Thursday, October 25, 2012

Simple Things...

I miss the simple things.

Simple things like auto-draft to pay bills or online bill payment. Log on, click, done.  

Today I needed to pay the water bill, simple enough task right?  Not so much…  

Let me give you a little back story. The water meter at our house was stolen; therefore we had no water at the house. The water company deemed it our responsibility to replace the meter, even though they placed the meter, for their convenience, outside the fence which is not under our protection. After much debate we were forced to pay the $50 fee to have the meter replaced, we did however get them to concede to move the water meter inside our compound fence where it could be under the careful and diligent watch of our night guard Bosco (rolls eyes with much sarcasm).  

The process to pay the bill for the replacement meter took a combined four hours and went something like this;  File a police report for the stolen meter. This was quite the experience in itself. They asked if we wanted our night guard arrested for having the meter stolen on his watch.  Even though the meter was outside the fence the policeman said it was his responsibility and he should have been more diligent in his job. Once I convinced them not to arrest our night guard I got the police report filed and officially stamped by the "Big Man." I took   the police report to the water company to request a replacement meter.  The water company gave me a bill for the replacement meter which had to be paid at the bank. Oddly enough you cannot pay your water bill at the water company.  You have to pay you bill at the bank. So I went to the ATM and waited in line to withdrawal money.  You cannot withdrawal money from inside without a large fee, so I withdrew it from the ATM outside the bank which has no fee associated with it.  Coming out of the ATM I was ushered to the side and forced to walk around an armored truck delivering money to the bank with three guys with AK 47s, one with riot shot-gun and one with an old school Tommy Gun. Pierce found this entertaining and pointed to the guards “Uncle you have gun!”  After withdrawing money from right outside the bank, I went into the bank to pay the water bill, only after being checked with the metal detector.  This is never a fast process, first of all there is always a line, this line moves at a snails pace. When you get to the window, you go through the standard greeting process “How are you? How are things here? Yes, the family is fine, thank you.” Then if you have one of the kids with you, they must talk to the kids, get their name and go through a greeting process with them. Once you have paid the bill at the bank, you take the receipt to the water company, and then the water company can process your request. This is a far cry from setting up auto-draft or paying your bill online.  

I also miss the days of swiping my debit card at the store. This is a cash only society; remember that green stuff made out of paper with Presidents and important people  on them? Everywhere we go we have to carry cash (Ugandan Shillings) with us.  In the States, we never had cash. This is good and bad. Good because it keeps you more accountable with spending, you can’t just swipe your card. The bad,  you can’t just swipe your card. You always have to carry Shillings with you. A couple of times we have run short on Shillings when we are at the Supermarket. Kari has developed such a good relationship with the guys at the Supermarket that they tell her to just bring the remaining balance the next time she is in town.  

How is miss some of the simple things. Yet, some aspects of life here are easier than back home. It is a balancing act.  Sometimes I feel as though I might completely lose my balance and come crashing down, while other days I feel as though I can walk the tightrope with ease. Balance…

Friday, October 19, 2012

Where is God?

Where was God today?

As I am writing my heart is breaking for a 9 year old boy named Muwazi.  He was injured so badly that he had to have his hand and wrist amputated this morning. Pray for him and his family as they begin the healing process.  Here is his story…

If you have been following the story of Ishmael you know that his family suddenly moved away during the treatment of his injured foot.  Exciting news….we found him!  His mother contacted our friend Drew and gave him the location of their new village.  We loaded up the van on Thursday morning and headed out about an hour and a half to the village where his family relocated. Drew had to leave late afternoon to catch a flight back to the States, but he wanted to check on Ishmael one last time before he left Uganda.   When we arrived in the village it was a familiar site of Ishmael with his heart warming smile waving and dancing as we drove up.  We all eagerly jumped out to greet him.  I half way soaked up his smile and loving embrace and half way looked at his injured foot.  To my excitement the wound was healing up, however the one area I was concerned about looked worse as I was expecting without treatment for over a week.  The last time I saw Ishmael I had consulted with a doctor back in the States about his injury and I was planning on removing some fibrous tissue that was forming.  That was a week ago before his family suddenly up and moved.  Today I was able to remove some more infection that had developed in Ishmael’s foot and got his wound clean and dry again.  The exciting thing was I was able to teach his mother how to clean and dress his wound and left a week and half worth of supplies with her.  Before we left we were able to pray for him and his family before leaving.

