not really a place I wanted to live.

And then I moved there.

While it's still not my favorite city (not by a longshot), I was given a different view of it while there and mainly because of Watoto Church and Childcare Ministries who I got to serve with at the Bulrushes Babies Home. Through Watoto's eyes, I saw a city full of hurting people who need the gospel and need active love. People who don't just to be preached at but need real Love demonstrated...through loving a neighbor, taking in babies with no family or who need serious medical attention which families here struggle to afford, loving on street kids, working to restore dignity to women with HIV, and bottom line being Love clothed in flesh.

I love Watoto's heartbeat be people who are caring for community while celebrating Christ. Isn't that beautiful? Is that how we are living? Is that how I am living? I want ot more actively do this, to care for community each day while I celebrate Christ....that my celebration of my Savior would inform my care for others in my community, and that my care for others would reflect the way I love and celebrate Him. Maybe that even in my care for others I am actively celebrating Him...celebrating His people and His gifts with intention and joy. Living in a way that does that. So no matter where I am, whether it be Jinja or Kampala or Nashville, that I am celebrating Him there as I love the people around me. And that, folks, is the Truth. Love God, love others. Boom.

What a beautiful lesson He's taught me in a place I didn't want to go. Isn't He always working like that? Taking me to places I don't necessarily want, that I don't really think are best, and teaching me the most beautiful things. Help me remember this Lord, when you next take me to a place I may not have chosen for myself, that my eyes might be open to the beauty and ready for the wonder in the hard places to come.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

I know I live in Uganda when...

Ok, so sorry to be a terrible blog updater.  The last 6 weeks have been crazy busy...went to Kenya to see my sis, then she came here, Gwen and Suzanne visited, my computer crashed, my parents and our friends the Hills came, I moved to Kampala, and I'm preparing to move back to Jinja...busy stuff.  But, sorry for slacking here! Prepare to have a number of blogs coming at ya in the next little bit. For the first...some things that let me now I'm for sure living out life here....

I know I live in Uganda when...

1. I sleep under a mosquito net {almost} every night

2. I can get heaps of fresh produce--avocadoes, mangoes, bananas, pineapple, eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, passionfruit, and more--for the equivalent of only a few US dollars

*borrowed this picture, mine got lost when my computer crashed...*

3. These are the ones I wake up to see and love on and be loved by every day....

 4. My vacation time includes these new friends...(look in the background...)


oh hey elephant!

5. Holidays look a bit different...


6. Sweet family and friends visit but it's not quite home

6. My dependency on Christ grows each day because there's less here to make me think I've got it "under control" and much more here leading me to run back into His arms moment by moment and live from that place

7. My heart cries out a bit more every day, "How do I respond?" and I ask Jesus to guide my response and my heart. And by His grace I keep dreaming, and hoping, and loving with all I've got. And one foot in front of the other, I follow His lead and I look towards His promise of all things new.

8. As my heart breaks and His hope carries me, I find this smile and this peace ever present. This smile that creeps across my face from a deep place in my heart. This peace that comes from way beyond myself, that settles my racing thoughts and brings them back to Truth. As I sit feeding a bottle or chase littles or change diapers or do whatever it is my day finds my hands busy with, I find my heart at peace and a huge smile on my face and I know that for today, for right now, this is so right and He is enough. Always.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

I want to see Jesus

We sat around in a circle on the tile floor and read stories about animals, about shapes, about very hungry caterpillars.  We laughed and we looked at the pictures and we worked on sitting properly and listening well.  The stories about lions and bugs and princesses were always hits, but it never failed that every time we sat down one of the children pointed at or tried to grab one particular book.  They would say “Auntie, I want that one! Auntie Sarah, I want to see Jesus!”  They would grab that book and tell me “This one!”  and ask to see the pictures and hear the stories. 

