31 July 2010

I miss...

Asalah - her laugh, her macaroni and cheese, her ability to remind me of the truth when I've lost sight of it, her enjoyment of NCIS, her tolerance of me and my crap as my prayer partner, the way she twirls her hair when she's thinking about something or nervous, her endearing tendency to switch syllables of various words she strings together in absolute hilarity...
Nathani- his "bachelor garden feet," his tugging on the shoulders of his tshirts when he's concentrating in the kitchen, his knack for making me laugh, his bat removal - rat and ant killing expertise, his african english, and priceless gems such as "how much does a matutu cost?" and "but how am I going to hold my headlamp?"
Salah - her big strong hugs, her stopping by after school to chat about the news of the day, her uncanny ability to remember little random tidbits of information, her enjoyment of calculus, her vast knowledge of the chickens and goats of BGO from her favorite end of the month meetings, her cravings for take out chinese, her LOVE of spiders, her always wearing socks to wednesday morning prayer...
Scotti - his ability to produce AND consume large quantities of baked goods and to convince others to do the same (ahem...anna linhart...), his singing as he comes into the ward in the morning, his great clinical judgement, his example and reminders to me of how to love people well, his ability to get Agnes to do air guitar in her pink nurses uniform...


So they say that when you're trying to grieve well, one of the ways to do that is to name the things you're grieving. So, this is a cursory attempt for me at starting that process...so yep, I miss these guys. not the functions they served here in Bundibugyo so much, but their persons (hear "pah-sons"), their quirks and endearments...and the lists could go on...and on...and on...

29 July 2010

light blue crocs

…they’re big shoes to fill! What you see documented above is pretty much the only way I feel capable of filling them.

You see, 2 years ago, when I came back to Bundibugyo from spending 2 months in Kampala, Jennifer had these light blue crocs she was wearing to the health center everyday. She told me that Grammy Aylestock (her mom) left them for her when she came to visit while I was away. Jennifer proceeded to wear these shoes to the health center everyday for the next 2 years, they’re comfy, cool, easy to clean and protective of the toes from whatever grossness is going on on any given day. Now she’s gone, but she left her shoes behind (both literally and figuratively). The last couple of days I’ve been wearing the light blue crocs to the health center. That I can do. It’s kind of a reminder to me when I am missing her presence on the ward and look down and see them, that she’s with us in spirit and prayer! Now, the figurative filling of Jennifer’s shoes? I cannot.

But today I couldn’t help but think there might be one more way I can reasonably try to fill a role that Jennifer held while she was here. And that’s the Bundibugyo status blog updates…what is the state of things here and rallying prayer and action from the ends of the earth. Articulate I am not, but honest I am, so here’s the first installment of Bundibugyo today.

Nyahuka Health Center:

• In the biggest news of the day, I walked into OPD and found our Clinical Officer who had gone off to medical school seeing patients. After greeting him and thanking him for the work, Biguye took escorted me over to the hospital store and along the way I asked if medical schools were on break/holiday right now (in Uganda grade schools and colleges and medical schools are all on different schedules it seems to me…). Biguye (senior in charge Clinical Officer – NP/PA level clinician) informed me that the school had “pushed him out.” So, it seems he’s back for good (or at least until the next educational opportunity presents itself). Biguye said, in true African fashion, that “for me I am clapping, but for others maybe they are crying” (translation: this is good news for me but maybe not for others).
• I mentioned Biguye was walking me over to the hospital store. There’s not usually much to be done at the hospital store because there’s not usually much of a supply of medicine or supplies there, but he walked me over to show me the contents of the recent National Medical Store delivery! Talk about big news! It’s so much easier to provide medical care with medicine! Imagine that. So, we reviewed the supply, delivered in July, ordered in April (2 delivery cycles behind) and not actually what we ordered, but I guess they expect that we should be happy with whatever we get. We are thankful but not exactly happy.
• It’s also a lot easier to provide medical care when you can do lab testing to determine the actually status of diseases in a patient instead of just having to guess based on their clinical appearance. Well, currently there are no HIV patients in Bundibugyo getting CD4 testing done. There used to be NGO funding for this test which helps clinicians determine the stage of the virus in a given patient based on their ability to fight infection. Ie. There is currently no way to tell objectively whether an HIV patient has moved from HIV into AIDS and therefore in need of Anti RetroViral (ARV) therapy, leaving it up to the clinical judgement of the clinician. There used to be NGO funded support for this testing (done at a private laboratory center), but it has ended. The Ministry of Health funds PCR testing (testing for the presence of the virus in a person based on virus DNA), but not CD4 testing. A Ministry of Health team came to Nyahuka this week to evaluate the Early Infant Dianosis process provided to patients and what could be done to improve the process. Staff from a Baylor University program in Kampala was part of this group. Assusi presented the current CD4 issue and they made no promises but said they would report the issue and get back to us with recommendations. They evidently indicated that it could be that CD4 testing could be made possible within the district instead of having to send all of the testing to Fort Portal for processing. We’ll see what comes of it all, but it’s encouraging to me that all of this is going on despite our transition and lack of involvement in such details. God is moving! Thank and pray for real follow through in improving care for HIV patients in Bundibugyo.