As we were making our way along the dirt path back to the main road for the trip home, a man began flagging us down.  This is not unusual as people are always seeking rides or wanting to talk to the Muzungus as they pass by.  I usually smile, wave and keep driving.  However, something was different this time. I think it was the urgency in the man’s waving me down and the strong conviction from the Holy Spirit.  We turned around and met them along the dirt road.  As I got out to investigate, the site of what was waiting was hard for me to see.  They brought a 9 year old boy to the van with a hand that was so severely burned it almost did not resemble a hand with fingers. We sat the young boy in the back on the van and I began assessing his wound. Through the help of our Ugandan friend and translator Andrew, we were able to determine the young boy had fallen into a charcoal fire about a week ago.  Andrew recognized a bracelet on the boy’s wrist as a bracelet from a witch doctor trying to stop convulsions.  Andrew immediately advised the mother to remove the bracelet since it was from a witch doctor and since it obviously did not work. From what we pieced together the boy has epilepsy and began convulsing and burned himself severely in a charcoal fire used for cooking.

I have seen some bad burns, especially the burns we dealt with in treating Kobasinja, yet this was quite different. The hand was fixated in a claw type position and burned to an absolute crisp.  The fingers were rock hard with no flexibility in them, the hand felt like a rock, the whole hand and wrist seemed mummified.   The wrist and forearm were burned and covered in ash, which is a traditional treatment in the village. During my exam of the child he sat tearfully in obvious pain and fear.  All I could offer was Children’s Tylenol to ease some of the obvious pain and prayers.

The whole time I was dealing with his catastrophic injury I was thinking to myself  ”where is God in this situation?”  How could our loving and merciful God let this happen to a 9 year old boy?  On the day that child was burned his life and his future were forever changed.

I knew this child needed to get to Kampala to be receive treatment  beyond what we could do from the back of our van.  I my opinion the hand was dead, there seemed to be no blood flow left and nothing that could be done in the field.  I was praying for a miracle, I have seen God perform miracles with His physical healing powers many times since we have been here.  However, with a heavy heart I knew medically Muwazi’s hand was dead. In the back of my mind I knew the hand would have to be amputated. My heart turned from heavy to bitter and I began wondering why this happened?  Why would my God of love and compassion allow this horrific accident to happen to anyone let alone a child?

As we began to make a plan to get this child the care he needed in Kampala, I was able to answer my own question of “where was God?”  He was right there with us.  I saw God move in a big way!  I saw three people, Megan, Drew and Andrew jump into action to care for this child we had just met. Megan, our current intern, immediately got money out to pay for transport from the village to Jinja.  Our original plan was to take her and the child with us  to Jinja  with us and get them transport to Kampala.  However, she had other children at home she needed to make arrangements for.  Once those arrangements were made she was to travel to Jinja and meet up with us.  Megan paid for her transport to Jinja without a second of hesitation. Andrew, our Ugandan friend, began translating and making all the necessary arrangements to get the mother and child to Jinja. Drew began making plans to stop by the bank to help fund this child getting the necessary care. Everyone’s heart and emotions kicked in and wanted to do whatever was necessary to get this young boy taken care of.

We went back to Jinja with heavy hearts thinking of this poor child and how we would get him taken care of.  The bitterness turned to love as I saw those around Muwazi working to get him the care he needed.

Andrew waited back in Jinja for hours for Muwazi and his mother to arrive from the village so that he could get them onto a taxi to Kampala. He was concerned they would get lost in Jinja since they are from the village and resolved to stay there until they were safely in a taxi. He waited on the side of the road where the taxis drop people off to make sure he was there to greet them. Was Andrew exhausted?…….yes.  Was he willing to go home and rest before this child was taken care of?…no.  I saw a  Ugandan fight for his fellow country man today who he met only hours before.  Andrew was willing to leave school early today to help us in the village and willingly gave up his whole evening to make sure this child was getting to the care he needed.

I watched Drew, a man who was bound for the airport that evening to fly back to the States, willing to do whatever it took to get this child taken care of.  Most of us would have been concerned with packing and getting ready to go back home;  not Drew he was willing to do what it took to make sure Wuwazi got the care he needed.

I saw the compassion in Megan’s heart as she wanted to do everything possible to make sure that not only the child was taken care of but the mother had everything she needed for the stay in the hospital.