What book is this magical favorite?  It’s this beautiful book I love, that I hope they are learning to love too.  It is the one that tells me of a Hero who loves the little children and gives himself for them, a Creator who walks daily with his created beloved ones, a man who is God and who poured himself out.  It is the precious Bible.  It is a particularly lovely version of it called The Jesus Storybook Bible.  For me, it was a gift from my sweet friend Leigh.  She is a preschool teacher and must have known how much littles (and their aunties/teachers) love this beautiful book.  It is one of the most beautiful children’s versions of the Bible I have ever seen.  The kids here love it—the pictures, the way it’s written.  And more than that, they love the stories and they ask for them over and over again.  They try to grab it out of my hands because they want to see Jesus.  They can barely sit on their cabenas (bottoms) for the desire to point to Jesus on the page, to show their friends, to see this mysterious majestic One. 

We read stories of creation and the fall, of prophets and princesses, of soldiers and fishes.  They enjoy them all, but they beg for the ones about Jesus.  They want to hear especially how he welcomes the little ones to Him and how He heals the sick and cares for the poor.  They want to see Him on the cover, to hear about Him inside the pages, to ask about Him after the story and all throughout.  And how can I deny them? 

It delights my heart and convicts me—do I long to see my Jesus, to know my Jesus within the pages of His Word as much as these little ones do?  Do I understand simply the beauty and mystery of the love of Jesus for me?  Do I deeply yearn for just a glimpse of Him, for a whisper of His voice?  As much as the children love that book, I want to love it.  We always saved it for last when we read in preschool time, for we wanted to save the best for last…but maybe we should have read that first. And more.  And over and over.

I started reading it to the children at Ekisa last night.  I think it will be our bedtime ritual now.  They gathered around me on the couch and all strained to see the pictures and hear the story.  They pointed to the ocean and the mountains, the lions and the peacocks, the people and the sun and the planets, the creations of our God’s hands.  They looked at them in awe and delight.  They asked for more stories.  I promised them another tonight. And this morning the first thing one of them told me, not even five minutes after waking up, was “Auntie, want story!” 

It is such a precious story.  The song of the Creator, singing to his beloved…the love letter to each of us.  I hope I wake up and think, “Jesus, I want a story!” and that I open these pages full of life and let them sing to me and pour over me and fill my longing heart like these children do.  I want these stories to fill my thoughts during the day and make me ask questions and teach me how to walk this journey of life and faith.  Make my heart like these little ones Lord.  Let it cry out “I want to see Jesus!” and open my eyes to see and hear more and more.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

home is where the heart is....

When two places hold your heart, where’s home?

Last week I got to spend a few days with my sister in Kenya (which was great, more to come on that) and as I flew back this idea of home kept popping into my head. It’s been one that I’ve been throwing around for a bit. I feel like I have two homes in a way. And sometimes more than that. Part of my heart is here in Uganda now, with bits of it with different people here and littles who have captured it. Part of my heart is in Nashville with my family and bits of it are all over America with friends and family…a little bit in Greenville, SC, a little bit in New Orleans, and all over.

As I landed back in Uganda I was beaming from ear to ear. I wanted to dance when I got off the plane…back to the red dirt and the heat and the Luganda and the craziness. I love it here!

And yet I was crying Saturday night when one of my best friends was getting married and I was here in Uganda, not getting to be there. And I miss my family and friends dearly. It’s been hard to miss big and small things in the lives of family and friends in America….weddings, graduations, engagements, hard times, good times, Friday breakfasts, Inversion, birthdays, girls nights, and just day to day stuff. It’s hard to keep in touch with people on the other side of the world…and to all of you who I have done a terrible job on that front, I am truly sorry. I’m a work in progress.

It’s hard to feel connected to people on both sides of the world, yet be living on one and try to be fully here and not pining away for there. Yet I can’t imagine living anywhere but here for now.

I love living here. I love the way that time and life are full and treasured and not rushed or full of meaningless stress. I love the Bible study I’m a part of, and walks with my dear friend Katie, and breakfasts with my dear friends Danielle and Pippin, and riding around on a boda taking in the beauty of this land, and laughing with friends here as I try to practice my Luganda with them and sound ridiculous, and just Uganda…it’s amazing! The things that are emphasized are relationships and living life fully, for here long life isn’t as much of a “guarantee” as we sometimes think of life as in America. For today, for this season, Uganda is home. I know that even when I leave a big part of my heart will be here.