  • The Clarks are coming, the Clarks are coming! The Clark family has been in the US making an addition to their family and as of email check yesterday it seems will be returning to Bundibugyo next week with a new little dude in tow: David August Clark. Can't wait to meet him, and have the rest of the Clarks back!
  • We will make our second attempt at post-Myhre pizza tonight. Last week's attempt was most successfull if I do say so myself. Travis was pretty proud of himself, and rightly so! Several rounds of "go Travis, go Travis!" rang out throughout the evening (which also included a showing of a movie on the big screen with the projector!).
  • I think 5 new missionaries were approved for future service in Bundibugyo yesterday at the WHM "sending center" in Philadelphia. You're most welcome Pamela, Ann, Josh, Michael and Leslie!
  • Pat Abbott made some kick-butt bagels for us for dinner the other night. Hot sesame bagels, in Bundibugyo?! "go Pahti, go Pahti!"
  • isn't it interesting how much of life here revolves around food?! I love it.

So, I’m sure there’s a lot more going on that I’m not privy to, but here’s the news from my little slice of life.

28 July 2010

A study in rain

It has slowed to a drizzle, but it has now been raining for the last 12 hours. I like the rain, and especially the quiet it brings, the slow-to-a-standstill halt it brings to the hustle and bustle of life here. In Bundibugyo everything stops when it rains. No one goes to their garden to dig, no one comes to knock on the door to ask for anything, no one brings their sick kids to the health center, no one comes to nutrition programs or goat trainings scheduled…expectations cease during the rain. I like that. Even our 6:30am prayer meeting scheduled for this morning ☺ It was raining torrentially, and I was up, dressed, and about to press the button on the electric tea kettle (webaleh grid electricity!) to get tea/coffee ready, when I heard the “beep beep, beep beep” of a text message delivery on my phone. Prayer meeting called off. “Ok, I’m going back to bed then” I responded. As the bedroom doors began to open down the hall I instructed the Anna’s to do the same. “You don’t have to tell me twice” Anna #2 said as she started to close her door. Anna #1 pumping her hands in the air with weary eyed excitement as she went back in to her room.

Pat wandered over around breakfast time and we talked for a while about the phenomenon of rain…I was sitting at the dining room table with my steaming cup of Good Earth tea, wearing pants (er, I mean trousers!) and 2 longed sleeved items of clothing due to the chill brought by the rain. We talked about the fact that nothing stops for the rain in the US; expectations remain. Everyone moves around with their umbrellas and boots, or in their car from covered garage to covered garage, jobs go on, school students still late if arriving after the bell, meetings scheduled still starting on time, buses/trains/subways still moving on schedule…

The sticky thing is that not everything in Uganda stops for the rain. International flights, for example. Uganda is connected to the rest of the world, and it’s in circles of influence like the airline industry that cultures collide. The Warfields have a flight to catch tomorrow I believe. I think the plan was for them to get to Fort Portal today in order to get to KLA tomorrow in time for their flight. Well, it’s raining here, and has been for 12 hours, the dirt roads will be a disaster! Will their travel plan work out in the end? Somehow they have to get to Kampala. They will have to move despite the rain…their Emirates flight will not be postponed, their money will not be refunded because it was raining in Bundibugyo for 12 hours…some things do not come to a halt for the rain. But these are things that most people in Bundibugyo know nothing of, airplanes and time schedules and such. They do know that if it rains torrentially for 12 hours the river will be flooded, and since it has no bridge, it will not be crossable today. Whatever business they had on the other side of the river will have to wait.

