29 December 2010

At the Moolah: The King's Speech

Where can you see a new movie for $5 these days? Not many places. How often in your life do you have a lengthy period of time set aside without "work" and responsibilities? Not often. So, what did I do tonight? I went to the movies!

The Moolah is an old Masonic Temple/Lodge/Shrine turned into a movie theatre, bowling alley, bar/lounge, and loft apartments. And this is no ordinary movie theater! Imagine a ballroom of sorts, 2 stories tall, one wall entirely occupied by a movie screen and the ballroom floor filled with leather couches and chairs in rows, with a handful of rows of ordinary stadium seating on the wall opposite the screen. There's even a balcony that I didn't get to explore due to it being closed on weekdays. I was delighted to notice what seemed to be a random mural of the Blue Mosque in Istanbul on one wall in the lobby that I got a quick glance of while moving through the line of people waiting to get into the theater, and Regina Spektor's Far album was serenading the spectators in the theater once they found their seats and waited for the movie to begin. I followed the line into the theater and found a leather chair to settle into. I crossed my legs, leaned back and sighed, "now THIS is how to see a movie!"

The King's Speech (Colin Firth & Geoffrey Rush) was the feature film this evening, and I quite enjoyed it. Definitely not an "on the edge of your seat" kind of a film - but that was fine because sitting on the edge of my luxuriously relaxing leather arm chair was not was I was really in the mood for. Both men did a fantastic job playing the roles of King George VI, and Lionel Logue respectively. The setting was the 1930's-40's in England and the topic was the rise of Prince Albert, the Duke of York, to the Crown, and his audibly crippling stammer. Logue (Rush) is the "not interested in your royal shenanigans but very interested in helping you with your problem if you play by my rules" speech therapist, and Firth the "struggled for as long as he can remember with getting words out of his mouth in a timely and respected fashion" younger brother of the expected heir to the throne now thrust into the Crown of England.

I've spoken on numerous occasions of the "culture of fear" that exists in Bundibugyo, that has a crippling effect on the people who call it home. The truth is that we all live in fear of things that cripple us in one way or another. Prince Albert/the Duke of York/King George VI lived in fear of his father and brother and others who might judge him and this was manifest in his patterns of speech. When Logue gave him a non-threatening audience who didn't judge him, who encouraged him, who believed in him even when he didn't/couldn't believe in himself, the stammer which had crippled him faded away as he relaxed.

I also live in fear of people's judgement of me most days of my life which leads to a crippled voice of sorts. Some days/weeks/months/years are worse than others and generally speaking this is something that God is growing me in. As the heavy curtain is drawn back and I'm able to see the unconditional love of God and others for me, I relax and my voice comes back.

Sappy, you say? Maybe, but my guess is that most of us could see some part of ourselves in this movie, and while that's not a requirement for a good movie, it sure does help. (Rated "R" for language as far as I could tell.)

20 December 2010

sprinting across the parking lot: reflections on holiday shopping

This morning I saw a woman in her work out attire, sprinting across the parking lot pushing her cart to return it and then sprinting back to her SUV parked at Hobby Lobby. "Wow, now THAT is a shopper," I thought to myself.

Shopping. It's not really my favorite activity, but I do love putting a dark line of ink through items on a to-do list and a shopping list is kind of like a specialized to-do list. In Uganda we would do blitz trips in Kampala, carrying water bottles and shopping lists that have been filling up on our fridges for the 3 months since the last shopping blitz. Shopping for 3 months is a task:
But the nice thing is once it's done, you're done for a while. And it was generally a communal activity, something we did together. And in this shot, Anna is in what might have been her inauguratory entry into Kampala shopping with full decision making responsibilities...and look, she's smiling! What a pro! Now, if only I had a shot of Nathan having one of his grocery shopping freak-out moments in front of the mayonnaise jars...decisions decisions! (BTW - he tells me he's enjoying grocery shopping these days - says it makes him feel like a real person when he uses it as a study break from his med school madness.)

There are a lot of funny shopping stories from my time Uganda, most of them having to do with a Christmas grocery and gift blitz day 2 years ago...
  • N: "I'm pretty sure I've seen all of these things before." (while perusing our 3rd Banana Boat gift shop of the day)
  • H&A: "Nathan, you ready to go?" (look who we had to "drag" out of the store :)
  • H: "Hey, Nathan, can you give me a hand back there?" (trying to see out the foggy back window of the vehicle in order back out of a parallel parking spot in a crowded parking lot in the rain without hitting the vehicle behind us)
  • N: "It's no problem. You've got like 8 feet!"
  • H: (after slowly easing the vehicle into reverse and hitting the vehicle behind us!) "Are you kidding me?! 8 feet! Give me a break!" (He insists to this day we did not in fact hit the vehicle, but we totally did...and yes, "we"...this was a collaborative effort!).
A few weeks ago I was freezing my toushy off in my warm-ish but not warm enough fleece jackets and so I went to a department store's discount store looking for a winter coat with a coupon, and I had a couple of "are you freakin' kidding me?!" shopping moments...
  • I drove into the parking lot and noticed a group of about a dozen women standing outside in the freezing cold by the front door of the store...Uh oh. Protests? Picket line? What in the world is going on? On approaching the store I passed a limo pulling up in front of the group of women who began piling their bags into the trunk (did you know limo's had trunks?!) and getting in...this was a chauffeured shopping trip. Kind of like our shopping trips in Kampala I guess (with the multiple people using one vehicle and piling bag after box into the back)...minus the limo and the chauffeur :)
  • Sadly after not finding any coats suitable I was on my way out of the store when a man rushed in the front doors yelling "Jackie?!... Jackie?!...oh Jackie?!" I stopped dead in my tracks, being taken quite aback by such a scene, looking around wondering who this Jackie might be...when he got to the cash registers he continued: "oh, there you are! What are you doing?" (when I thought to myself, well what do you think she's doing in a store?! shopping perhaps?) "Oh, you're buying panties...ok, well, I'll be outside in the car, ok?" Wow, at the top of your voice?! Really? Let the poor woman buy her underwear in peace!
So, it seems shopping brings out the best in lots of us ;-) Seriously though, I really do like giving meaningful gifts to people so I also actually really do like that part of the shopping experience, finding something you know someone will really enjoy, or even better finding a good bargain on something you know someone will really enjoy!

