Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Twas the Night Before Christmas in Uganda

Twas the Night Before Christmas in Uganda

Twas the night before Christmas and all through the village,
Mosquitos were swarming and getting ready to pillage.
The nets were hung over the beds with care,
In hopes that malaria would no longer be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While fears of malaria danced in their heads.
With I in my boots and her in her skirt,
We had just settled in amongst Uganda’s red dirt.

When out in the village there arouse such a clatter
I sprang from my seat to see what was the matter.
Out in the village I went on the run,
Because a bout with malaria is not so much fun.

When what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a mom with her baby showing such fear.
With a fear in her eyes, she came to us quick,
I knew in a moment her child was sick.

With headache and nausea fever and chills,
I knew it was time to get out the malaria pills.

Healing Faith’s plan is to stop the hysteria
We pray for the day there is a no more malaria
We hope you will join us in fight
Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Can an 8 year old change the world?

Can an 8 year old change the world?  Absolutely!  Meet Abby Stark, she is changing the world one mosquito net at a time.   Abby is the founder of Nickels for Nets, a program designed to get kids involved in the battle against malaria.

Malaria is a preventable and treatable mosquito-borne disease, whose main victims are children under five years of age. Africa is the most affected continent worldwide: about 90% of all malaria deaths occur in Africa. Did you know that every 60 seconds, just one minute, a child in Africa dies from malaria?  

Every child in the world deserves the chance at a healthy life.  They deserve a fighting chance against malaria.  Pastor Will Lewis said it is just a matter of latitude and longitude as to where we are born; we were blessed to be born in the USA.  Not every child is so blessed as to be born in an area free from malaria.  These children are born into a region where malaria is a burden.  No child should have to suffer based upon where they were born.  They are all God’s children.
Abby is doing her part to make a difference by raising money to buy nets for a malaria-burdened area of Uganda.  Through her efforts and the efforts of all the kids involved with Nickels for Nets they will make a difference.  The money they raise will be used by Healing Faith to purchase long lasting insecticide treated nets.  These nets recommended by the World Health Organization provide protection from mosquitos while sleeping. These nets can drastically reduce the transmission of malaria.

I am very proud of Abby Stark for starting this movement.  It is exciting to see all the children involved in making the world they live in a safer place for other kids just like them.
If  you would like more info about Nickels for Nets you can follow it on Facebook: Nickels for Nets

You can also watch Abby’s video and see her featured on the news at KBTX.

Join the fight!            

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Street Children

Here in Jinja there is a large population of street kids.  These kids live on the streets, sleep on the streets, the streets are their homes.  Whenever we are in town we see the same kids and they are always asking for money for food.  The easy decision seems to be to give them a handout, give them money for food, right?  But is it the best option? I look at my life and think to myself all that I have, why should I not be giving to these kids.  Herein lies the problem, the desire to “help”, and what seems like the simple solution can actually be compounding the problem and enabling their life on the street.  One of the big problems is that if you give the kids money, it may not always go towards food or improving their lives.  Unfortunately, for so many of the kids, they come from a tough background, a background we as adults could not begin to comprehend much less live as a 10-12 year old kid.  This tough background leads to drugs or alcohol to numb the pain.  The drug of choice on the streets is huffing or sniffing gasoline. The fumes give them a high and a sense of warmness to fight of the cold nights on the streets. Other times the older kids force the younger kids to go out and beg for money. The older kids have lost their “cute” appeal or are too old to get the sympathy the younger kids attract.
Photo credit: The Street Child Project
The good news is there are multiple ministries here in Jinja that target street children as their ministry such asChild Restoration Outreach and The Street Child Project. The bad news is that often times the kids would rather live a life on the streets because there are no rules to abide by and honestly it is much more profitable to be on the streets.  The easier life for them, one that doesn’t involve having to go to school or getting a job once they are older, can end up being a life on the street.  There are herds of tourist and mission trip teams that come through Jinja and the kids can hit up a new group every few weeks.   It is a sad cycle that unfortunately keeps repeating itself.
I have come to know a young boy named Mike who is 12 years old.  He has told me his story several times when I have seen him in town.  He told me he was kicked out of the house by an abusive stepfather.  He told me the stepfather threatened to beat him if he came back.  Mike has told me all he wants to do is get enough money so that he can pay school fees and get an education.  Everything about Mike makes you want to help him.  He is cute, charming and tells a very good story. It is so hard to tell a 12-year-old kid no when he asks if I can support him to go back to school.
Remember those ministries I told you about that help with street kids and work in some of the poorest villages?  One of those missionaries knows Mike well and told me he has a home in the village, but chooses to live on the streets because he gets more money and more food working the tourist on the streets.
This is the tough part about dealing with these kiddos.  Which ones really need and want help?  Which ones are choosing a life on the streets?
Kari and I have adopted the policy to not give money to the kids.  However,  I always smile  spend time talking to them to see what is going on in their lives.   I always try to direct them to the ministries  that are there to serve the street children.
Pray for the kids that are on the street that they would come to know the love of Christ  and they would find a way to get off the streets.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Who's that knocking on my gate?