The health center is another circle of influence with colliding cultures of rain…there is the culture of treatment/diagnosis and provision of care without interruption that is for sure inbred in me, and is expected on at least a theoretical at the governmental level from the Ministry of Health, but if you are a nurse and live on the other side of the river and it’s raining, you’re not going to come to work. If you’re a nurse and don’t have an umbrella or gum boots and it’s raining, you’re not going to walk to work. Then there are the patients on the ward who have varying degrees of expectations for care despite the rain…if you are a Mubwis and your child is critically ill, you don’t so much care that it’s raining, or that the river is too high to cross or that the nurse couldn’t find his/her umbrella, you want a nurse there to treat your child…value’s collide. It’s the story of my life!

26 July 2010

Never Alone

As I sit at my desk next to the window, to the right of my computer screen is a black picture frame. Inside the frame are a series of black words on a white background. Every now and again, I glance in it’s direction when I pause to think of what I will write/do next. Usually I’m not really looking at anything in particular, but simply in the frame’s direction with a blank stare. But this morning the word “sin” caught my eye as I paused in thought. How depressing, you say. Well, maybe, but I didn’t recall ever seeing anything about sin there before.

The words in the frame are of a song that the choir at my church in St. Louis sang on my last Sunday before moving to Uganda, and snuck into my luggage by Leslie (Fisher) now Bley. The words are as follows:

I’ve heard the lightning flashing, and heard the thunder roll.
I’ve felt sin’s breakers dashing, try’n to conquer my soul.
I’ve heard the voice of Jesus telling me to fight on.

He promised never to leave me, no, never alone.
Never alone, oh, never alone, never alone,
He’ll never leave you alone.

The world’s fierce winds are blowing, temptations sharp and keen.
I’ve felt a peace in knowing my Savior stands between.
He stands to shield me from danger when earthly friends are gone.

In affliction’s valley, I’m treading the road of care.
My Savior helps me to carry my cross when heavy to bear.
My feet, entangled with briars, ready to cast me down.

The word “sin” caught my eye because the song is about the struggle of loss and loneliness, and I not before recently had I ever thought about my own sin in regards to response to loss. The line reads: I’ve felt sin’s breakers dashing, try’n to conquer my soul. And the chorus repeats: He promised never to leave me, no, never alone.

Turns out I’ve been feeling alone. I wasn’t really aware of it, but that line about sin’s breakers dashing and trying to conquer my soul couldn’t have been more true last week. I was full of anger/bitterness/resentment. Quite the trio, let me tell ya! Oooooh boy, it was bad. Watch out world. I didn’t feel like myself, but I had no earthly idea what was going on inside of me. Turns out it was grief. Who woulda thunk it?! There has been a lot of loss in my life in the last several months, and I think it all came to an ugly head last week. Turns out that grief is sneaky, and not only pops up when we don’t expect it, but it shows it’s face in ways we never would expect. Fear, sadness, anger/bitterness/resentment, everybody has their patterns.

Who wants to be around an angry/bitter/resentful person? I thought to myself. No one. But the song is true, I did hear the voice of Jesus telling me to fight on, because of His promise never to leave me alone.

So, the take home lesson of the day: take a moment to look around your computer screen every now and again, you never know what you might find.

25 July 2010

The New Semuliki Presbytery

members of the new Presbytery
leadership: Kisembo, Jofrey, Charles, Bazara
Bishop Hannington
and last, but definitely NOT least, FOOD!

Last Sunday, church was packed, surpassing even the crowd that showed the week before to say goodbye to the Myhres. Sprigs of various bushes and trees decorating the windows, pink yarn strung across the sanctuary with toilet paper, pastel colored balloons, and pink ribbon tied to the yarn added quite the air of festivity to the room.

And festivities there were. Those gathered had the pleasure of hearing the Bubandi choir - decked out in matching yellow shirts, the Bundikiyora choir - decked out in their blue collared shirts (who managed to get the church leaders and the congregation on their feet and dancing, hip gyrations and all!) and the Bundimulinga children’s choir. Kisembo Vincent lead worship, Charles Musinguzi thankfully kept the preaching brief from Romans.