If home really is where the heart is, then I guess I have two homes. Or maybe more than that. And more than anything, when I look at anywhere I’ve called home, I realize more and more that none of these are perfect. None of these places or the people in them satisfy my deepest longings. And that’s because here on this earth, nothing and nowhere will. So then as I ponder this question of where is “home”, I realize that it isn’t really here and it isn’t really there and it doesn’t really matter that much in the light of eternity….what matters is that I am in love with my Jesus and He’s getting the glory, wherever my “home” might be for the time being.

So while I sit here in this tension of feeling at home and missing being home, I turn to Him, and I know that step by step, bit of faith by bit of faith, I know more of Him. And that’s all I want.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Hope and heartbreak

I haven’t blogged in a bit because there’s so much to say but I have been struggling to find the words. I have about five other posts I’m in the midst of trying to write, but this is what’s on my heart right now.

There’s this crazy dynamic here on an almost daily basis of hope and heartbreak. They coexist in every day here…here at Ekisa, here in Uganda, and I think in this whole big world, but I just see it more in my everyday life here than at home.

We go to the eye doctor with four of our children because we need to have their vision checked. We think they’re pretty bad off but we have hope that they all still have a bit of vision left and want to find out how we can aid that. We walk away finding out that one of the girls has an optic nerve that is completely dead. She is seven, and she will never see. Heartbreak. We find out that two of them have lost most of their vision, but not all of it. And we find out our newest little addition might be able to recover some of his vision and not lose it all if we can get him some glasses. Hope.

My friend runs this amazing malnutrition program that helps nurse children back to health…they come in so very tiny, and leave fat chunky kiddos. It’s beautiful. She and my friend D and other volunteers and their staff labor every day to give all they can to make these kids well. People know this woman can care for very sick children, so people bring her not only malnutrition cases but all kinds of sick kiddos…and she never turns them away. Because how do you say no? She cares for them and takes them to the hospital when they need it or keeps them in her home and does her all. She fights with everything in her for children to survive and to thrive, because she knows they are His. They discharge healthy kiddos and joyous mamas so many times. Hope. After hope. On Friday, D and I walked into the hospital to check on a child our friend was caring for and to see how she was…we walk in upon her with a weeping mother, and our friend kneeling at her feet, praying over her, trying to offer comfort. There was no blood in all of Jinja for this baby, and she passed away a few minutes before we got there. To be that near to death is something I have never experienced. And my heart broke.

We take two of our children to the hospital in Kampala to get heart scans. We want to make sure that their hearts are a normal size. After waiting for seven hours, we see the doctor, get the scan, wait a bit more, and we receive the beautiful news that their hearts are totally, completely normal! Hope! Right before we go in to see the doctor, a body covered in a sheet is rolled right down the hall in front of us, with wailing family preceding it. Heartbreak.

I have never before experienced these two coexisting so near to one another. I don’t really know how to handle it most days. All I know to do is to turn to my Savior. To hold onto His promises. To run to my refuge and strength and know that even when the mountains tremble and they fall into the sea, even when the pillars of the earth shake and my heart is both broken and joyous, He is my Strong Tower and my Hope. He never fails. And HE IS MAKING ALL THINGS NEW! This dichotomy I walk through over and over brings me to this beautiful place of knowing where my hope and trust is, and that it is in Him alone.

Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord. –Psalm 31:24

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Slight change of plans

So there’s been a slight change of plans for my time here in Uganda and I just wanted to let you all know. Due to some crazy riots in Kampala and the likelihood of more of them to come in the next few weeks, I made the decision to delay my heading to Watoto for a bit and I am working with an organization called Ekisa in Jinja. Ekisa is a home for children with special needs and it is run by some of my good friends here. I was always planning to have a bit of extra time at the end of my trip to work with an org I found while over here or to extend time with one I loved, so I am just using that time now rather than on the end of my journey. I am helping Ekisa with a bunch of different things, though the main focus will be administrative help and organizing paperwork/closets/etc. I enjoy all of those and am really excited to be able to help in practical ways here. I also may be helping some with my friend Kelsey and the malaria project! More to come, but life rolls on with me still in Jinja and monitoring the situation in Kampala for now.

