Category Archives: Travelling/Missions

On sickness, death, and the meaning of life.

On Sunday morning, we lost a precious little boy named Alex.  Recent rains in Uganda have taken already-dangerous living conditions and made them even worse, and this brought about an outbreak of cholera in the slum in which Alex lived.  Alex fell ill with cholera last week, and his little body just never recovered.

Alex was three years old when he died, and though his life was painfully short, through it God has taught us all so much.  Alex was born with AIDS, and shortly thereafter lost both of his parents to it.  So for his entire life, he was sick.  He was so ill, so undernourished, that he was expected to die any time.
Then God brought Noah into the picture.  Noah is one of my best friends, and his love for Alex breaks my heart in the best way.  Noah chose to sponsor Alex to pay for food and medicine for him, not knowing that by doing that, he was saving Alex’s life.  He chose Alex simply because they shared a birthday…but God had a bigger plan.
In January, we headed back to Uganda, and I had the privilege of watching Noah meet his sponsor child for the first time.  Alex’s caretaker fell to her knees thanking Noah, saying that if it weren’t for his contribution, Alex would have died long before.  Noah was astonished by this outpouring of thanks; he hadn’t realised the difference that he had made in the lives of Alex and those around him.  It was truly fantastic.
And even more beautiful was the way Noah poured his heart out to Alex.  The way the two of them bonded warms my heart to this day.
So, as you can imagine, we were afraid when we received the news that Alex had fallen ill, and we were utterly heartbroken when he died.
I loved that boy.  I didn’t even know Alex all that well, but I loved him with all my heart.  The love that I have for all of my children in Uganda…I don’t know where it comes from.  Actually, now that I write that, I do.  It comes from God.  A love as strong as the love I feel for Uganda couldn’t possibly come from anywhere else.
Alex knew he was loved.  The last few months of his short life were his best.  He was loved by his caretaker, he was loved by us (Noah especially) when we came to visit, and most of all he knew he was loved by God.

But that doesn’t make it easier to know that he is gone.
It breaks my heart so, when my children are sick, dying.  But really, I was thinking about it, and we’ve been partnering with Ray of Hope orphanage for over a year now, and Alex is the first child we’ve lost in that time.  So when I think about it that way, it’s amazing.  I mean, this is Uganda.  Children die.  It’s what happens.  AIDS, malaria, cholera, starvation, the list goes on.  So the fact that it’s been a whole year is pretty astonishing, and it’s reason to thank God.  Thinking of it in that way makes it hurt just a little bit less.

Sunday was the first day that Alex knew what it feels like to not be sick.  It was the first day he was entirely well, lacking nothing, complete and happy.  And though it’s painful to lose him, it really is better this way.  Dying this way was much faster and less painful than dying of AIDS would have been.  It’s better.  Not easier, but better.

Oh, but it still hurts.  My heart still aches persistently.  My eyes still tear up when the memory of Alex crosses my mind.  But though it isn’t pleasant, his death has brought about good things as well.

For one thing, Alex’s death has clarified my calling in life.  I have never been so sure that I want, even need, to use my life to save others.  Alex’s death has made me all the more eager for the day when I can prevent things like that from happening.  If I can make one less little boy die of cholera, that will make this worth it.  If I can heal one little girl from malaria, if I can sew up one wound, feed one starving child, save one life.  That is what I’m all about.
Mother Teresa said it well: “We can do no great things…only small things with great love.”  A friend of mine reminds me of that quote every time I begin to feel hopeless and overwhelmed by all of the sickness in the world.  And over the last couple of days, it’s become real.  I think I’m finally learning to understand what it means.
We were not able to save Alex’s life.  But we were able to pour love out onto him.  I won’t be able to eradicate all sickness from the face of the earth.  But that’s not the goal.  The goal is to do everything I do with great love.  And if I do them with great love, the small things become great things in their time.  That’s what I am about.  That’s why I’m here.
I am a small thing.  Just one small person in a world of big pain, big problems, big despair.  But love, love is so much bigger.