After the church service, a brief intermission followed and then the Installation service commenced. Is Installation the right word? I’m not sure…my medical speak, along with my PCA church piety speak have gone to the dogs since moving here…There was singing and then there was prayer. 4 chairs were set up in the middle and the names of 4 men were called to fill them as the leadership of the new Presbytery: Charles Musinguzi (Moderator), Bazara (vice moderator), Jofrey (clerk) and the biggest chair of all and interestingly enough announced as the biggest of the big men, Kisembo Akleo (Treasurer). It’s interesting to me that here the Treasurer is a “bigger man” than the Moderator (I’m just a mere pastor’s daughter with very little expertise in the matter but it’s my understanding that in the US the Moderator is the “bigger man”…).

Then of course, to fulfill all protocols, there were speeches. The LC1 was unable to come, but Vincent Kawa spoke briefly on his behalf (I think I understood Vincent to say he’s the Secretary of Education for Nyahuka Town Council??? I’m never sure if I’m catching all of the details correctly…). Noteable quote: “We are very happy about this new Presbytery because no matter what happens, God knows better.”

Then the LC3 spoke well, with 2 main points: Patience and Cooperation. What he said in regards to the first point seemed particularly poignant for us as a team. He spoke of patience describing the work World Harvest Mission did to start the New Life churches and said something like “and back then we never thought we would have Bishops of our own from Bundibugyo” and used this Installation of a New Presbytery to illustrate the necessity for having patience and perseverance in the work God has given us. Amen. And how encouraging for me (and hopefully for all of you reading who have invested in the church in Bundibugyo) to hear the community testifying to the encouragement it is to them that they now have leadership of their own, that it takes time, but God has been faithful. So, Rick Gray, Dan Herron, Paul Leary, Alan Lee, and many others that I am forgetting, be encouraged. Unfortunately you’re not here to hear all of this with your own ears, and see all of it with your own eyes, but God is good! There was not a single muzungu sitting up front where the “big men” sit…there were Ugandan church leaders from all kinds of churches/denominations gathered and testifying to God’s work.

And as for cooperation, also poignant come to think of it for our little team at this juncture in our lives, he also spoke well. He called for cooperation between all parties, that the church, World Harvest, the government leaders, all of us need to literally co-operate in order to do good work (or from our perspective, to do God’s work, to further His kingdom here). Too true. Might God bless us with cultural agility, a cup overflowing with love and grace, and courage to stand with and against and the wisdom to tell the difference as we feebly attempt to work together with various parts of the community.

Travis was called on to represent “the Mission” and he did well. It was his first “solo performance” as team leader representing the team at a community function. And what he had to say was the core of what we believe to be true, the core of why we are here, and why the church exists. The core = the good news. “Beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news.” There was truth and feet stomping involved, what could make for a better speech?! What is this truth, this good news? It’s that Jesus loves us…He loves us black and white, doctors and church leaders, Ugandans and Americans. That this new presbytery is a demonstration of that, somehow the departure of most of the “old guard” missionaries is a demonstration of that…we can look forward to the leadership of the Presbytery and the cooperation of the Mission and the community, and be confident because of God’s love for us. Plain and simple.

Bishop Hannington brought the speeches to a close, representing the Charasmatic Episcopals. He called the crowd’s attention to the diversity of Christians represented, the Anglicans, the Charasmatic Episcopals, the Baptists, the Church of God, the Roman Catholics. I’m not quite sure what else he said because in my memory it wasn’t translated so was totally lost on my ears for the most part, but the body of Christ rejoicing together seemed poignant as well.

Then of course there was food. Piping hot food, it was 5pm and everyone was hungry. The food preparation started before the church service did, but somehow it was the hottest Ugandan food I’ve ever eaten. Yum!

So, there you have it. The new Semuliki Presbytery in the Presbyterian Church of Uganda. Pray with us that this new entity will first and foremost glorify God.

Today is Sunday, a week later, and we’re playing hookey from church. The all night rain that extended through most of the morning contributed to wanting to stay in, for sure, and the truth is that we’ve spent about 14 cumulative hours in church/celebration services in the last 2 weeks, so today, Anna L. and I worshipped virtually at Redeemer NY via ipod from our couch. Scott Sauls quote of the day: “Stop trying to be like Jesus and start doing what you can to be with Him.” Note to self.

