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 that....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!