You know, it’s truly amazing how much my Uganda children have taught me about life, love, Jesus, poverty, happiness, and so much more.  These small children, three, five, ten years old, teaching me these profound life lessons.  They haven’t the faintest idea how much of an impact they have had on me.  Alex is just one of the many precious tiny lives that have changed me.
I thank God for Alex’s life.  I thank God for Noah’s willingness to step up and serve Alex for these months, because the impact that Alex has had on all of us will far outlast the short time he spent here on earth.


Loving on my Babies: January 10

10 pm
Not today…I haven’t given Derrick the guitar just yet.  I have taught him some things, though, and he is very eager to learn and catching on very quickly, so I’m very excited to give it to him because it is so obvious that he wants it very much and will be good at it one day.

I’ll tell you what, Derrick can put away some food.  Tonight at dinner he ate all of his and half of mine too!  I guess he’s a growing boy.  I still don’t know whether he is 14 or 15.  He always gives a different answer depending on who asks.  He doesn’t even know what day his birthday is, which is pretty funny.  Sometime in September.
Anyway, today was a very good day.  For the first time ever on this whole trip, I had no tasks.  There was nothing planned for me to do.  So for a while I watched the builders as they lay bricks for the new schoolhouse, but mostly I just loved on my kids and chatted with people and simply hung out.  At times it was frustrating, not having anything to do, but mostly it was very good.  I was started to get a little burned-out from working so much, so it was nice to just focus on playing and laughing and hugging.

Well, it is so good to be back in Kampala.  I absolutely loved travelling about, and I adore Busia, but Kampala is where my heart is.  I just love it here.
I cannot believe we are going home in three days.  I’m tearing up as I write this because this is it.  In three days I will leave Africa and not come back for a very long time.  How does the time pass so quickly?  This week has gone by like molasses, and yet I still find myself wondering how it is already nearly gone.
This just feels so final.  It feels like this is the end.  I know I will see them again someday, but that someday will be very very far away.
I am so in love with this place.  This is the life I want.
This morning Derrick and I decided to try balancing a water bottle on different parts of our bodies, and I was amazed by how we kept entertained for ages with something as simple as a water bottle.  And how they tie together a bunch of plastic shopping bags and call it a football.  I just love the simplicity here.  I always say how I want to bring my babies back to America with me…but I don’t.  It would spoil them.  Take away that beautiful simplicity and contentment that I so love.  I couldn’t bear to bring them into my country of excess.
So that’s why I come to them instead!

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Posted by on March 4, 2012 in Uganda January 2012


Back to Kampala: January 9

6:45 pm
I’m up to 58 mosquito bites.  I’m taking my malaria pills very faithfully, so here’s hoping they work.
I love how sexy Uganda makes me 😉 My hair is wind-tossed and un-brushed, my skin is burned and filthy, I’m covered in pink swollen bites like some sort of rash, I probably smell like a goat, and I’ve been wearing the same skirt for four days straight.  But strangely, even with all of that, I have still never felt so wonderful in my life.  This is living at its best.

10:00 pm
Finally back in Kampala.  I am almost too tired to write, because it has been a ridiculously long and busy day.  We got up and went to Paul’s orphanage, then drove to another church way out in the bush, then to another church even more out in the bush, then drove another 4 hours to get back here.  So we’re tired out.
Paul’s was fantastic.  It was so good to go to a familiar place and see familiar faces and get a big soft enveloping hug from Mama Janet.  While I was very sad I didn’t get to see Misanyah Grace, I did get to see Moses and Ibra and Stella and my other loves.  We kicked around a dusty football, and tried to see how many different body parts we could hit it with.  We got feet, knees, hands, elbows, shoulders, head, chin, and hips.  It was pretty funny seeing them try to imitate me..
Then one of them kicked it under the crude wooden table, and I ran to get it, and when I stood up I bashed my face on the table corner.  My vision got all fuzzy and I was dizzy and it hurt so bad.  It bled a little and hurt a lot, but everything is fine.  The kids thought it was hilarious, though–I guess pain is funny in any language.
I cried when I left them.  Who knows when I might see those kids again?  I love them so.
But although I love Busia so very dearly, I must say it is lovely to be back here in Kampala again.  Maybe tomorrow will be the day I give Derrick the guitar!

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Posted by on February 25, 2012 in Uganda January 2012


Sight for the Blind: January 8

8:45 am
Will wonders never cease?  Pastor Hummer is on time!  He said to come at 8:30 and lo and behold, 8:30 on the dot he comes marching in hugging everyone with that big infectious lovable smile plastered on his face.
Today will be a good day.
I simply love mornings here in Uganda.  It’s bright and breezy, and the birds are singing quietly from the treetops, and today I’m not pukey.  It’s a fabulous morning.
There is a couple here who appear to be adopting two children, and watching them is making me jealous.  I want to take home some children too.
I have 44 mosquito bites.  I counted.
I can’t do this day.  I simply do not know how on earth I am going to get through this day.  I don’t know how to handle it.  I am very daunted and not ready for it.
I told this to Sue and she said, “You know what?  What’s exactly where a missionary should be.”  I guess that’s true, because it is when I can’t do it that I am forced to rely fully on God.  But that doesn’t change the fact that I want to close my eyes and only open them when today is over.
I love it here in Africa.  I love it to death.  But I’m just struggling.  You can probably tell from reading this how conflicted my emotions are right now.  It’s turmoil.
Everything will be okay.  Mambo sawa sawa.  I can rest when I get to heaven.  But for the time being…here we go again.

11:00 am
This is how you do church.  This is a shelter the size of my living room, with only half a roof, and 20 members, out here in the middle of nowhere where there is no electricity and the sheep wander just outside the church building, if you could call it that.  The breeze blows through and the sun shines in, and here come the children to sing for Jesus.  This is how it’s done.
I never want to forget the sound of their little feet shuffling about in the dirt as they dance.  That sound is so beautiful, so small, so sweet.
I love this.

1 pm
Today I scared a baby.  She’d never seen a white person before.  So I crouched down a couple of metres away from her and waved, and she immediately began to scream.  She took off and sprinted down the path, screaming and flailing her arms, and kept running till she was out of sight, and even then I could hear her screaming.  Her mother just sat there laughing.  It really was hilarious.

8:30 pm
I absolutely hate when my children are sick.  I hate it.  It simply breaks my heart.  There was a little girl with the most terrible cough, and with every painful, wet hack her body shook and she would cry quietly to herself.  I just wanted to take her in my arms and make it all better.  And a little boy with the worst case of worms I’ve seen in a long time, maybe even ever.  His little belly stuck out so far.  I hate being so helpless.  I want to see my children feeling healthy.  It truly tears me apart, all of the sick people I see here.  I long for the day when I am equipped to treat them and make them well.

 Anyway, today at the glasses clinic there was a woman called Nafuta Maria who must have been nearly a million years old and completely blind.  I knew from the start that I couldn’t help her, but I tested her anyway, and sure enough her eyes were so bad that even our best glasses wouldn’t fix them.  So I told her, “I can’t give you glasses.  But I can pray for you.”  She agreed, so I prayed for healing in her eyes, and when we opened out eyes after praying she could see partially out of one eye!  I was thrilled.  So I told her that I’d keep praying for her even when I come home.  Maybe one day God will give her the rest of her sight too…who knows?
Not I go to bed.  Tomorrow we are going to Pastor Paul’s orphanage to visit and I can’t wait to see how my babies have grown since I last saw them!
Oh, one more thing.  Today we painted nails for the women and girls like we did last year, and once again I was blown away by how such a simple gesture can mean so much.  I just love to sit down and take their brown hands in my white ones and colour their nails bright and girly and just love on them.
Tomorrow we go back to Kampala, which I am hugely looking forward to.  I miss Ray of Hope and my people there.  Maybe I will give Derrick the guitar on Tuesday.
Today I thought about leaving Uganda, and I cried.  We only have five more days here, and I can’t bear to think of it.  I just can’t.
Well, goodnight.