Peace and joy from here to there,


Monday, May 2, 2011


On Thursday I had the beautiful privilege of joining my friends Holly and Meagan on a video shoot. Not a video shoot like anything I’ve ever seen or imagined in America. We joined our sweet friend Kelsey at the Children’s Hospital in Jinja. We were there to get footage for a short film Holly and Meagan are making for the Malaria Treatment Fund through Amazima Ministries. Kelsey has had a deeply personal experience with malaria, which you can read about here. This inspired her to partner with our friend Katie and create a way to help families who cannot afford malaria treatment for their children.

We were there to help tell a story. I got to play camera assistant and simply just take it in. What did I see?

A hospital where there are two or more children in most beds, IVs dripping, all sorts of sounds…children screaming, feet shuffling, mothers shushing, all sorts of smells, and many, many people in the waiting room, in the halls, in the wards. A hospital built to hold less than 100, yet which sees 5,000 plus children a month. Seeing mothers waiting, holding their children, for hours and not getting anywhere. Seeing brothers and sisters holding hands, carrying purses, and trying to be a miniature grown up in the face of a scary place. So many, standing in line, and waiting for treatment. Hoping there will be enough medicine at the hospital that day for their son to get treated. Praying the nurses and doctors can move fast enough that their daughter gets seen. Hoping that their child won’t get more ill from the hundreds of others there, waiting, hoping, and praying. Hoping the treatment won’t be more than they can afford.

It was overwhelming to say the least. To look into the eyes of a very sick little girl and her father who is sitting by her side, loving her, hoping and praying she gets better. To hear child after child crying. To look into hundreds of pairs of eyes and wonder, why are you here? Who is sick? Will they get well? Can you afford their treatment?

In America, it is a tragic thing when a child dies. It is, thankfully, a rarity. Here, it is a reality. In America, healthcare is often expensive. Here, it is comparatively cheap (by our standards). But for many here, it is too much. They cannot afford 20,000 Ugandan Shillings for malaria treatment…the equivalent of $8.40. And most of the children don’t even need that much…maybe the equivalent of one or two dollars. There are more children in Uganda dying of malaria, a treatable and preventable disease, than HIV/AIDS. What?! That’s crazy. I didn’t know that until I came here and I learned from Kelsey and other friends more about it. I didn’t get it until I saw it at the hospital on Thursday. The reality is that a child dies from malaria every 45 seconds in sub Saharan Africa. That means about 13 have died in the time you have read this post. Maybe 20 if you’re a slow reader. That’s someone’s child. Someone’s brother or sister. Someone’s grandson or granddaughter.

I’m not sharing all of this to depress you or to guilt you. I just want to share with you some of the reality I am seeing. I looked into those children’s eyes today. I met one of the pediatricians who cares for them. I talked to a big sister who was waiting for her brother to get malaria treatment. And I am more excited than ever about the Malaria Treatment Fund. I believe in it and I am behind it…with my money, with my time, with my heart. If I can help keep one of those children from dying, one of those mothers from having to say goodbye with the difference of a few dollars, I am in. If you in any way want to help financially, you can go here. To read more of Kelsey’s story, go here. Even if you can just give a dollar, that might mean the difference between affording treatment or not.   Even if you can't, pray for solutions and wisdom to this treatable disease, and maybe share this with others so they can know too.

We wrapped up filming this weekend, and I promise to share the video as soon as I can. I cannot tell you the privilege it has been to just take part by watching this whole process. This is a story worth telling and worth supporting, which my dear friend Holly and Meagan and Kelsey are all helping to do. I love it. Along with the heaviness, there’s a joy…to get to be here and witness this, to get to see firsthand my brothers and sisters living and working here, to get to know a tiny bit of the reality which my Ugandan friends live with and to get to understand them a bit more, to have my heart burdened but also empowered, and to see the ways He is bringing His kingdom here on earth through malaria treatment and short films. Beautiful.