In the end we were able to get Muwazi and his mother to Kampala for treatment by providing  for transport and  medicine while in the hospital.  The care for the treatment at the hospital is paid by the government, but medicine has to be purchased.  My heart is breaking today as we just got a call from Kampala that Muwazi’s hand will indeed have to be amputated. A 9 year old boy’s life is forever changed by the events of today. Please pray for him and his family that they will have the strength to overcome this ordeal. I am having a hard time dealing with the events of today. I keep thinking of Karson who is only one year younger and what if he were in this situation. I also think that if he lived in the West he would still have his hand today. I keep thinking no child should have to endure the pain and suffering Muwazi  is dealing with. I know this is a good news, bad news situation.  Had we not come upon him in the village the hand would have become infected and gangrene would have set in, which would likely have killed him. Yet, it is hard to rejoice in the fact a 9 year old boy just lost his hand.

Where was God?  He was right there with us today tapping me on the shoulder and saying “this one needs you, pull over.”  He was right there beside me working through 3 incredible people who would not stop until Muwazi was cared for. God moved today, He made it possible for a young boy to get to the hospital for treatment before infection killed him.

Where is God?…… He is right beside Muwazi as he endures this ordeal.

I saw many good and faithful servants today serving the Lord in their willingness to help a young boy in desperate need.
Matthew 25:21 “Well done good and faithful servant!”

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Small Victories...

We have learned to appreciate small victories in Uganda. We had a small victory in dealing with Ishmael and his injured foot.  Did it turn out the way we hoped…no. However, we will celebrate the small victories.
You can read about Ishmael’s story here:
We went to check on Ishmael’s foot and his little sister who we were treating for malaria.  When we arrived in the village we were expecting the normal greeting of Ishmael running out with a huge smile and all the kids gathering around as we walked up.  This time when we arrived it was quite different.  There was no Ishmael.  We began to ask around the village and found out that his family had gone back to their original village, which is a very long way away.  We were all hit with an immediate wave of disappointment and disbelief.  Just two days earlier we had treated his foot and spent some time talking with his family, and now they were gone.
Disappointment  on my part was immediately replaced with worry and fear.  What would happen to Ishmael and his foot?  Would it continue to heal?  Would it get worse and infected again.  How long would they leave the bandage on?  As we headed out to the village that day I was really encouraged because we had shown pictures to a doctor back in the States and he had given some advice on how to proceed and provide debriedment for the wound.  I would have to cut away some of the fibrous tissue that was developing around the edges of the wound, a painful process, but a process that would improve the healing of the wound. Now that encouraged feeling I had was replaced with fear for Ishmael and frustration about not being able to continue treating his healing foot.
We spent some time in the village trying to determine exactly were they had gone and if they had a contact number to try and reach them.  We got one contact number, which proved to be worthless.  We all loaded up and left the village dejected, frustrated and worried.
On the way home we started talking about small victories.  I realized we celebrated many small victories in the few weeks were able to spend with Ishmael. First, when Cody and Drew found Ishmael in the village he was crawling in the dirt, unable to walk with a dirty t-shirt wrapped around his foot.  When we last saw Ishmael he was running, with a limp but running nonetheless out to meet us. God raised this child up out of the dirt and back onto his feet. Small victory!
When I first examined the wound on his foot, I was shocked at how large and how deep the wound was. When we last treated Ishmael, the infection was gone and the wound was healing up nicely.  It still had one large area of concern that we wanted to address and remove the fibrous tissue forming, but it was clean and infection free. Small victory!
When we first met Ishmael we were told his family was Muslim. We battled against language barrier and religious barriers to share Christ with Ishmael and his family.  We knew we could show the love and compassion of Christ by helping to take care of his wounds, yet we all wanted to do more.  On the last day we saw Ishmael, Drew with the help of a translator was able to share about Christ.  He asked if he could tell his mother why we were there and if she would like to hear the story of our Savior.  Not only was she willing and excited to hear, she prayed with Drew at the end.  The last time we saw Ishmael and his family we were able to share about Christ.  Huge victory!
I do not think it was a chance meeting that day in the village when Cody and Drew found Ishmael crawling in the dirt. I do not think it was an accident that we got to spend a few weeks helping to treat Ishmael’s foot.  I also do not believe it was an accident or lucky timing that allowed Drew to share Christ with his family before they suddenly moved away from the village.
Did everything go according to our plan? No.  Did everything go exactly as He planned? Absolutely!
Will Ishmael’s foot continue to heal?  We hope and pray it does.  Will his family pursue a further relationship with and come to know Christ?  We hope and pray they will.
Can we “heal” everyone? No.  Can we celebrate in small victories and appreciate the opportunities God places in our lives? Absolutely!
For now we will celebrate the small victories.
Psalm 118:24 “This is the day which the Lord has made, we will rejoice and be glad in it”