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Posted by on February 1, 2012 in Uganda January 2012


Church in a Mud Hut: January 7

6:30 am
I just smashed a mosquito.  Inside my mosquito net.  And it had blood in it…lots of blood.
But other than that, I’m super happy right now.  I just woke up at 6:30 without an alarm clock, to another stunningly marvellous morning in Africa.  I can hear voices, and chickens, and every so often a rooster crows nice and loud.  Maybe that’s what woke me up.
I don’t know what we’re going to do today.  The plan is to visit two churches, and Dad and Jake will preach, and Sue and Leenie and I will do eyes, but since when does anything ever go according to plan?  This is Africa!
Ugh, I’m this close to puking right now.  I took my malaria pill without any food…never again.  Breakfast can’t come soon enough.

9:00 pm
With every precious moment I spend here in Uganda, I become more and more certain that this is the life I want.  I can’t imagine anything more glorious than being here every single day of my life.
Today we did eye glasses in two churches.  You know, sometimes doing the eye clinics makes me simply want to gouge my eyeballs out.  It gets so frustrating at times.  So many of the patients want glasses just for the sake of having them, and when I tell them the good news that they don’t need glasses, they insist that they do.  So perfectly good glasses are wasted on people who don’t need them.  Today was especially bad.
But it was all worth it because we were able to help a woman who has needed glasses for seven years and has never been able to afford them.  So we gave her a pair, and she fell to her knees praising God.  This is why we are here.  This is the whole point.
Oh, I’ve got my mud hut picked out.  It’s pretty far down a dirt road, past Paul’s orphanage.  It’s under a lovely green tree, and it’s small and circular with a lovely grass roof.  I will live there one day.
And I made a new friend named Juliet.  We walked and talked and she showed me all of the fruit trees.  Those children are so precious.

Juliet and me

And we had church in a mud hut.  Coolest thing of my life.
And I finally got to drink Stoney Tangawizi again!  It’s my absolute favourite drink, but I have yet to find any in America.  But here they have so much of it, and I love it.
This is a beautiful night.  The moon is big and nearly full, the air is still and cool, and as I sit here under the big palm tree, I think I must be the happiest person alive.
You know, this trip is going by reeeeeally slowly.  Really really slowly.  Which is odd because that has never happened before.  Usually they go by so fast.
Here I am, in Africa, loving every minute of it, and the time is passing so slowly so there are even more minutes to love.

These people know how to do church.

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Posted by on January 22, 2012 in Uganda January 2012


Travelling to Busia: January 6

9:45 am
Well, I was careful to use my mosquito net last night, and still got bit.  Oh well…it’s all part of the experience.
Last night Leenie and I were up till 11:30 sorting eyeglasses.  We had such a good time of it.  We tried on all the crazy pairs and all the really high prescriptions.  It was pretty hilarious.

Now we are sitting waiting for our car to come and take us to Busia.  Today will be very packed.  Busia is five hours’ drive away, plus we are stopping twice along the way to do eye clinics.  Pastor Hummer wants to spend six hours at each stop, and I don’t see how that will happen as it is already nearly ten and we haven’t left yet.  If we spend six hours at each place it will be three in the morning when we get to Busia.  But Pastor Hummer is so crazy, I wouldn’t put it past him to do that!
I haven’t gotten to see Derrick in two days…I hope I have at least a short while with him to teach him guitar.  It’s so exciting to know that this guitar I am carrying will soon be his.  I can’t wait to tell him!

11:15 am
I can’t write much because we’re driving and I’ll get carsick…sigh…but there are a couple of very very important things that I absolutely must write right now.
1. We just passed a little wooden shack called “The Pork Joint” with various pig parts hanging on a string across the front.  This is Africa, people.
2. If I want to live here one day (which I do) I must learn to carry things on my head.
3. We are driving over the Nile river right now as I write this.

Lunch 😀

9:00 pm
The power is out.  Again.  But what else is new?
Living by candlelight makes me feel even more Africa-ish.  It’s really nice.
We’re in Busia finally.  Just got here.  I got to see Nyangweso again, but I have yet to see Shadrack and Leonard.  I wonder if they still work here?
We only ended up going to one of the two churches we had planned, but we did spend a full six hours there.
Here in Uganda you never get what you bargain for.  Yesterday’s clinic had far fewer patients than we had anticipated, but today’s had way more.  Way more.  But a guy accepted Christ after getting his glasses, so it was completely worth it.
My translator, Emma, was awesome.  He’s a really cool guy.  I simply love meeting new people in my travels, especially when they’re close to my age and I can relate to them.  I had a lot of fun meeting him.  But he ended up getting sick and going home early, which was a bummer.
And today we saw a pink chicken!  A bright, highlighter-pink chicken.  Its owners dyed it so it wouldn’t attract hawks and such.  It was pretty hardcore.

Then in the evening after the clinic was over but we hadn’t left the church yet, some guys were playing the keyboard and I joined them and we played music for a while.  Then I got out my guitar (Derrick’s, actually!) and the kids loved it as always.  I love playing music together.  It’s so cool how you can just sit down and play music together and not have to say a single word.  Music is such a gift.
These people are so lovable.  It’s hard, because I can’t help but love them with my whole heart, and it hurts so much to love them like that knowing I may never see them again.  I just love them all so much…I can’t help it.
But it’s okay.  I may never see them again on earth, but that will only make it even more glorious when I finally see them again in Heaven.  I just have to keep reminding myself of that.


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Posted by on January 19, 2012 in Uganda January 2012


Around Kampala: January 5

7:30 pm
I am utterly exhausted.  Completely.  Today was a good day, but tiring.  We first went to the Widows and HIV Centre to visit Grace and the women and children.  When we got there, they all ran outside caterwauling and shaking our hands and hugging us and I don’t think I’ve ever felt so loved.
Then we went to a church that was planted back in May.  Then it had four people in the congregation, but you can see in the picture below that it has grown a lot since then.  It was great.  And we did eyeglasses again too.

When we took a break for lunch (at 5 in the afternoon!) we had soda, and nobody had a bottle opener so one of the guys, Michael, opened them with his teeth!  It was pretty hardcore.
You know, every time I am on mission like this, I am reminded anew how strong God is. Because yesterday I was so very tired, and I said to myself, “I can’t do this again.”  But today, God worked things out and made me able to do it again.  It always blows my mind how, when I am so tired and incapable, God is so much stronger and greater than I am.
I love these people.  I love how when they want you to take a photo of them, they say “shoot me!” It’s so cute.

Now we are about to eat dinner.  Did I mention how I love African food?  I am having goat stew with matoke and rice.  OM NOM NOM.  Yes.  And watermelon juice.  Real, fresh, true watermelon juice.
You know what’s funny?  I dress so colourful here in Africa.  In the States I wear grey and black and brown and dark colours.  But here I wear yellow and green and pink and blue.  I’m just so happy…I guess the clothes I wear hear reflect my heart.
Today I was telling Grace how this is my favourite place, and she couldn’t believe it.  But I told her yes, it’s true! And I told her how I want to live here one day, and she just laughed.

Last night, Leenie was standing up on the bed, wrapped up in the quilt, beatboxing and hiccuping and shaking her butt like an African woman.  For those of you who have never met Leenie, let me tell you that she is not the sort of person you expect to see that sort of behaviour from.  Anyway, then she fell off the bed, and we were both laughing so hard, and Sue just gave Leenie a funny look and went back to reading.
Tonight I shall be more careful to shut my mosquito net, because I’m getting horribly bit.
But now I’m going to have a shower, because I have so much dirt on my skin that you can see the outline of my shoes and clothes.  It’s a good feeling, being this filthy.  It means I worked hard and poured myself out.

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Posted by on January 17, 2012 in Uganda January 2012

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