One of the unique things about living here in Uganda is that you never know who is going to show up at your gate.  People knock looking for work, looking for assistance, from some committee or looking for handouts. This happens at least once a week, if not more.

About six weeks ago we had a mother show up at the gate with a child wrapped in a blanket.  There was a huge language barrier with me only knowing bits and pieces of the local language and her only knowing bits and pieces of English.  I understood the point that she was trying to get across is that her child was sick. The mother handed me a wrinkled up piece of paper from a clinic. All I could make out was the child had some testing done and it all came out negative.  She also had a list of medications she was supposed to buy.  Apio was not around to translate for me so I called her and had her translate by phone.  I would pass the phone to the mother and she would pass it back to me and I would get second hand what Apio translated.

From the bits and pieces I could understand the child was sick and could not be treated here by doctors in the local clinics.  Because of her child’s condition she was forced to travel to Mbale, which is about 2-3 hours away.  She was requesting assistance with transport to get her son to the hospital there. Kari and I have really worked hard to developing a plan and a way to help people in need, but we want to make sure that we are doing it in the right way and not just being the westerner who hands out money.  Money is not always the answer.   We want to make sure we are truly helping and not making the situation worse by making someone to become dependent on hand outs. We have tried to let the Holy Spirit lead us in our giving.  One of the hardest things about living here is telling people “no” who ask for money every day. When giving money we want to make sure it is going to the right cause and not going to enabling a cycle of bad habits.  We felt led that day to provide funding for her and her son to get transport and food and get to Mbale.

A few days ago, she showed back up at the gate. This time she was in need of transport money again.  Again the language barrier was there and this time Apio was not available by phone.  I was however able to get ahold of a young man who helps out with the ministry.  Again we did the translation game through the phone, it was a literal game of telephone.  I do not know how much was lost in translation or even if I got the whole story.   
Pierce peeking out the gate to greet visitors

I cannot imagine as a parent, having a sick child and not having the means to get them to the care they needed.  I cannot imagine the pain and anguish of having to go to a complete stranger’s gate and knocking, hoping and praying for assistance to get health care for my child. We are still not even sure how the lady came to be at our gate, maybe God led her there.

Did we do the right thing?  Did we help the situation or make the situation worse?  This is a question we ask ourselves each day when trying to make decisions.  Pray that we will continue to be guided with wisdom from God in dealing with situations like these.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Malaria Bites

We have dealt with and heard many sad stories of malaria and how it affects families.  This is another sad story, an all too common story of the tragic effects of malaria.

Our good friend Apio, who works closely with Healing Faith, told us the sad story of her lifelong childhood friend.  Her friend was excited that she was in the 8th month of her pregnancy.  That is when tragedy struck in the form of a mosquito.   This whole story revolves around a tiny little mosquito.  Apio’s friend was bitten by an infected mosquito and contracted malaria.  While malaria affects everyone, it is particularly bad for children and pregnant women.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) in Africa, 30 million women living in malaria-endemic areas become pregnant each year. For these women, malaria is a threat both to themselves and to their babies, with up to 200 000 newborn deaths each year as a result of malaria in pregnancy. Pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to malaria as pregnancy reduces a woman’s immunity to malaria, making her more susceptible to malaria infection and increasing the risk of illness, severe anemia and death. For the unborn child, maternal malaria increases the risk of spontaneous abortion, stillbirth, premature delivery and low birth weight - a leading cause of child mortality.

She became very ill and went to the government hospital for treatment.  The government hospitals in Uganda are supposed to be free.  “Free” is a relative term.  Due to understaffing, supply shortages and corruption, people here often have to wait an extremely long time for treatment or receive no treatment at all due to the fact they have no money.  Remember the part where I said it was supposed to be free?  This gravely ill pregnant woman was forced to wait so long the malaria riddled her body. The malaria was so severe that is took the life of her unborn child. A child was lost due to a mosquito bite and the lack of adequate medical care.