Easter, uganda style

Easter was a beautiful joy to celebrate here.  It didn't quite feel like Easter, but it was.  And with that, it was a sweet time of refreshment and remembrance.   To remember what Jesus did for me...that God did not spare His own Son...this has hit me afresh.  I would not send any of my family members to die for the world.  And yet God sent His one and only child, His beloved Son, to die for me, and all my messiness, and for all of us.  He gave His all.  He gave His heart, His flesh and blood.  How can I not respond with all I am?  He has refreshed me in my being here, in wherever I find myself, it is a joy and privilege to respond with ALL of me to all of Him.  I give all of myself, all my whining and grumbling, all my sin and laziness, all my attempts at control and the ways I don't fully trust my Jesus, and I get in exchange life, and life abundant, joy, peace, beauty, rest, wisdom, provision, purpose, and so much more.  What a beautiful exchange!  OUR GOD IS SO GOOD!

Some of the highlights of Easter here:
  • easter egg hunt with the preschool and Aubie the Traveling Tiger (picture to come hopefully)
  • Good Friday service under the trees at Acacia
  • Easter lunch overlooking the Nile River with my two favorite families in Jinja, the Gibsons and the Ives
  • Getting to be a witness of Rachel's baptism in the Nile
It was a beautiful remembrance of our Risen Savior!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


What am I doING? Here’s a snippet…

reading: Ender’s Game. The favorite book of my friend Jed Ives, hoping reading it will provide a way to connect with him a bit more, as trying to engage a 14 year old boy is proving to definitely not be a strong suit of mine. Wanting to improve that, and since I’m not into DS or Halo, trying this.  

Radical. Never read this when it first came out, reading alongside (though lagging a bit behind) my community group at home. So far, I enjoyed listening to the sermon series more, just found it went deeper into the topics and Scriptures, but learning from this too and processing it more deeply.

The Pioneer Woman’s blog. Hilarious. Currently in the midst of the Pioneer Woman and Marlboro Man’s love story (Black Heels to Tractor Wheels)…I laugh out loud when I read this. Also enjoying her recipes very much…try this one for coffee muffins (cupcakes), so yummy!

eating: The amazing delicious cooking of Miss Cassidy Gibson, gifted chef who inspires me to want to be a much better cook.  (Along with everyone else in the Gibson family...chefs extraordinare). Cassidy has a food blog in the works and I am pumped! I’m staying with her family this week as I rest and prepare for Watoto and explore more of what might be to come after that. I have probably gained 5 pounds from her yummy food already...Ginger Carrot Soup, Basil Chicken Curry, Molten Lava Cakes...and much more. Did I mention she’s 15? How sweet is that? Rockstar I tell ya.

listening: Mo Leverett. Love this man’s soulful voice and rich lyrics. All time favorite=Onward Christians. Can’t get enough. Also love his song Louisiana. SO good. And loving Beautiful Scandalous Night. Always. Such a beautiful song full of truth. Got stuck in my head this week and I couldn’t be happier. Follow Christ to the holy mountain, sinner, sorry and wrecked by the fall. Cleanse your heart and your soul in the fountain that flows, for you and for me and for all

craving: Chick fil A and Sweet Cece’s…anyone who can figure out a way to get those here I would be eternally grateful to. But the longer I wait for them, the more delicious they will be when I return home.

learning: To know more of Jesus in the day to day, minute by minute…in the faces of children and adults and all. Just to see and know more of Him, all the time.

praying: For preparation for serving with Watoto, for preparation for living in Kampala, for guidance in the next step from Watoto and faith for whatever that is.

traveling: to Kampala soon. And went to Kenya for a day and a half with my friend Emily…so fun, but too short.

watching: old Glee and the Mentalist…a fellow volunteer, Erin, got me hooked on the Mentalist.

enjoying: The fullness of life, the rest and refreshment this week is bringing, an opportunity to just be and take in where I am, and the community the Lord has so amazingly provided here in Jinja.

missing: All of you.

Much love!!!!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Say a little prayer for me...

Hi friends! Just wanted to send a quick blog update to ask for some prayer over the next couple days.  Today was my last full day at Amani and tomorrow I'll be with the kids until their naptime after lunch (around 1 this time).  My heart is say bye to them is going to be a time full of tears and a heavy heart.  Leaving children who have known abandonment their whole lives in some way, who are in a place where they are healing from that, and then to just be a person bringing that up again...whoa that's tough.  They've also stolen a big piece of my heart...some of them will have pieces of my heart forever....and so I'll be saying goodbye and leaving pieces of myself here. I think maybe this is a tiny taste of what it is for a parent to say goodbye to a child not knowing when they may see them again...cannot imagine how hard that is because this is really tough.  So if I could just ask for you to join me in prayer for protection of these kiddos hearts, for comfort from Jesus for my own heart, and for a focus on our Jesus who is making all things new in the midst of this crazy world with hard goodbyes and broken people trying to figure out how to love Him and love others....the redeeming work of the cross is my only hope and assurance.  I rejoice as I cry, and I am thankful for sweet prayers to Him from us all...they are heard, they are felt, they are a swete aroma. 

Much love.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Just this step in front of me

There is something the Lord keeps calling my heart back to…over the last few weeks, and more so than that, through the last season of my life. Through graduation from university and all of my friends moving all over the country (and world). Through moving home, working as a waitress with a college degree and being asked all the time, sometimes with judgment in the tone, most of the time just with curiosity, “Oh, didn’t you graduate? And you’re waitressing….?” Through wondering myself sometimes, “What am I doing? Is this really the Lord’s calling or is this my making up what I am “called” to? Am I being crazy? Maybe this is good crazy?” Through praying through coming here, seeking wisdom on where to go and when, and support raising. Through living life in Nashville and loving the community He brought...and then through having to say "See you later" to that community.  Through being here and all that has entailed. His call continues…
Through the last year, and more loudly the past month, He keeps calling me.  He's calling me to faith.  He keeps whispering to my soul, Come, follow me.

To trust what I cannot see, to leave behind my fears and questioning and simply take the next step in faith. Even when it’s hard, even when it may not make total sense or be fully funded or be perfectly planned out, or whatever makes sense in the world’s eyes. To take that step. To trust what I do know in the face of much unknown. Come, follow me. To walk forward with Him, to follow the path laid before me by my Jesus, even when all I see is the very next step. To keep my eyes on Him, not on the mountains ahead or the things I fear may be in the way or may come, but to follow my Jesus. To follow Him through the hard things and the beautiful things. To choose faith, over and over. To choose it for my life, but more than anything, to choose it day by day, moment by moment. I can’t get through my days and know more of Him and glorify Him when I choose myself, when I choose to focus on frustration or things I don’t understand. I can only get through and point to Him as I live when I choose to focus on Him and to trust His ways…to trust His leading, to trust His timing, to trust His goodness, to trust His promises He gives me in the Word. Come follow me. To choose faith. And to find delight as I choose faith, because with that choice comes freedom and indescribable joy. Because when I choose faith, I choose Jesus, and I leave myself behind. I am less, He is more. Come, follow me.

He has been calling me to this in so many ways recently. Through the circumstances around me which can sometimes be overwhelming. Through Jesus Calling devotional. Through the Word, specifically Hebrews 11. Holding onto this and sitting in it right now. Through the messages at the church I go to here. Through this amazing message from John Piper. Through the ways support continues to come in. Through the days He carries me. And more than anything, through this beautiful song my dear friend Sarah McCary wrote. It’s called Faith. She recorded it just for me to carry with me over here, along with a few other amazing songs. The first time I heard it was in her kitchen during one of our weekly breakfast dates. It made me cry, for it was so my heart at that time. In recent weeks, it has brought me such comfort and spoken such truth to my soul. It’s not available for all of you to hear (yet), but maybe the lyrics will speak to some hearts like they have to mine. I really could just have posted these lyrics and nothing else and you’d hear my heart as of recent…
Near-sighted; hoping for a glimpse of where I’m going
But I’ve decided that I will follow You without knowing
Cause I believe Your promises are true
That my inheritance is found in You
So I will leave behind all the places I have been
And I will follow You even when…