Here's what Nicholas Kristof has to say about gift giving this year:

"One of the paradoxes of living in a wealthy country is that we accumulate tremendous purchasing power, yet it’s harder and harder for us to give friends and family presents that are meaningful."
~ NYTimes "The Gifts of Hope" December 18,2010

He does a good job of offering the public great ideas on ways to invest their "purchasing power" into their neighbors domestically and internationally, and I have a few suggestions myself.

Christ School Bundibugyo Student Sponsorship: Sponsorship of a secondary school student in Bundibugyo, Uganda

BundiNutrition: Nutritional support for Bundibugyo, Uganda

Sari Bari: blankets, scarves, bags, and pillow covers made from old sari's by women coming out of prostitution in Calcutta, India

Happy Shopping!

16 December 2010

the leopard and the goat, AMEN

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him—
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and of might,
the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the LORD—
and he will delight in the fear of the LORD.
He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,
or decide by what he hears with his ears;
but with righteousness he will judge the needy,
with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.
He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth;
with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.
Righteousness will be his belt
and faithfulness the sash around his waist.

The wolf will live with the lamb,
the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling[a] together;
and a little child will lead them.
The cow will feed with the bear,
their young will lie down together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
The infant will play near the cobra’s den,
the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest.
They will neither harm nor destroy
on all my holy mountain,
for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the LORD
as the waters cover the sea.
In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious.
- Isaiah 11: 1-10

How long have I been reading the Old Testament Messianic prophecies during Advent, or if unable to read them for whatever reason had them read to me? Um, 31 years. How old am I? 31 years. So, all my life. Every year, I have read, or had these scriptures read to me. And EVERY YEAR I see/learn something new that I had never taken notice of before.

This year...the leopard and the goat. In my experience, we in the western church have this affinity for the phrase, "the lion and the lamb." I'm not quite sure why we have attached ourselves to this pairing, because it's not directly from the Bible, but maybe it's because culturally we imagine lions to be the ultimate predator and the lamb to be the ultimate docile prey? In any case, one of the pairings that is actually made in this passage (and actually the one with the unlikely peaceful language/image of "lying down together") is the leopard and the goat.

The leopard ("leh-o-pard" as Ugandans say). Elusive, carnivorous, territorial, solitary, nocturnal, predatory, thieving, stealthy...supposedly they are the most numerous of Africa's big cats (due to their adaptability to several climates/terrains), but I have yet to see one.

The goat. Domesticated, milk giving, herbivorous, the prey of the leopard, herd lifestyle, affectionate, generous...so populous in Uganda that often you have to dodge them in the roads.

Two antithetical animals. For anyone who has read about them, or even better having encountered either or both of them, the thought of them lying down in proximity to one another is laughable, outrageous, unimaginable.

Isaiah 11 tells us that one day the unimaginable will happen...mortal enemies in the animal kingdom will live in peace.

What about mortal enemies in the human kingdom? Most readers of Isaiah 11 that I know of, interpret the peace demonstrated among animals in Isaiah 11 to illustrate such peace among men as well.

I've been thinking a lot about judgement between people, about my own heart's tendency to jump to judgemental conclusions about those I've just met, known for a long time, or even people I've never ever met, people I love, people I dislike, people of all kinds. Differences are key participants of judgement. I don't like your style choices, your accent, your personality, your politics, your religious convictions, your philosophy, your lifestyle, your bumpersticker(s)...and I will judge you, make assumptions about other parts of you, decide that you must also think or be like x, y, or z. I pride myself in loving diversity, but the truth is, part of that appreciation involves a keen ability to try to put people in boxes.

Judgement is a key participant in conflict. And can I just say that conflict between people (interpersonal conflict) is rampant, my friends. It's why people leave foreign mission fields, it's why people leave jobs and churches and marriages...Judgement and conflict bring our defenses up, they bring out dread in our heads and hearts, they make us afraid of one another...

Just this week this has been my experience.

That's why Isaiah 11 has struck me so...

"...The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him—
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and of might,
the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the LORD—
and he will delight in the fear of the LORD.
He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,
or decide by what he hears with his ears;
but with righteousness he will judge the needy,
with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth..."

That He might make me like this!

"the leopard will lie down with the goat...
They will neither harm nor destroy
on all my holy mountain...
and his resting place will be glorious"

That the human kingdom might be at peace!
That we might not judge each other; harm or destroy one another...
That we might rest.


*and if only with reading that Amen you could also hear the chorus of "Amen's" (concluding the section titled "Worthy is the Lamb") that serves as the conclusion of the entire Handel's Messiah (probably my favorite piece of music of all time). I have been newly intrigued by this chorus particular chorus this season. Magnificent. Gives me chills.*

**totally random tidbit: when I googled "the leopard and the goat" the top of the results list was this very amusing video telling the story of what is supposedly a Ugandan myth re. the hostility between the leopard and the goat. An interesting take on this animosity/conflict.**

12 December 2010

Uganda Gold

The first time I drove through Bundibugyo Town (sometime in the first few weeks I was in Bundibugyo) I was in the passenger seat of Clifford the big red Myhre truck. Scott was driving and just after passing the boda stage under the mango tree in town, Scott slams on the breaks and throws the big red truck into reverse, exclaiming: "Did you smell that?!" I had gotten a whiff of something remarkably fragrant but not enough to identify the scent..."That's vanilla, one of the only nice smells around here. See over there on that tarp, they're drying it. I always take a big whiff when I pass it." I inhaled deeply and oh. my. goodness. I cannot even begin to describe the intoxicating aroma that a tarp full of fresh vanilla beans exudes. I was a quick convert. There are certain places around town that dry it, so you always look and inhale when you pass.

When I left Bundibugyo I had it on my "to do before leaving" list to buy some vanilla to bring back to the US with me. Well, you know how those lists go, certain things never get done. I had talked to Pat "I-know-a-guy" Abbott about where to find it in Nyahuka, I had just never made it a priority to make it down there on a market day and strike up the courage to deal with yet another male businessman. Well, the night before I left I said to Pat "shoot, you know what I never got around to? Buying some vanilla." "Oh, it's no problem," she says, "lemme just give Habibu a call" as she picks up her phone (which holds the contact information for someone in Bundibugyo who can help you with just about ANYTHING). 15 minutes later a boda honks from the driveway out front. Pat goes out and comes back in with 1/2 kilo of vanilla beans. Amazing I tell you. She's got the hookups.

So, I quadruple bagged my vanilla beans in ziplocs and with Pat's instruction poured in about a 1/2 cup of vodka to keep them moist while I traveled home to the states. Now, traveling to the US with fresh vanilla beans means a trip through the Agricultural line in customs Stateside, but it's worth every minute. When I pulled out my "agricultural products" in the ziplocs and explained what it was they said, "This is it?" "Yes ma'am." And I was motioned to move along.

By hope was to make homemade extract from these beans but I hadn't the foggiest idea how to do that, so I began scouring the internet for instructions. It turns out that everybody's got a different idea on how it should be done...ratios of beans to vodka, splitting the beans or not, cutting the beans up into pieces or leaving them whole, scraping out the caviar or not, length of time for "extraction," etc. etc. etc. I made a few middle of the road decisions and have been patiently waiting.

Now that I've had my beans "extracting" for almost 3 months now, I'm ready to start attempting to use it. People also have differing opinions on this but as I've been looking around today I found a guy who seems to know a bit about what he's talking about, and is open to suggestions and varieties of approaches and such (which I like in a person). And I noticed that he mentions that he uses Amadeus Trading's Uganda Gold vanilla beans. Well Well Well. So according to this vanilla guru and his dealer, Uganda's vanilla beans are top notch...THE top notch....how cool is this?!

Now, if you're curious enough to explore the site, you'll find pictures of their purchasing trip to Uganda and so forth. The not so cool part of this story is the financial realities of this situation. As you'll notice, these sellers will get ~$65 for 1 lb of vanilla beans grown in Uganda by these farmers they have their arms around in the pictures. How much did I pay Habibu (the middle man who buys from local farmers and sells to exporters in Kampala) for my 1/2 kilo (~1lb?) 15,000 Ush (~$7.50)...and how much did my teammate John tell me afterwards that local farmers in Bundibugyo get for a kilo (~2 lbs: ie TWICE the amount of vanilla) when they sell it to a middle man like Habibu? <>

Now I, my friends, am far from being an economist, far from being an agricultural specialist, far from knowing anything about growing or trading vanilla, but I am a consumer, and I can do simple math at least some of the time (check me, please!) This is sickening!

Vanilla is FAR from sickening, and my jars of currently "extracting" beans will ever remind me of the fertile land of the Pearl of Africa. But simultaneously, those jars can't help but remind me of the injustice in the appropriation of resources around the world...

08 December 2010

out of sorts

Feeling a bit out of sorts today.
Not sure why.
It's 11:30pm and I'm sitting in bed here in my basement abode with my laptop in my lap on top of the fleecy blankets keeping me warm.
The guys next door are chatting on their front porch, and the smell of their Marlboro's is drifting through my closed window. Porch chatter and cigarette smoke are the urban America equivalent of the compound laughter and cooking fire smoke that drifted through my open window in rural Uganda.
With the funny out-of-sorts feeling tonight, I resorted to a familiar vice...suspenseful/humorous crime show tv...I laughed out loud a few times, but the cackles reverberating back from the empty concrete walls quickly reminded me that my onscreen "friends" at NCIS are poor substitutes for the "been through the thick of it together" friends I used to gather with 'round the same screen to laugh and be entertained.
As I write, the tears come and I realize what the out-of-sorts feeling is...it's homesickness.
But you are home, you say. I am. I'm not.
This last Sunday at church our congregation said a tearful goodbye to a family in the church that is moving away. They were sad to go. Our community is sad to see them go. And in the prayers that we sent them off with, someone mentioned that the tears from both parties demonstrated the longing for our true home that we all feel at one time or another...our true home where there won't be any more leaving.
When I spoke at another church a few weeks ago, that church community surrounded 2 particular women in prayer that day. One of these women is probably younger than me and was headed into surgery a few days later to have a mass of unknown origin removed from her abdomen. I have learned since that this young woman had a total hysterectomy and was diagnosed with a rare form of ovarian cancer and was to learn this last week whether the cancer had spread and how far. In our true home there will be no sickness.
We all will long for home with a big "H" for a long time, no matter where we are or who we are.
We will long to be with people we are far from, we will long for familiar sights and sounds and tastes and smells from places dear to us, we will long for sickness, death, injustice and tears to be no longer; we will long.
It's good for me to long. It's oh so heart wrenching but it's good. It's good not because of it's value as an emotional exercise, it's good not because the things that are so heart wrenching are of ANY less value...it's good because of what is at the end of the longing...it's good because it focuses my mind and heart on what's true...it's good because God promises to come back to right all wrongs and take us Home (with a big "H").

I heard a radio broadcast the other day in which the guest spoke of his disappointment with the egotism of a particular group of people - writers I believe - in their tendency to view everything in the world through the light of their own lives, that they somehow would turn every situation into a story about them. I got scared. Maybe that's me. If it is, my most sincere apologies.

07 December 2010


a theme throughout my life in several arenas...this time, namely in reference to the visual experience of my blog. Too much. Way too much. I don't look at it very often, usually just writing and then posting. But when I have looked at it recently I've been overwhelmed...wondering how in the world you have been able to stand to read it...must simplify...so here you have it. Hopefully the changes make for a more enjoyable blog reading experience...

26 November 2010


...full of thanks...

this year it's the little things. little things that are not so little, really.

  • thankful for the opportunity to celebrate a holiday with my family!
  • thankful for food to put on the table. and not just any food, but food in abundant variety.
  • thankful for my "bijuma bia double-color" apron that Nathan gave me for Christmas last year that I sported proudly as I cooked yesterday..."heidi, those look like pills on your apron...why, yes, they are." "Bijuma bia double-color" is how the Babwisi describe the dual colored capsules that are so common in their drug shops and health centers...Amoxicillin or cloxacillin for example. And when they print patterns on cloth, they often use known objects...such as capsules. So I have an apron made from kitenge cloth that has orange/blue capsules all over it that Nathan gave me in honor of my profession...in honor of the number of times that I gave instructions to mothers as to how to administer the capsules to their children..."na, bijuma bia double-color - kachweka mirundi esatu bulikilo." (pardon my spelling...)
  • thankful for friends who are willing to drop by and come hang in the kitchen with me while I cook (with hot cinnamon rolls as a door prize :) and laugh with us along with the craziness of the Lutjens'
  • thankful for finally figuring out a holiday role reversal that leaves everyone in the family much happier: Heidi in the kitchen, mom entertaining guests...
  • thankful for friends to share the abundance of the table with...guests who seemed to enjoy themselves (and even the food!)
  • thankful for a rousing game of speed scrabble with the family to close up the day even though my first hand I had the X, Z, AND Q with only one vowel... needless to say I didn't come out at the top of the winner board at the end of the night...
  • thankful for the dusting of snow we got in the afternoon that added to the festive nature of the day
  • thankful that my brother and I walked to our cars at the same time at the end of the night, because my car doors were frozen shut and Jeff threw his weight around a little bit and with a little teamwork we managed to get them open...my only complaint about my little VW...it happens EVERY winter and I can't figure out how to prevent it...
  • thankful for today - so far it has been the November version of Boxing Day. Love it.
  • thankful for washing machines and dryers...a couple hours later and 3 weeks of dirty laundry now clean!
  • thankful for the things I am missing this Thanksgiving (the sweating up a storm in the kitchen in Bundibugyo as we try to make do with what we have, the discussing and sharing of American traditions and holidays with African friends, the teammates I've celebrated the last several years of holidays with, etc) because that means I am blessed with things worthy of missing!
  • thankful for a God who continues year after year to shower an abundance of blessings on me

24 November 2010

Thanksgiving Eve

So, the "holiday season" is now upon us...

(photo = Thanksgiving 2009, Bundibugyo)

I've had a hard time believing this is the case, even though I'm here in America where everywhere you go, everything you listen to, everyone you talk to is thinking/planning holidays...the little cardboard turkey do-dads in stores, commercials on the radio, sale announcements in the email inbox...it's all pointing that way but somehow I'm in denial...

Funny thing is that I felt this way in Uganda too because the weather was so warm and sunny and such, it never really felt like what I knew to be the "holiday season"...until that day came...the hustle and bustle, cooking and decorating and such...that worked everytime in Uganda and it's proving to be the same case here this year. I'm cooking most of the Lutjens family thanksgiving meal...let's all take a moment and say a prayer that there might be something edible on the table tomorrow around 1pm :) I did the meal planning and list making on Monday night, grocery shopping yesterday, and started the cooking this afternoon. Two pies done. Two vegetable casseroles done. Stuffing to be prepped yet tonight but currently taking a pause. I am finally tracking with the "holiday season." Cooking has done it once again. I miss cooking. Haven't really done any since I came home. Way to decide to jump back in the saddle for the biggest cooking day of the year, Heidi. I'm enjoying it though. Pandora playing from my computer here on the kitchen table, sticking to the usual recipes so as to not capsize the boat in my American debut, a little spiced cider along the way and now a glass of red wine.

observations from the week:

"There is something about orange juice that makes the world seem like a better place." - Heidi
"I feel that way about cold milk with ice in it." - Dad
"I feel that way about red wine." - Mom (as she reaches for my glass :)

People in America talk to themselves a lot. In public. It seems like I'm noticing this phenomenon more often since I've been back. I've been trying to figure out why this is...is it because we don't have other people to talk to? Is it because we're always talking so that dialogue doesn't cease even with there's no second party to dialogue with? I do it all the time, but I didn't know And, well, now that I'm thinking about it, I'm quite silly as I realize that it could be an observation of a technological phenomenon, known as Bluetooth...that would be really silly of me, but I really haven't noticed the little do-dads in people's ears when I've noticed what I thought was someone talking to themselves...oh dear...I'll get back to you on that cultural observation...

I signed back into the online world of the University of Pennsylvania today. I was attempting to request a transcript. When I finally succeeded in signing in, my account brought up all of my old information, like no time at all had passed. In fact it's been almost 10 years (!!!!!) since I roamed the West Philly campus. The first screen had this picture of me...must have been the picture I had on my PennCard or something, one of those you have taken within your first week of school that follows you around for the remainder of your time there. Who knew it would follow you for the rest of your adult life!!! Anyways. I had forgotten my hair could be that straight somedays...when it felt like it...when it was long and heavy...and I look so young! No wonder my patients used to ask me if I was old enough to be catheterizing them or drawing blood or putting an IV in...Well, in any case, I was young. Still am, kinda. And then I looked at my transcript...sheesh...Fall 1999 was NOT the highlight of my collegiate career...the low-light in fact...sheesh. My GPA that semester was a full point and a half below what it was the other 7 semesters I was at Penn...glad to say that it wasn't a trend...I remember it being pretty miserable...I remember struggling to keep my head above water and not really succeeding...glad to say that that semester is behind me, but sobering to think that the struggling to keep my head above water has continued in one way or another ever since!

09 November 2010

phases of this ever unpredictable journey

thursday 4 Nov: hitting the wall of exhaustion

fact: I love to sleep. and am pretty darn good at it, if I do say so myself
fact: the night before I had hardly slept
fact: it is unbelievably insensitive to demand answers about baby clothes and borrowed items from a new mother of twins who hasn't slept for not only one night but the previous 14 nights.
fact: I am guilty of the above.
fact: friends and family of people like me, in this crazy unpredictable journey of cultural adjustment and international movement, have a huge challenge in front of them. I can only speak for myself I suppose, but to try to anticipate my needs/next steps and plan accordingly would be an impossible task...
fact: my newest friend to become a Nalongo (mother of twins) and I have a remarkable amount of similarities in these new stages of our lives...as she says "my new thing is living in the moment, so maybe we'll just wait and see."

saturday 6 Nov: hitting the wall of communication exhaustion

fact: since arriving in the states, I have thoroughly enjoyed talking to people about my time in Uganda and about what's ahead of me in my future
fact: all of my stateside family went to DC this weekend for a wedding.
fact: the best conversations we have as a family often occur over meals shared together.
fact: saturday morning, my mom/brother/sister and I were sitting together at brunch, and conversation shifted to what I was thinking about my future.
fact: in that moment I could NOT do it. I could NOT talk any more about me, even to my family.
fact: it was not wrong of them to ask, but I needed the freedom (and took it) to say, "I can't really go there right now, sorry."

sunday 7 Nov: debriefing me/the last 3 years of my life

fact: a debriefing program is structured to help ME thinking about the last period of MY life and how it has impacted ME thus far and will impact ME in the future (more or less)
fact: just the day before this program started I had come to the realization that I was NOT in a place to talk about ME....
fact: the first two facts don't go very well together...
fact: after dinner I was feeling ready to crawl under my covers and go to bed for the night and my roommate looked at her watch and said, "it's only 6:30pm, we need to keep you awake for at least a little bit longer, don't you think?"

monday 8 Nov: the paradox of life and death

fact: "It was the best of time, it was the worst of times." Charles Dickens (A Tale of Two Cities) describes the last 3 years of my life remarkably well.
fact: I wouldn't change it for the world.
fact: in our discussions of this missionary life phenomenon, tears rolled down my cheeks, for the first time since coming home to the US, in regards to my life in Uganda.
fact: the tears came when I realized the following: that never before in my life had I lived/experienced LIFE and DEATH to their fullest.

tuesday 9 Nov: the paradox of living stress artfully and knowing one's limitations

fact: stress is biblical and to try to live life without it would be fruitless/unfaithful/impossible
fact: knowing one's limitations and attempting to live life within them is a good/healthy goal.
fact: I have no idea what the melding of the above two facts looks like.
tuesday 9 Nov #2: it's SNOWING!!!!!!

30 October 2010

goodbye october...

~ leaves...they are a' changin'
~the sky is blue, the sun is shining, but somehow I'm FREEZING!!!!! how does THAT work?!
~latest paradox realization: I miss the simplicity of all of my day-to-day life occurring within a mile of my front door, and in the same moment really enjoying the diversity found in most parts of life here
~ diversity of people - different colors, shapes, sizes, music/movie recommendations, backgrounds, passions, interests, life experiences, book suggestions
~ diversity of ideas - NPR programs/interviews highlighting political rifts/polarization, new technology, people investing their lives in vastly different arenas...this week's favorites from time in my car driving around the city:
*Oliver Sacks - professor of Neurology and Psychiatry at Columbia University Medical School and author of "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat" speaking of patients' and his own experiences of a visual/neurologic disturbance called "facial blindness"...fascinating
*Stanley somebody-or-another - world renown writer for Marvel Comics
*George Wills - author/historian/theologian answering questions varying from the intersection of faith/politics to his invitation to the White House and a study showing that people that don't believe in God know more about religion than the the religious...
*A biographer of Houdini, whose name I cannot remember, and a museum curator, whose name I can also not remember, in charge of an exhibit of the famous magician's life/work
~visits to 3 area hospitals this week reminding me how much i enjoy and miss clinical nursing
~realizing that I breathe a sigh of comfort/familiarity when entering hospitals, institutions that invoke discomfort and funny smells for a good portion of the population
~the walking of the tightrope of balance between being a friend and a nurse...the balance I hope to strike looks like a friend who happens to be a nurse, not a nurse who happens to be a friend
~the incredible experience of getting to hold the precious little babies that God gives to your friends, having them fall asleep on your chest and snooze there until you get the feeling someone else wants a turn :) ...not having to wake up 5x/night with them, not having to figure out whether they like bouncing or swinging or both or even worse, neither...etc...this phenomenon is known to me as baby therapy. Jennifer Myhre introduced me, and I'm pretty sure it's a therapy that only works for people who are NOT the parents of the baby involved...I'm also pretty sure it's extremely effective :)
~having a hard time focusing these days...helps for people to ask questions
~best "what was life in Uganda like" question of the week: "Do they have Santa Claus there?" (my dental hygienist)
~interested to see what November will bring

24 October 2010

I miss...stateside edition

Pat “ keep my options open” Abbott: her particular experience of changes in barometric pressure, the way she knows very well what she likes and how she likes it, her eye for style and color, her bravery around snakes with the pestle usually used for pounding sombe, her empathy and compassion for people, her knock-your-socks-off gin and tonics...

Anna “I’ve got a few bites” Linhart: her particular experience of temperature extremes, her tendency to sing nursery rhymes around the house, her affinity for guys by the name of Chuck, her gut m.o. that everything will be alright in the end, her love of baked goods of all shapes and sizes, and her depth of experience/understand of the good news of the gospel…

Travis “Captain Awesome” Johnson: his mad pizza oven skills, his dreams of being able to “do it all” and that it will all be “awesome,” his delight in his kids, his tolerance of a team full of women this past summer, and his heart that yearns to teach in almost every context from the hospital to the opening of God’s word together…

Amy “Martha Stewart” Johnson: the fact that she’s not and doesn’t pretend to be an early bird, her passion for organization, her gracious and beautiful hospitality, her affinity for labeling things, her kindness and grace in the role of Johnson house bouncer, her willingness to see past my rough edges…

Lilli Johnson: the firstborn big-sisterness I know so well and see in her, her full head of beautifully straight, silky blond hair, and her eye for style…

Patton Johnson: his passionate experience of and response to most everything in life, P-A-T-T-O-N, his goofy and oh-so-genuine grin.

Aidan Johnson: his absolutely incredible naturally occurring blonde Mohawk, his “hey guys, what’s going on here?” laid back look, and last but certainly not least: Praise Baby (aka: baby crack)…

John “classic Carhart man” Clark: “Is there anything we can do for you?”, his knowledge about/passion for things I know nothing of, his inclusion of me into the life of their family from the beginning the intersection of our lives at Assessment and Orientation 3 ½ years ago, his lettuce and sweet corn rendering the singles’ dinner table silent with enjoyment…

Loren “now wait a minute” Clark: “So, how’s Heidi?”, her honesty and vulnerability, our shared common experiences/joys/frustrations in nursing, her willingness to chat when I stop by for something or to say hey and usually to stop what she’s doing, she says it like it is…

Bryan Clark: his sweet little voice, “what’s going on dude?”, his shoulder shrugging ear to ear smiles, his articulate thought processes, explanations and questions about every part of life…

David Clark: He’s just so darn cute! And he falls asleep on my shoulder J Just my type…

The pediatric ward: the little ones toddling around wearing next to nothing (even if they would scream when I got close, it was so fun to be around them), laughing with the staff (when we had staff…), the challenge of listening to patient histories in Lubwisi and trying to decipher what’s going on, the opportunities I had to be part of teamwork with Ugandan staff and the joy that was, Mr. Biguye and his story telling…

The mountains: the days when the rain had cleared the dusty haze and the mountains were crisp, clear, snow capped, and seemed within arm’s reach…

Motorcycle rides on the the dirt roads of our part of Bundibugyo…with or without pants…er, I mean trousers…

Susana: her singing church songs while she worked

Zainabo: her funny English phrases (“the sunshine’s! they are many!)

Ngonzi: his “fine and you?” answer to any English greeting

George: his smiling and nodding as I tried to figure out how life in Bundibugyo worked or told him about something that happened that day…

Assusi: her calm, steady, wise, presence

Olupah: her freedom to laugh with and at me

Baguma: his one liners that made my day each and every time

Lamech: his laugh

Pauline: her yellow yolked eggs that topped any in the whole country

And the list goes on…

04 October 2010


Not sure how many of you know this, but before I decided I wanted to be a nurse, I seriously pursued an education in Forensic Science. My life's aspiration was to work in the FBI's crime lab. Forensics is fascinating. That explains a bit why I'm going to compare my adjustment to life in the US after 2.5 years of life in Africa to fingerprints...

Every person on earth is different, I know this isn't rocket science but isn't it fascinating? Every person who has ever lived has a different set of fingerprints; the loops, arches and whorls bend and swirl to tell part of a story. Each one of us has a different story. Part of our story is how our fingerprints leave a unique impression on everything they touch. When I took the NCLEX (nursing board exam) 9 years ago(!!!), as I stood at the front desk at the testing center in suburban Philadelphia, they asked me to leave my thumbprint as part of my signature in signing in for the exam. (I was so nervous about the exam waiting for me that I forgot to press my thumb into the inkpad before stamping it onto the page they had waiting - "um, miss, you'll need to use this inkpad first." - "oh right, yes, of course.") Why did they want my thumbprint? They wanted to be able to ensure that I was in fact Heidi Lutjens and not Meredith Krieger or any other person trying to pose as Heidi Lutjens - trying to ensure that I hadn't sent someone else to take the exam for me, trying to make sure I wasn't cheating. And how does a thumbprint accomplish that? My thumb leaves a different impression than the thumb of some random person named Meredith Krieger, different even than my own brother - born of the same parents and the same upbringing - the loops and arches and whorls are different. Each of our stories are different, even when we have the same last name, the same blood, the same circumstances, the same home culture, our fingerprints leave different impressions.

But it's hard, isn't it, not to look around at the stories walking around near you and want for your story to look like theirs, or to assume that their story should be similar to yours in certain ways, or to wonder why your story doesn't look like theirs.

Where am I going with this, you wonder. Well, the most recent part of my story is that I just moved 1/2 way around the world. There naturally are reactions, adjustments, and acculturations that take place when a change like this takes place in one's life. Frankly, I don't think there's any way to know what those reactions/adjustments/acculturations will look like, but because there's no way to know, I look around, wondering what it is I'm feeling/how I'm doing and wondering if it's the way I should be feeling/how I should be doing.

So that's where I am. I'm struggling to let me be me. Since I have lots of teammates who have made similar moves, from the same place 1/2 way around the world, I'm struggling to not look around and wonder if my feeling/doing should look like theirs does. So far, the US feels mostly normal, I mean, sure, I'm well aware of the differences in my surroundings but so far they're not so much a shock to my system or disorienting or frustrating...but maybe they should be? Does that mean I didn't really make a home where I was, does not thinking about Uganda first thing when I get up in the morning mean I didn't really love people there well? I do miss Uganda and the people there, but my re-entry into the US has looked different than I thought it might, than others have thought it might, different than others' re-entry experiences as of late. I don't really know what to make of it or how to describe it, but I do feel a good deal of guilt/shame for the "normal" that I feel. The things is, Uganda feels "normal" too...it's strange to have "normals" that look very different, that are 1/2 way around the world from one another...but right now, this is what I know, how I'm feeling/doing, and I'm tryin' my best to roll with it.

I think it's related to this notion of fingerprints, but in reverse...not only do we as individuals make different impressions on the world, everything we touch, but everything we touch, the world, leaves different impressions on each of us as individuals...The impression left on my life of any significant (or even insignificant) event can be very different from the impression left on my brother/sister/friend/teammate/colleague. Both our fingerprints on the world and the world's fingerprints on us affect how we feel about/react to changes in surroundings/circumstances.

So, I'm not sure what exactly my fingerprints look like on the world, or what the world's fingerprints look like in me, but for now, I'm just realizing more and more that they're most certainly different than any one else's, and that's a start.


Carrieta and Geofredito (aka Carrie and Jeff) siblings extrodinaire
twins #1: Maceo (L) and Bram (R); mama = Dana
twins #2 - Sophia (L) and Andrew (R); mama = Becca
twins #3 - both boys (twin mama #3 last week at 33 weeks); mama = Leslie
the fam on mom's birthday

24 hours of travel and 5 movies later, after the goodbyes ended with Pat and Assusi at the Entebbe airport, I started the process of hellos. here are a few of those.

Now, you may not know, that being friends with Heidi Lutjens is linked to a high probability of giving birth to twins. The three "twins" photos are 3 friends of mine that by the end of next month will have given birth to twins over a period of 12 months...all of them dear friends of mine, all of them room/house-mates of mine at one point or another, all of them asked me to be a part of their wedding, all of them very lovely and talented women who I respect and admire and love very much, all of them had/having twins. Craziness if you ask me.

Hellos have also included:

  • fabulously hilarious conversations with 4 year olds (ahem, Daniel T.) about the intricacies of pit latrine use
D: "but you can't pee in a hole!"
H: "oh, but you most certainly can, Daniel, I'm quite sure of it."
D: "i mean, you can't poop in a hole."
H: "oh, but you can indeed, Daniel. I'm certain of it."
D: "but it can't be too deep."
H: "ooooh yes, in fact it *has* to be deep, the deeper the better, actually."
D: "I mean, the hole can't be too long."
H: "well, actually the longer the better too sometimes..."
D: "But it can't be too wide...the hole..."
H: "You're most certainly right about that sir, the hole cannot be too wide, that would for sure be no good at all."

(ah the joys of having fabulous friends who in turn produce fabulous children! Not so sure mama Sylwinn will be very happy with me for trying to prove to her son that one can in fact pee AND poop in a hole, but she gave me no evil mom glares so I'm hoping I'm ok :)...until Daniel tries to make a restroom out of a hole in the neighbor's yard...sorry!)
  • overwhelming culture shock moment #1: The AT&T store...it actually succeeded in making me question whether I needed a phone to do everything shy of tying my shoes...luckily I took a deep breath and realized that I need a phone to make phone calls and I'm pretty sure that's it...okay okay, maybe also to send the slightly more than occasional text message, but that's really it!
  • "definitely not in Africa anymore, Heidi" culture shock moment #2: When coming out of the mall, after putting to rest my Chick-Fil-A craving of the last year and a half, a kind, (and rather handsome) man, and total stranger, held the door open for me and looked me in the eye and smiled! I'm pretty sure my mouth almost dropped open, but don't worry, it didn't, and I just returned the smile and said "thank you!" and moseyed on to my car. If you're not quite sure how this might be shocking, then I'm not quite sure I'll be able to explain it to you, but let's just say I was pleasantly reminded that chivalry is not dead.
  • a lovely evening spent chatting over spaghetti, complete with a nice bottle of Winking Owl Cabernet Sauvignon (webaleh Aldi's - missionary budget, remember!), with Jeremy and Courtney, newlywed's as of July of this year, both dear friends of mine who started dating and married while I was in Uganda...none of us realized how fast the time had passed as we sat in their kitchen enjoying Italian food, wine, and oh, can't forget the Trader Joe's Molten Chocolate Cake, and talking about everything under the sun, laughing as the hours flew by!
  • 2 hugs and a fabulous bowl of hot apple crisp and vanilla ice cream at the home of Mynda and Jason, 2 more dear friends who started dating and got married during the time I've been in Uganda. In addition to the great company and wonderful dessert, the evening was complete with conversation about just how long I've been gone and all kinds of things that have both changed and stayed the same during that time, how behind the times I am with pop culture, how it is that your surroundings and environment influence your perception of culture and entertainment, and lots of other things that I now forget because I had spent the previous 24 hours flying around the world with little to no sleep...I did manage to drive "little blue" home and arrive in one piece, albeit sleepy.
  • and many other things. If you have not been mentioned or I have not yet had the priviledge of greeting you with a hello, do not dismay, it just means there's only so many hours in the day and I'll be back in St. Louis in a few weeks to continue making my rounds! Save me a bowl of salad or a glass of wine and we'll pick up this conversation then!

03 October 2010

Proverbs Project here she comes!

For some of you, this woman needs no introduction, for others who don't know her, let me tell you a little story. This is a story about a woman named Pat Abbott. This is a story about a woman who God has moved in marvelous ways to further His kingdom. From the "Backporch Screamery" to Bundibugyo (you know, it's just as I'm writing that I realized that based on the name of the former - a restaurant in Winston Salem, NC which I only know second hand stories about- the two must be remarkably similar places of employment :) God brought Pat, 17 years ago, to Uganda where she has, according to popular local opinion, "become a Mubwis." "Omaniye Lubwisi!" (she know's Lubwisi!) you'll often hear as she moves around the HIV clinic talking with patients who have known her for years, as she shush's small children in church trying to get them to pay attention to what's going on up front (which is in fact in *their* native tongue and not hers!), as she welcomes the steady stream of people that flock to her door everyday starting at ungodly hours of the morning as far as I'm concerned, and often lasting until dark, as she councils young men and women in the next steps on the narrow path of following Jesus...she was made for this job, this place, these people. The exciting thing to watch as this story unfolds is how year after year God continues the process of shaping a calling for this daughter of His named Pat. Lately the calling has taken a turn towards the arts. Pat is fantastically creative, from the food she makes in her wonderfully cozy home, the notes she draws in her journal, the painting of murals for sick children, and my most recent experience is in the gifts she gives.

This is the gift Pat gave me the morning I left Bundibugyo a few weeks ago...

a month of her labor of love put into this quilt and I can't quite put words to how beautiful it is! She crafted it on a local sewing machine, the kind you pump with your feet and is mounted on a wooden table. And not only is it a gift, but it's the begining of a new calling on Pat's life.

The "Proverbs Project" (as it was being called at least for planning purposes) is only in it's infancy, but people have started to gather around Pat and help her plan for a project that teaches high quality textile arts/color/design to women in Uganda with Bible study and fellowship intertwined throughout. Please join me to pray with Pat that he would use this new work to provide for Ugandan women and to draw them closer to himself. Pray that he would provide the partnership she needs with Ugandans and with those living far from Uganda, pray that he would provide the funding the project will need and pray that ultimately God would continue to be glorified in and through Pat in this new chapter of her story!

And last but not least, WEBALE MUNO MUNO MUNO, Pat. What better gift to leave Bundibugyo with?! Plain and simple, you rock. :)


me and my little buddy Bryan (Clark)
most of the rest of the Clark family (sans David, the newest addition who was asleep)
Larissa, George's daughter, namesake of the lovely Larissa Funk I believe
Robert, Hannington, and Janet - gracious, hospitable and God fearing friends
Janet, Pat, and Ngonzi
Assusi, me and Gloria
Illuminate and Justine
Byamukama and Asita
Asita, Bahati, and Zainabo
Susana and Joyce
Pattony, Olupah and Patris
Kymanuel and Kwik
Esimo and Night
Susan and Page

"Tutex" time (everyone loves to paint their nails, boys and girls) Tumusiime, Kwik, Richard

Two weeks ago, I said goodbye to dear friends. They were truly "good-byes" I think, or as "good" as goodbyes can be. I miss their smiling faces. Here are some of those smiling faces...

16 September 2010

last week

so, I had a nice, cute, post written about last week in Bundibugyo, but it got lost in cyberspace when I thought I posted it, so instead you get just the photos :) sorry, but a picture speaks louder than words anyways, right?

11 September 2010

where my heart finds rest these days...first for Bundibugyo and then for me

"as it is written, "I have made you the father of many nations"—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, "So shall your offspring be." He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised." ~ Romans 4:17-21

"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the LORD..."
~ Jeremiah 29: 11-14a

06 September 2010

run of writing...

3 new posts follow...read as you feel so led...

"Mortality rates are high"

So, nothing like a discouraging email to wrap up one’s time…from Dr. Fred, our primary contact at UNICEF in the Kampala office:

A team from UNICEF, including myself, visited the district last week and noticed a number of technical challenges at Nyahuka HC IV with the Inpatient care management [of malnutrition]; protocols don't seem to be followed and health workers there seem not to be knowledgeable on what they are doing, mortality rate is quite high. We would like to come and support the staff directly by having an on site refresher training on key elements of management of acute malnutrition.

Please inform the hospital and Nyahuka HC IV staff about our visit.

I was pretty bummed when I saw these observations in print. Some of it is the truth and some is not the whole truth...not surprising from a huge organization who made such judgements on a visit of an hour or two in length, but it does accurately reflect my discouragement most of the time with the state of things…it just hurt to see it in print from someone who matters, who makes decisions on whether or not to continue to help us help Bundibugyo…
So, starting tomorrow Monday 6 September and extending throughout this week, UNICEF takes on Bundibugyo pediatric malnutrition firsthand. What you don’t see from the email portion taken from above is that in addition to their onsite training at Nyahuka, they also hope to use this week to encourage/support the initiation of an inpatient pediatric malnutrition unit at the district Hospital in Bundibugyo. This will benefit all of us in Bundibugyo, hopefully lightening the burden of disease at Nyahuka and extending access of care to people on the other end of the district who may not have previously had access as easily to care.
“They are welcome. They will find us here” said Mr. Biguye, the in charge clinical officer at Nyahuka when I told him yesterday of the upcoming visit. “If they are coming to train us, they are most welcome.” Thankful for the staff’s welcome of information and training, I pray that staff will in fact be found there and active and ready and willing to learn and act on what they learn. This is another opportunity for handover of responsibility from World Harvest to the district health staff and the one most directly involving me sphere of influence, so what happens this week and more importantly what happens as a result of what happens this week, is very near and dear to my heart. How will Bundibugyo continue to provide for it’s own? Please pray with me.

Photos, Observations and Reflections on 5 days in Sudan

Sudanese girl who followed us around the health center from afar
from the air
ECS (Episcopal Church of Sudan)
I think I like the choice of kitenge better than the toilet paper for decorating
Christine, Kim and Larissa chillin' by the river
Gaby showin' off his mad kayaking skills!
...and his chivalrous side by rescuing Miss Anna
stunning color grown in Scott's garden and cut for our enjoyment
dinner out on the town
ful, addis and kebob (too bad the pita didn't make it in the photo, bad move Heidi!)
Larissa the chef in the team house kitchen (homemade "hint of lime" tortilla chips with fresh black bean and corn salsa on the menu - scrumptious!)
safari tent (where the guys sleep when they're staying at the compound instead of at their place in town)

The Dukul (2 bedrooms and sitting room - this one belonging to Larissa/Christine)
The team house (living room and kitchen and library)
and last but not least, the choo!!!!!! (combined with shower rooms)


• People are tall and black
• Smiles are readily offered
• Land is very flat aside from the random hills/mountain-esque highlands that seem to pop out of no where from the air
• It does in fact get cool and green during rainy season
• Roofs of homes are almost exclusively thatched (instead of tin sheets)
• Compounds are open, spread out, and often built around a central tree
• Military presence is prominent
• Churches are decorated with scraps of kitenge fabric instead of toilet paper
• Food has a lot of arab influence (pita, ful, lentils, etc)
• Partnerships seem to succeed (NGO & Gov’t, NGO & NGO, NGO & church, etc)
• people have settled in Mundri from all over the place
• family units are usually severed in one or more ways
• people are well traveled both in southern sudan and internationally (Uganda, Kenya, etc)
• town is quite spread out
• people keep relatively to themselves
• there are several restaurants and guesthouses in town
• while I didn’t stay long enough to discuss politics there was no presence of anything that suggested that anyone wants to remain part of a united Sudan while there were a lot of strongly stated posters/t-shirts re. unity = death.
• Dance involves a lot of small shuffle-type steps
• Men are forward and marriage proposals are frequent and in English
• “Mikado” which I think is both a question and the answer to the same question re. are you okay/good; I am okay/good in Moru (one of the local tribes/the name of their language)…isn’t it also the name of an opera? (mind you, I know nothing about opera)
• people are in fact familiar with the notion of a line/queue and in fact had to usher me into my proper position in said formation
• first missionary on record arrived in Mundri in 1912, yes, almost 100 years ago and Mr. Kenneth I-can’t-remember-his-last-name is very highly regarded and spoken of frequently
• hibiscus tea is very lovely, very red, and very sweet
• Shani soda is akin to the Mirinda fruity of Uganda and slightly akin to the Cream Soda of the US
• The traditional African high pitched “ai yi yi yi yi” exclamation by women is very loud and very prominent in large gatherings
• People are quick to offer their help with endeavors they feel are valuable to them and their community
• Community and church groups are very organized and active
• Things are expensive to buy
• Limes and guavas are in plenty
• Health center had nurses/clinical officers/midwives/eye nurses/dressing changers/VCT counselors AND patients present and active but only a few lab supplies and meds available
• Critters such as scorpions and skinks are super sized


After a crazy summer of coming and going in Bundibugyo we were hesitant to impose on our sister team, but they were so very gracious and excited to have us, telling us we weren’t visitors, but more like family. And family they were for us as well. They know where we come from and know the people we know, love the people we love, know what to ask and how to take our responses with a grain of salt given who we are. We were invested in Mundri before we even arrived because we love them, they are invested in Bundibugyo even they no longer live here because they love us and love the people here. We know them and respect them and it was so fun to see their new home and their new lives with our own eyes…

There was a fabulous mix of doing nothing and a bit of exploring and getting the lay of the land…trepsing around town and the market with Scott, seeing Larissa with her hands dirty in the soil in the Bible College garden, shuffling around a circle in the dark on the football pitch in town with drum accompaniment while trying out a bit of local dance with the added bonus of having guys around to watch our backs when we needed it, biking what I was told after the fact was about 10 miles round trip with Larissa to her Arabic/Moru speaking church and rebelling by refusing to go and sit in the front by myself as the visitor, watching movies, dance party in the drizzling evening rain including everything from eastern European line dancing to the Macarena, eating delicious food and even being given the chance to cook once for them – the least we could do in light of their gracious hospitality, biking by the health center with Christine and Anna who patiently accompanied me on a tour given by one of the clinical officers on duty, enjoying meals of ful and addis with fluffly pita bread at a roadside restaurant as the sun sets on Mundri town, sleeping in during morning prayer because, well, I could, killing super chubby scorpions on the wall of the shower, kayaking on the river nearby, watching the Masso kids star in their latest movie adventure filmed while one staycation the week before we arrived, also delving back into WHM East Africa archives by watching “Scott and the Dragon” produced in Bundibugyo by Annelise and Scotticus in honor of the birthday of Scott Myhre several year back, driving 2.5 hours to the next closest airstrip because of bad weather and chatting about reubens and childhood vocabulary lessons along the way…it was an all around good time.

There was however one glaring piece of the puzzle missing, Miss Bethany Ferguson ☺ Bethany is a peer, colleague, and friend currently on break in the US but usually a present member of WHM Sudan. You know how people reflect their surroundings differently based on their gifts and talents and passions? Well, we missed out on “Sudan according to Bethany,” and while Anna was able to sleep in her empty bed, her presence was dearly missed. We’ll catch ya on the flipside, friend!

If you are of the praying variety, please do keep our brothers and sisters in Mundri in your prayers as they move forward in uncharted territory as a new team in a new field in a relatively unsettled political situation. It was so encouraging to see their gifts at work in creative ways and their growing love for their new home. Might God be glorified by his Kingdom being furthered in Southern Sudan!