As if the story was not sad enough if it were to end there, it gets worse. Once the hospital staff realized the baby had died, the mother should have been immediately rushed into surgery to remove the child from her womb. However, the mother was left to wait again.  She was left to wait for so long that she became septic due to the death of her child inside her womb.  The mother succumbed to the combination of malaria and sepsis and she too died. She left behind another young child.  This child’s life is forever changed due to malaria.

Healing Faith is doing its level best to fight against malaria and to help defend women just like this.  It is an uphill battle but one that is worth fighting. Want to join the fight?

Friday, October 25, 2013

Typical Day

Kari and I often get asked what does is a typical day like in Uganda?

There is a very simple answer; I don't have a clue. There is never a “typical” day here in Uganda.  Everyday is different and you never know what the day is going to bring. Now as a male, I think it might be genetic, I can handle things last minute. Just ask Kari, I often do things last minute, however I also like a good plan. In my past life as an educator I had a very structured day.  I knew what to expect and I had a schedule. Here there are no schedules.  You can make a schedule with the best of intentions, but by breakfast time, if not before, that schedule has been changed due to the circumstances of the day.

So, I thought I would give a glimpse of a "typical" day here in Uganda.

The day started with our awesome 8 (almost 9) year old son letting mommy and daddy "sleep in" by making all the kids breakfast. Karson did as the Ugandans say "his level best" to keep everyone quiet so we could rest. He made everyone toast for breakfast.  Ya, we are fancy these days, we have a toaster.  It looks and feels as though it could fall apart at any minute, but nonetheless it makes toast.  After an amazing attempt to keep 4 other kids quiet and after a barrage of "shhhs" from Karson, I got my day started about 7:15.

My day starts with a cup of hot tea and quiet time.  This is always a good way to start the day. It is the calm before the storm.  It also helps start my day the right way by being in His word.

After quiet time, I loaded the van for the village.  Loading the van consists of putting in our malaria prevention and education materials, testing and treatment supplies.  I also loaded up soccer balls to play with the kids, plenty of water and peanut butter sandwiches for lunch. Yesterday was Karson’s day to go with me into the village. The two of us headed out to meet up with the team from Sole Hope.  The plan was for us to leave between 9:45 -10:00.  Therefore, everyone was told to arrive at 9:30.  I am laughing as I am typing this because I knew there was no way we would leave before 10:30.  As predicted the whole group was not ready to roll out at 9:45 as planned.  So we waited, and there is a lot of that here in Uganda.  The last of the Ugandan group arrived and the nurse for Sole Hope gave us the quote of the day, maybe even the quote of the month.  “Uncle sorry I am late…but this is Uganda.”

As we headed out about 10:20 we loaded 7 in my van and 6 in Dru’s van.  As we got almost to the Nile River, the van broke down. Now this would be frustrating any day, but it was even more frustrating because I had just picked it up from the mechanic the day before.  So we coasted into the petrol station and waited on the mechanic.  Meanwhile, the other van turned around and packed all 13 people into one van (that is meant for 8) and headed to the village.  Karson and I stayed behind to wait for a solution for the van.  The mechanic arrived and Karson and I left the van with him and walked back towards home.  About halfway there we got a boda boda (motorcycle taxi) and rode home.

After lunch of rice and beans, one of my Ugandan favorites, I tried to defuse a little from the van break down and missing a day in the village.  Then it was time to get a little school done with the boys. That is the beauty of home school, we have a flexible schedule.

After lunch it was time for Kari’s Luganda lesson.  She is becoming very good at one of the local languages here in our area. Lesson time is always a challenge because the kids always want to be around.  So I had to fight to keep Pierce inside away from her lesson and to keep all the rest of the kids quiet because it was nap-time for the little ones.

Shortly after Kari’s lesson, the mechanic brought the van back to the house and we took it for a test drive. Can you imagine your mechanic in the States delivering your vehicle to your home?  While I was dealing with the mechanic, one of the Ugandans we met and assisted in finding a job came by unexpected and unannounced.  While to Westerners that may seem strange, here it is very common.   It is even considered an honor.  So I was "honored" to have a guest waiting while I was dealing with the van.  Toby and I were able to meet and discuss his job and I was able to give him a little advice.

As this meeting was coming to an end, a young girl and her mother arrived for treatment of a wound.  Kari was doing a women’s ministry on Wednesday and found a young girl who had a terrible injury to her heal.  The wound had been there about 2 weeks and needed some serious cleaning and treatment. After I treated little Chloe’s foot, I got a call from one of our good Ugandan friends.  He had just gotten out of surgery the night before for a ruptured appendix and was recovering in the hospital.  So I loaded up and went to visit him in the hospital and to pray for his recovery.

By this time it was around 5:00 and the kids had been begging me all day to go on a bike ride.  So I took them in shifts on a bike ride.  It was a good chance to relax and spend time with the kids after a hectic and busy day. After our bike ride, Kari had an awesome avocado spaghetti and homemade breadsticks waiting for us for dinner.
Scenery of Lake Victoria on our bike ride

After dinner was the bedtime routine.  Getting 5 kids through the shower, teeth brushed, in pajamas and in bed. By this time of day Kari and I are spent and ready for some down time with each other.  Our favorite down time activity is to crash on the bed and to watch a movie or show on the computer.  I fell asleep during the middle of one of the shows, which I always do.  I was awoken at 2:00 am by a phone call and the dogs barking.  It was one of our missionary friends who was in a lot of pain and looking for medical advice.  I thought since the dogs were barking that they were at the gate and my mind was going 100mph wondering what type of injury or illness they had brought to the gate.  This too has happened in the middle of the night.  This time it was only a phone call. After we discussed his pain, I tried going back to sleep.  However, my mind started thinking of the days events and I laid awake for an hour or so before falling asleep, this time for the night.

I do not know what tomorrow will bring, but I imagine it will be another “typical” day here in Uganda.

Monday, October 21, 2013

The results are in...

On Friday we were back in Kagoma Gate with a team from Hope Grafted In.  We had the opportunity to do a bit of follow up on the malaria education program we piloted in Kagoma Gate starting back in July.  I really did not know what to expect.  Had the education been effective?  Were the nets still in place and being properly utilized?  One of the uphill battles we face in dealing with malaria is too often people use the mosquito nets for everything but their intended purposes.  There is a joke among missionaries here that they are called “multipurpose” nets.  Often the nets are used for fishing, catching white ants, to cover crops, or this was a new one, as a make shift chicken coop. The other problem we face is that sometimes the nets are sold for a few quick Shillings. We have tried to remedy that by actually hanging the nets over the sleeping area for them. 

I am pleased to report that of the houses we surveyed the nets we hung were still up and being utilized.  We will have a better idea once we are able to do a larger survey of the village, but for the houses we saw there was success! 

During our time in the village we were taken to a hut that was literally falling apart.  The roof had gaps and the mud walls were beginning to crumble. The villagers led us to this hut because a new family had moved into the village and had not received the malaria education and we had not hung nets.  We were able to visit with this mother and to hear her story.
 She came from a region near Kenya, where during  the rainy season, mudslides are very prevalent.  She  came to seek refuge from the mudslides and to seek 
refuge from an abusive relationship with her  husband.  As we sat with her outside of her house  and she began telling us more of her story, there was  an  overwhelming since of sadness and burden that  this woman was carrying.  She told us she had 7  children, but 2 of them had died from malaria.  Two  children lost to a disease caused by a mosquito.  A  mosquito. To be honest it makes me angry that a      little bug, a bug I smash every chance I get, can cause  so  much heartache, so much pain and so much sickness.  She told us that her mother once helped her  care  for the remaining five children, but now her mother too was dead.  She was left to care for 5 children  all-  alone in a small run-down hut that was literally crumbling around her.  As I looked at the walls of the  hut crumbling, I thought to myself her world was crumbling around her as well.

I sat with her and walked her step by step through the malaria education program.  We discussed the causes of malaria, the signs & symptoms, the dangers, the treatment and prevention. At the conclusion of the program, when it was time to hang the nets in her home, I asked if she had any questions.  Her answer, “what comes with these nets?”  Through the Grace of God my answer was quick and instantaneous and provided us with an amazing opportunity. I told her that these nets came with the love and care of our Lord Jesus Christ. That we were there in the village to teach about malaria, but most of all we were there because Jesus first loved us.  I told her that we come with testing supplies for malaria, medication for malaria and nets to prevent malaria, but that God is the Great Healer. It gave us the opportunity to sit with her and discuss her faith and it gave us the opportunity to cover her and her family in prayer.

This woman’s story is one that is all too common here in Uganda. Lives and families torn apart by tragedy, a tragedy of a disease caused by a little bug, a little bug that truly bugs me. 

Although some days are tougher than others in the village and I really wonder if we are making a difference, I look at this woman and her family and have inspiration to continue fighting on against malaria. 

Join the fight in helping Healing Faith provide education and nets to other families just like this one.   

Thursday, October 17, 2013

3 months?

As I prepare for a day in the village, I am in shock that 3 months have gone by.  Has it really been 3 months since our last team left?  Has it really been 3 months since we kicked off the malaria education program? As Dr. Seuss said “How did it get so late so fast?”

Tomorrow we head back to Kagoma Gate, where the people have captured our hearts, to follow up on the malaria education program.  We will be going around to check on the 250+ nets we hung. Are they are still being utilized, are they still properly hung and are they in good repair?  These are the questions I have been asking myself as I pack for the village.   I pray for the best, but prepare myself for the worse.

For those homes that are still utilizing their nets properly, we will re-spray their homes with insecticide aimed at killing mosquitos.  That is part of the promise of the Healing Faith education program; if your net is still in use and in good repair we will spray your home again.  The indoor residual spraying method we use as recommended by the World Health Organization is affective for 3 months.  So we will pack up our mask, gloves and sprayers and head back into the village.

We have the honor of having a team from the organization Hope Grafted In  work with us in the village tomorrow.  Our goal will be to follow up on the nets we hung, spray for mosquitos and make sure that we have covered every household and every child in the village with a net.   It is also time to deworm the children again for parasites. A simple treatment of 4 pills will keep parasites out of the children’s bellies for up to 3 months.

Our other goal, the most important goal of all, is to love on the people of Kagoma Gate and be a reflection of Christ’s love for us. My prayer for tomorrow is that the education we provided for each household will have taken hold and that we will find all the nets still in place and in good shape. I also pray that the malaria incidence in the village has gone down even in the midst of the rainy season when mosquitos are thriving.

If you want to get more information about how you can get involved with the Malaria Education program with Healing Faith, please contact us atsegner@healingfiathugand.com.
It cost less than $5 to cover a child with a long lasting insecticide treated mosquito net….Join the fight!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Meet Tom part II

Life in Jinja
Tom is the cousin to Apio who helps out with the ministry as well.  Tom came to work with Healing Faith when we needed a position filled.  In Uganda finding hard working, honest people to work with can sometimes be a challenge and we were thankful to have a personal recommendation.
Tom is also amazing with the children, who absolutely adore him.  He helps them ride bikes, pushes them on the swing and plays games with them during the day.  He plays Hide and Seek and Tag Your It with all the kids. I have seen him “shop” at Hadlee’s market she set up outside.  I have even seen him sit down and play dolls with Hadlee, funny doll voice and all.  Tom is never too busy to make time to play with the kids.  He was even a good sport one day when all the kids ambushed him with water guns!   VIDEO
 I have a couple stories from my time together with Tom that always make me smile.  One day as we were traveling to pick up a table, Tom kept  looking over at me as I was driving.  I finally asked Tom is something was wrong.  Looking at my seatbelt, he  asked “Sir, should I tie myself to the vehicle as well?”  It never occurred to me to show Tom how to put on his  seatbelt.
Tom has also been exposed to many new American foods during his time with us.  Tom and Apio both eat lunch with us everyday.  We mostly eat Ugandan style lunches, but from time to time we have an “American” meal.  Tom has tried some American treats such as; Jello, which was really fun to watch, Macaroni and cheese, spaghetti, soft tacos, smores and I think his personal favorite was pizza.  He is always adventuresome and will try anything the kids bring to him. One time the kids were so excited to give him a Warhead candy and see his reaction to the sourness.  They weren’t disappointed!
Tom trying S'Mores
During my conversations with Tom he told me “Sir, I think the world is going the way of computers, and I think I should learn about them.”  So for Tom’s birthday we arranged for him to have computer classes in town.  Tom learned everything from how to set up a computer and care for it, to typing, word processing and excel.  He is still working hard on learning to use the computer.  We are very proud of Tom and how hard he is working to learn a new skill.
Tom always works hard, and rain (we’ve been getting a lot lately) or shine, Tom always has a smile on his face.
During my time visiting with Tom, he left me with a couple quotes;
“By the time I reached here I was so excited to find you were a friend to me and you were providing for my basic needs. By working with you I can see I have a bright future ahead.”
“What I can tell you is I faced some problems with schooling, but good enough, God was with me.”
Listening to the struggles Tom faced just to get an education has given me a whole new perspective on what a privilege it is to have received an education.  As parents we have a hard time getting kids out of bed in the morning for school, or in our case a hard time motivating them to complete their home school. Tom got up every morning at 5am to dig in the garden and to care for his animals just to scrape up enough money to pay for school fees. Admiration is the word that comes to mind….
How easy would it have been for Tom to look at his situation as hopeless and quit his schooling?  He never did, he worked hard, persevered and was able to complete through Senior 4.   The struggles I faced (or what I thought were struggles) during my schooling, pale in comparison to what Tom went through.
Honestly, with integrity, working hard and always a smile on his face; this is how Tom goes about his daily life.  He is truly a blessing to our lives and to our ministry.