I can’t see the ending, just this step in front of me
That You are calling me to take
Your will for here and now is clear
To step out of my doubt and fear
To hear Your voice and to obey

Moving forward; finally okay that I can’t see too far ahead
Cause what I’m moving towards is not a place,
No, it’s knowing more of who You are instead
And seeing that Your promises are true,
Finding my inheritance in You
So I will leave behind all the idols I have held
And let the living God reveal Himself…

I can’t see the ending, just this step in front of me
That You are calling me to take
Your will for here and now is clear
To step out of my doubt and fear
To hear Your voice and to obey

And my faith will have its failures
But Your promises remain
So all these questions without answers fade away as You guide me with Your grace

I can’t see the ending, just this step in front of me
That You are calling me to take
Your will for here and now is clear
To step out of my doubt and fear
To hear Your voice and to obey
You are calling me to faith

He is calling me to come and follow. To choose faith. A faith like Abraham’s, to follow even without knowing where I am going. To follow His promises. And so, I choose to listen for His voice, and to choose to take the next step in front of me as it becomes clear.

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. John 10:27

Saturday, March 26, 2011


So, the last few weeks have been pretty busy and I've been a little bit sick the last few days, and because of all that, I've been super slack on all forms of communication...sorry about that!  Here are some pictures to help tell the story of the last few weeks, I am working on getting another post up that's more in depth....although they say a picture's worth a thousand words, so these are worth a lot I, here's what I've been doing:

Getting a front row seat to see some beautiful forever families united as a number of adoptions occur here, the closest to my heart being that of my dear friend Michelle (who I worked alongside with for 147 Million Orphans) and her husband Mike, who will be bringing another Uganda treasure home to Nashville from Amani!  Here they are with their sweet boy...

Having too much fun on Water Wednesdays...favorite activity day of the week

Simona and Jacob slip'n'slidin...the aunties have just as much fun as the kids!

Getting to know the market, working on my bargaining skills.  The vegetables and fruit here are SO cheap and delicious!

Loving on little bittys and learning how to use baby slings : )

Playing with the parachute...roadtrip down memory lane to elementary school PE every time this gets whipped out. The kids love it (see faces above).

Laughing at silly signs like this one....don't you want to go see who is up there?

Helping teach preschool to little bittys like this...teaching them how to write their letters, how to write their names, and lots of other fun things!

Taking William, the little boy who has stolen the biggest part of my heart, for a painting lesson and just getting to show him some extra love : )

Visiting my new dear friend Megan in Kampala with the other 3 volunteers I've become good friends with!  Bottom row: Megan, Hallie, Rakul; Top row: Me, Simona

Spending most of the day on the Saturday when we went to Kampala at this gorgeous pool, getting a few hours of precious relaxation time and sweet friend time. So needed and refreshing.

Figuring out what to do with toddler and preschool age kiddos when it rains most days of the week.  The rainy season is in full swing, and so we're having to get creative.  The ever classic balloon tied to the ankle game where you try to pop your friends balloon proved both hilarious and the cause of many tears. Probably a one-time only game for this crowd..

We've been reading lots of books.  Here we have The Very Hungry Caterpillar, always a crowd pleaser : )  Our most favorite book is The Jesus Storybook Bible ...thanks sweet Leigh!!! We read it every day in preschool!

Kidsitting with Hallie for my dear friends here, the Ives. Such a fun weekend!

Overall, loving on the Amani family...Mamas, Uncles and children!

So, that's some of what I've been up to! Along with loving Uganda, following my sweet Jesus, and of course missing all of you! Much love!