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Island Hopping

Last week we had the opportunity to visit a village on one of the islands in Lake Victoria with a team from Welcome Home. The team was made up of a group from Australia, England and Canada.  The trip started out in a small community right on the edge of the lake where we loaded into a large wooden boat. I was not sure we were all going to be able to cram into the boat, but somehow we all made it. 
 Before we went over to the island, the boat took us to the Source of the Nile.  Although, I had been to the Source of the Nile before it seemed more majestic this time.  It was really neat to see the water bubbling up from the springs below the lake and watching it flow into the mighty Nile River.
After our tour we started the “20 minute” trip over to the island.  I have learned that you can almost multiply every length of time that you are given by at least two here in Uganda.  It was a beautiful trip on Lake Victoria, with one small issue…. our boat had a few leaks.  By a few I mean a lot! At first it was not that big a deal because there was a small trickle but it soon became an issue when our ankles were getting wet.  So what do you do when your boat begins to fill with water?  You bail it.  We bailed until the water went from ankle level down to toe level and repeat process every few minutes. We arrived on the shores of the village about 30-35 minutes later. 


Once we arrived it was amazing to see the fishing village and all that was going on.  The whole shore line was filled with boats and fishing gear.  Just past the beach were tarps filled with thousand and thousand of small fish that were drying in the sun. The sight was something to see and the smell was a bit overwhelming.


Our goal for the day was to visit the children in the school and to provide de-worming medicine.  We were given a very warm welcome ceremony in the church that was filled with singing, dancing and lots of smiles.  After the  welcome we set out to get all the children de-wormed.  To accomplish this we give the children  a medication called Albendazole, which takes care of the parasites for up to three months.  The medication comes in pill form and is chewed by the child.  Our mission, get all four hundred-plus kiddos in a circle, hand out the medication and make sure the chew it up.  From my experience in the past villages having the children hold hands and make a circle was the most effective way to get the medication handed out quickly and to make sure nobody came back twice.  This worked like a charm with the children from Pillars of Hope and the Wakissi Village while the team from Brazos Fellowship was here.  With full confidence, and the confidence of the team backing me,  I had everyone get in a circle and we stared the process of handing out medication.  Of course this did not work for this group of kids, as soon as they saw us handing out a “sweetie” (the medication) they all rushed up to us in a big mob.  We abandoned this plan and had them make a line, they walked in the front door of the church, got the medication, got a mark on their cheek and walked out the side door.  It only took about 30 minutes to get all the kids and some of the adults through the process.  What worked in one village, does not always work in another…… and learn.

 I spent a little time treating some of the very sick kids in the village, two cases of malaria and two very bad ear infections.  Afterwards we had a traditional Ugandan lunch. We spent a little time playing with the children before heading out.  As we were leaving we heard loud drum beats and shouting.  Our guide said it was a circumcision procession for a young man from the Bagishu tribe who was to be circumcised that afternoon.  In some of the tribe the boys being circumcised is a “coming of age” ceremony.  This boy was about 12-14 years old. As they made their way down the road I was videoing the procession, they made their way over to us and I realized I was right in the middle of things.  There was the young man who was being circumcised and the medicine man chanting and waiving some sort of stick.  I was entertaining to see the medicine man, he was painted his headdress was made up of bows and I am pretty sure several  light bulbs, I have included a video at the bottom.  They came and danced and chanted for us and then made their way down toward the edge of the lake to “complete” the ceremony.


It was an amazing journey to the island.  I had one of those “Africa moments.”  I realized I was in the middle of Lake Victoria, the second largest fresh water lake in the world and had just witnessed a circumcision procession.  The boat ride home was full of  reflection, awe at the scenery God created..... and of course more bailing water out of the boat. 

                                                                  Video of the circumcision procession: