30 November 2008


These precious little creatures are EVERYWHERE around here...sleeping as families in the middle of the road in the middle of town, running you off the road when you're on your bike, tied to tall grasses and reeds along the road while grazing, being herded by small boys with sticks, little babies that seem to be born knowing how to run behind their mother, big pregnant mama's waddling along - seemingly about to pop at any point in time. And to this city girl, they all look alike, just different colored spots in various arrangements, but I'm assured by everyone here they in fact do not all look alike, and they're like children - owners know their "kids" among a crowd of goats anywhere...

What you might not know about these animals is that, if of the correct variety, they have the ability to save the lives of children rendered motherless by HIV and any number of other illnesses, and to sustain children of HIV + mothers who have been weaned to prevent possible transmission of the virus through breastmilk. Read the following and follow the instructions listed if you are interested in partnering with us here in Bundibugyo by donating a goat that will benefit a family God brings our way.


We are so thankful for more than 100 families who received dairy goats in 2008, funded by the generosity of our friends and supporters in America. Once again this year we are offering the Give-a-Goat opportunity. For $130 donated to WHM’s Give-a-goat program, we can purchase and transport a specially bred dairy goat here in Uganda, train a family in its care, give them a few tools for constructing a simple shed, and then allow them to take the goat home. Thanks to this project, many children who otherwise would have starved, can thrive—drinking the calories and protein they need. Most of our recipients are babies whose mothers have died, or whose mothers are infected with HIV/AIDS and therefore need to wean them from potentially infectious breast milk. Your donation is a gift to a family which is about as close as one can come in 2008 to that of the homeless and wandering parents of the infant Jesus, living on a slim margin of survival. The first 100 donors will receive a hand-made African Christmas tree ornament which symbolizes the real gift of the goat. Please put it on your tree to remind you that Christmas is all about incarnation: love in bodily form, God becoming human and needing milk, your generosity translating into a real live animal and its milk.

The mechanics:

1. Use this link to donate by credit card. This is the simplest and fastest method, and allows our colleague Ginny Barnette in the Sending Center to quickly confirm your donation and address and mail you the ornament.
2. Send a check to WHM Donation Processing Center, P.O. Box 1244, Albert Lea, MN 56007-1244, writing “Goat Fund 12373” on the memo line. Since the processing and return of the information to Ginny could take a couple of weeks, you may want to email her (GBarnette@whm.org) in order to be sure you receive the ornament before Christmas.

3. If you would like the ornament mailed to a DIFFERENT address than the one on your credit card or check, you must also communicate this to Ginny. A card will be included with each goat describing the program.

25 November 2008

"To my lovely one..."

Okay, so we go from pick up lines straight to letters of proposal around here, so brace yourselves. I have the priviledge of bringing to your attention the following letter. Please read carefully as pearls of great wisdom and endearment are found in it's specially crafted lines. So specially crafted that 2 single women on our team received the same letter from the same guy in the same week! Sarah received hers one week ago Monday. The same guy hand delivered virtually the same letter (this time typed with clip art roses and calligraphy fonts) to Pat after Sarah answered the door totally unnoticed by this guy who had given her the same letter 4 days earlier...Pat was flabbergasted, and asked the man "are you this man?! You are he himself?!" The spellings are original to the letter itself, unfortunately you'll just have to get your creative juices flowing and imagine the calligraphy font and clip art for yourself. There was talk of scanning the letter and posting it in all of it's original glory but none of us have time for that, this is will have to do. Read carefully :)

Date as today.

My Darling miss……PARTRIS…….
How are you as far as your physical fitness is concerned? And how is the atmospheric pressure taking you over there?
I personally, I am really hearted of you Madam, and jam happy to hear that you are of a working class the same as jam.
I am a Doctor by profession and I hope we can assist each other in this world.
Surely, I love you very much my dear and let me have this lovely letter of mine.
Madam, I am really hurted because of you ever since I saw you and I would like to know from you whether I can have a chance to talk to you soon and hear a word from your mouth.
I am really in need of you and I would like to die with you in this changing world, that is to say I need you to be my sweet mammy in my home until the almighty God will separate us as it was created.
My dear, don’t think that I am wasting my time to write to you, I am really serious and I can never let you down whatever the case may be.
My darling, as a matter of fact, I would like you to reply and give me your program of how I can see you physically and we talk to each other.
Hopping you will comply with the above.
May the Almighty God grant you success in all your doings?
I remain faithfully yours in need


CALL 0123234567
Dr. R….. Herbal Clinic in Nyahuka. Town. C.

On the outside of Sarah's handwritten letter was written "If you have any questions regarding this letter please contact our nearest branch. Dr. R's Herbal Clinic, Nyahuka." R is clearly NOT a Doctor (he sits in a little duka down the road towards town) which is only the first of many issues he likely has! Yesterday Jennifer delivered Scott's "fatherly"/protective refusal letter written (by Jennifer and signed by Scott of course) in response. Upstanding individuals in this culture always handle these things through an intermediary person and only ever approaching the woman's father, never the woman herself.

See, being single for sure has it's perks...what stories!!!!!

23 November 2008

what a line!

Okay, so, best pick up line of the year, hands down...

"Ah, Olupah, you are new every morning...just like the word of the Lord!" :)

I haven't laughed so hard in a long time...this zinger came out of the mouth of one of the great Ugandan guys who works with us on Nutrition projects. I told him the next day that I'd told Sarah about his line and that she'd laughed a lot..."Why did she laugh?" he asked as he chuckled a bit himself. I tried explaining to him that it sounded like what we call a "pick up line, something that a guy says to get a girl's attention". He said the inquisitive affirmative, "eh?!" "I didn't use it that way" he assured me. "But we also have those sayings here" he told me. I asked what other ones he had in his repertoire and told me the following...

"You ask a girl for 500 Shillings, and then when she asks you 'what for?' you tell her 'so I can call my mum and tell her I've met the girl of my dreams." Clearly not as funny as the above mentioned pearl, but still got a chuckle out of me.

17 November 2008

A Severe Mercy

“…He [the author] couldn’t recall what it was in his reading that had begun the train of thought – yes, he could: it had been the great brains in their towers in Stapledon’s splendid Last and First Men. He had been wont to despise emotions: girls were emotional, girls were weak, emotions - tears - were weakness. But this morning be was thinking that being a great brain on a tower, nothing but a brain, wouldn’t be much fun. No excitement, no dog to love, no joy in the blue sky – no feelings at all. But feelings – feelings are emotions! He was suddenly overwhelmed by the revelation that what makes life worth living is, precisely, the emotions. But, then – this was awful! – maybe girls with their tears and laughter were getting more out of life. Shattering! He checked himself: showing one’s emotions was not the thing: having them was. Still, he was dizzy with the revelation. What is beauty but something that is responded to with emotion? Courage, at least partly is emotional. All the splendour of life. But if the best of life is, in fact, emotional, then one wanted the highest, purest emotions: and that meant joy. Joy was the highest. How did one find joy? In books it seemed to be found in love – a great love – though maybe for the saints there was joy in the love of God. He didn’t aspire to that, though, he didn’t even believe in God. Certainly not! So, if he wanted the heights of joy, he must have, if he could find it, a great love. But in the books again, great joy through love seemed always to go hand in hand with frightful pain. Still he thought, looking out across the meadow, still, the joy would be worth the pain – if, indeed, they went together. If there were a choice – and he suspected there was – a choice between, on the one hand, some sort of safe cautious middle way, he, for one, here and now chose the heights and the depths.” - Sheldon Vanauken in A Severe Mercy

16 November 2008

How do you define "friend" ?

(Saturday 15 November)

The last 36 hours or so, I’ve been kicked by a stomach bug…a pretty nasty one at that…I won’t get into many details but I kind of have to in order to get to the point of the story…Let’s just say it’s been comin’ out both ends…and in a place where your bathroom is a pit latrine, this is far from a pleasant experience. When woken up at 3am this morning with relatively violent symptoms, I was kneeling over my trash basket lined with a plastic bag, praying for some relief. Pat happened to be awake after taking the girls to the bathroom, she heard me and came to see if I needed anything. “How do you do this, when it’s coming out both ends and you don’t have a toilet?” I asked pitifully. She explained the options, of which there were only 2 – both of which I had thought of already but was hoping the veteran Bundi resident would have had another I hadn’t yet thought of…not so much. But, here’s where she threw out the zinger, totally nonchalantly, “Here, I’ll go out to the cho with you” as she went to find her shoes and torch. “Okay” I answered quietly but readily. So, I picked up my plastic bag out of the trash basket and slowly made my way out the back door. The moon was particularly bright so I didn’t particularly need the headlamp I had in hand to find my way, but it was good to have some sort of light once inside the cho. Pat kindly sat in the doorway as I squatted and waited, and squatted and waited and squatted and waited…we chatted about the dog, about the moon, about palm and coconut trees, about the ridiculousness of the situation, and who knows what else, it was 4:30 in the morning. It was at 4:30 in the morning that I also found the reason for the miniature bwamba chair that sits in the corner of the cho…I had gone almost 10 months without knowing the purpose of that chair and if it were up to me I could have gone the whole two years, but God thought otherwise. After a long time (could very well have been an hour), I told Pat to feel free to go back inside and get some sleep. Finally she did. I continued my squatting and waiting…somehow in the chill of the morning as I waited in the chair I found myself dozing off with my head against the wall…Finally the violence subsided and I felt safe and comfortable enough going back to bed. It was 6 am.

Now, I think maybe we each have measures by which we measure our friendships…the things that signify genuine friendship to me might be very different from those that make up your list. And I think the things that make each of our lists change depending on the circumstances of our lives, the particular challenges we might face. Never in a million years, before my arrival here in Uganda, would I have thought to put “middle of the night accompaniment to the pit latrine” on my list of measures of a genuine friendship…but let me tell you, here in Bundibugyo nothing speaks love louder than someone willing to sit with you in the pit latrine in the middle of the night while you ride out the symptoms of a violent stomach virus! Pat acted like it was nothing, but sitting in the cho by myself in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere in Africa sounds like just about the loneliest place on earth, so needless to say I was very thankful.

I'd also like to add that my FRIENDS at St. Louis Children's Hospital pulled through from afar with the 1L graduated plastic SLCH water mug with the stretchy straw and crystal light packets...I've been dutifully sipping away like a good patient should, changing out the crystal light flavor every time just for variety :) How many times have I leaned over a patient's bed trying to convince them that despite their nausea and vomitting they need to KEEP DRINKING?! Sheesh, it's harder than it looks y'all! So much easier said than done! (And by the way, "friend" on a general medicine floor at a children's hospital in the States is defined by things like willingness to help change the linens on a bed of a 9 yr old boy getting go-lytely through an NG tube, or getting up from their computer charting at 18:55 to get just one more piece of extension tubing while you stand gowned/masked/gloved in the doorway of a negative pressure room, or hanging a flush in a room where the family is driving you absolutely up the wall!...a bit different from the pit latrine in the middle of Africa, but demonstrations of care nonetheless! Thanks girls!)

09 November 2008

almost forgot

The week has been such that I almost forgot to make the announcement that I got word this week that my Ugandan Work Permit has been approved!!!!!!  This is a big deal.  After 3 or 4 "special passes" to hold me over, after a 48 hour blitz trip to Kampala with Jennifer back in June for a 10 minute interview with the Council, after completing the required 2 months in Kampala by myself working at Rubaga Hospital, after about a half dozen trips to the Ugandan Nurse and Midwives Council, after lots and lots of waiting to see people, waiting to be told to go and wait somewhere else, after learning to expect to wait and wait some more if intending to get anything done, after learning that not much gets done even when you do wait and wait some more, I almost have my work permit in my hands.  It either will be paid for or has already and hopefully it will come on a MAF plane with Masso's in a couple of weeks, just before Thanksgiving.  What timing.

Something else to be thankful for is Katusiime Jovia.  Katusiime is WALKING!  This precious little one is about 5 or so years old, has Cerebral Palsy and the last time I saw her could only scoot around on her bottom, shimmying around with little pushes from her feet in a "squat" like position.  Even when only able to scoot, her disposition was befitting of her name, "jovial" is a great way to describe her.  A beautiful face with little tufts of braids in ponytails bouncing around her eyes.  Today she waddled upright in a slightly broken but very toddler like gait and a huge smile on her face to try to join in with the women in the choir.  What joy this little one brought to my heart.  Her mother got up and praised God for the progress Katusiime has made, and what progress indeed!  TOTALLY made my week, maybe even my month.

08 November 2008

Nothing Articulate

I feel like I need to write something but I'm not sure what to say.  It's been a strange week.  Can't quite put a finger on why but maybe it's the mix of extremely hard circumstances and events and the experience of God's kindness mixed in.  There's a lot of death in the story of my life in the last week, but there's unbelievably a lot of life also.  There's a lot of sin in the story of my life in the last week, but unbelievably there's a lot of forgiveness and redemption also.  There's been a lot of sobering memories in the story of my life in the last week, but unbelievably there's also been a lot of glad memories.  There's been a lot of crying in the story of my life this week, but there's also been a lot of laughter.  There's been a lot of lament of the sorrow and sin and struggle of this world and this life in my story this week, but there's also been glimpses of the world and life to come.

I think it's been a strange week because I'm not used to this mixture.  I think in my life experience in general I am used to experiencing one or the other...joy or sadness, laughter or tears, sin or forgiveness, death or life, not such strong combinations of all of the above.  It's another expression of the paradoxes of life here.  I'm not sure what to do with it all, but I think the point is that there is nothing to do, there's just being.  I can only sit with the emotions and realities of the moment, whatever combination there might be, and ask God to show me whatever He has for me in it.  

02 November 2008

Beautiful Dawn
(by the Wailin’ Jenny’s)

Take me to the breaking of a beautiful dawn
Take me to the place where we came from
Take me to the end so I can see the start
There’s only one way to mend a broken heart

Take me to the place where I don’t feel so small
Take me where I don’t need to stand so tall
Take me to the edge so I can fall apart
There’s only one way to mend a broken heart

Take me where love is not for sale
Take me where our hearts are not so frail
Take me where the fire still owns it’s spark
There’s only one way to mend a broken heart

Teach me how to see when I close my eyes
Teach me to forgive and to apologize
Show me how to love in the darkest dark
There’s only one way to mend a broken heart

Take me where the angels are close on hand
Take me where the ocean meets the sky and the land
Show me to the wisdom of the evening star
There’s only one way to mend a broken heart

Take me to the place where I feel no shame
Take me where courage doesn’t need a name
Learning how to cry is the hardest part
There’s only one way to mend a broken heart

So I’ve been feeling pretty broken these days, broken as in “needs fixin’,” broken as in “not whole,” broken as in “not solid,” broken as in “weak.” Weakness is not looked on favorably around here, not by Ugandans and certainly not by us Americans. This is the kind of place where you have to be at the top of your game all of the time…the top of your relational game, the top of your spiritual game, the top of your work game, the top of your cultural adjustment game, the top of your flexibility game…and if you’re not – well you had just better keep it to yourself because everyone else is trying their best to be at the top of their game and you not being at the top of yours just pulls them down too…or at least that's the way it seems to me...

But I’m tired. I’m tired of trying to “stand tall” as the song says. I’m tired of trying to be the name of courage. I’m tired of trying to ignore the shame and smallness that I battle against everyday here. I’m tired of trying to buy love from those around me. I’m tired of trying not to fall apart.

I want a place where it’s safe to be broken, safe to be weak. But until I learn to look for this love and acceptance in my Father in Heaven, who runs to me on the road, his prodigal daughter, and throws his arms around me, I will continue to wallow in my weakness. So I ask, “Teach me how to see when I close my eyes, teach me to forgive and to apologize, teach me how to love in the darkest dark.”

01 November 2008


It's a form of some sort of the verb "to survive." So when a woman produces (gives birth to) a child, congratulations are given by saying "webaleh kwejuna" - thank you for surviving! It's for this reason that the program for HIV + women and their children that Scott spearheaded with funding from the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric Aids Foundation (EGPAF) is called Kwejuna Project.

I've been thinking a lot in the last couple of weeks about the reality of being a Kwejuna mom...what it means to be a woman with HIV here...what it means to get tested and then to wrestle with the decision to pursue treatment and care for the disease. Simply showing up at the quarterly food distributions takes a tremendous amount of courage for a majority of these women.

- Based purely on the structure and physiology of women's bodies, the way God has made us, women are more likely to contract the virus than men
- in this culture, sex is ordinary and common place and seen largely as a bodily function and it's believed to be medically unhealthy to abstain when you have the urge, and medically advantageous to engage in it as often as you can
- A man's place in society and clan in this culture is due almost exclusively to the number of children he has. A man's wealth is means to obtaining wives (the more wealthy you are the better the bride price you are able to pay).
- A woman's value as a wife is in her ability to produce children and the more wives you have the more children you can produce.
- Money is controlled by the men in a family
- Because of the frequency with which women are pregnant, the protocol of HIV testing during antenatal care has been very effective in identifying women who are positive.
- The first person in a relationship to be tested and found to be positive is blamed as being the source of the disease. Because of the antenatal testing protocol combined with the frequency of pregnancy, this is most often the wife/woman.

If you are a woman who gets tested for HIV during antenatal care and you find out you are positive, what do you do? You know that every child you produce has the risk of getting the virus, you know that you will die of the disease either sooner or later...

Do you pursue treatment/care (coming to Kwejuna project distributions and the clinic for meds and education) and therefore have your husband find out your status and risk him killing you, beating you, divorcing you? There are no battered womens shelters here, there are no unemployement benefits, no welfare programs, it's all handled within the family, and now a part of your husbands family, if he kicks you out where do you go? Will your family accept you back? Your children are property of your husband and his clan, so you will be giving up the right to love and care for them.


Do you rip the page out of your kitabo (patient book used as a health record) that has the positive result written on it and pretend it never happened, ignoring all of the health care staff's encouragement to get treatment and get your husband tested, putting your life and those of all of your children at risk, but hopefully avoiding the wrath of your husband's blame?

Either way, your options don't look too good. Jennifer recently had this conversation through translation with one of the mom's on the ward...when asked if she would let us tell her husband if she didn't want to tell him, she responded that if he found out her status "he would bury me." With her HIV + infant on her lap, she stood up put the child on her hip and walked out of the room seemingly set in her mind to do nothing about the virus that will one day take over her body and take her life and the life of her children. We can only do what we know how, to encourage people to have the courage to take steps towards treatment and then we pray that God will give them what they need to survive.