19 July 2010


So, a week ago today the Myhre family left Bundibugyo. Hard to believe it's been a week already. We are pressing on here, after a couple of days' rest in Fort Portal (pictures to follow). It's a strange limbo we are in here...a small band of us in a wide variety of siutations, some lingering emotionally in the past, some focused ahead towards the future, all of us meanwhile trying to get whatever presents itself to us today, done...so getting by day to day, but not all that sure that we are doing very well much below the surface... I have a few photos to capture a few of the events that led up to the departure of the MAF flight piloted by Samuel last monday morning. First: take off! Wesaloeh!
our attempts to say what's important!
the Myhre's and their boys.
church on Sunday, the begining of a day of celebration of what God has done, and in this moment, prayer for what God will do!
the proud purchaser of a single papaya in the offeratory auction for a mere 21,000 Ush!!!! Given then as a gift to the Myhre's
The celebration at Christ School of what God has done in the last 17 years. The highlight performance = Alpha Kindergarten's muleddu
Scott and Jennifer with 3 of the doctors in training they leave behind...seeds in the ground for the future of health in Bundibugyo. So glad to see the faces of these guys.
Jack at work
drumming attempting to keep cool
Desmond testifying to God's work at CSB with the backdrop of the Rwenzori's
Jofrey and Vincent testifying to God's work in the church. I would post pictures of Pat and Scott and Jennifer's words of testimony and encouragement but it was so close to dark by the time that came, the pictures aren't very good.
RMS commencement for Jack and Julia on Friday afternoon...small but sweet.
stellar student - recipient of the "most helpful" award = Julia Myhre
teacher and students - the end of an era of RMS teachers in the Myhre family's life

NHC staff - 17 years of working side by side
fun and games in the process :) Scott and Biguye.

So, there you have a few snapshots of the festivities. What you don't see are the tears. What you won't read are the words we didn't have...what to say. WE LOVE YOU MYHRES!

10 July 2010

just a few tidbits on a saturday morning

  • killed 2 HUGE rats in our house this week...both in a 24 hour period of time...picture this: Heidi with the push broom, Anna Linhart with the aluminum t-ball bat, a slightly poison-drunk rat the size of a small ferret shimmying across the front room floor...shrieks, cracks of the bat on the cement floor...a squish followed by groans and a high five in the hopes of a couple nights of ratless sleep! Wuh hoo!!!!!!!
  • torrential downpour at dinner time yesterday shortly after a conversation with my sister about monsoons in India...pretty sure this was something like she's seeing in Mumbai...but as our porch began to flood I donned my rain boots (thanks to Susannah Eisenbraun!) and braved the monsoon of sorts in order to unclog leaves and brush from the rain ditch that runs around the side of the house...I wasn't quite sure if it was effective in the least, but when I had done all I could, I looked up at the porch and the water had receded...success!
  • last team mtg. with the Myhres on thursday...quiet tears during priority prayer and praise, a heavy hearted dance party.
  • "Mujungiri" (stubborn one) = Jeff and Carrie tell me that I'm the most stubborn person they have ever met, and many others would probably join them in that claim. This has been a week of battles waged inside my head and heart...thursday I realized I need to give up the fight. I am not in fact an orphan that has to fight for and stick up for herself in order to survive. Giving in is like death to me...I've done a lot of dying this week, and believe me, it's not pretty.
  • Last saturday morning walk with Jennifer. I don't get up at 6:30am on Saturday mornings for just anyone. These have been really sweet times, blessings of friendship in the midst of work. Again, quiet tears.
  • Anticipation of the party of a lifetime! Tomorrow there will be church followed by a meal and party to celebrate the work God has done over the last 17 years of service in the time God has given the Myhres and Pat here in Bundibugyo...There will be choirs (like 4-6 of them I think), there will be dancing, there will be testimony. I most look forward to the singing and dancing of the choirs...the drums, the harmony, the voices - so beautiful...gives me goosebumps...
  • Anticipation of many tears monday morning on the airstrip...I'm thankful for the tears, it means there's much to be thankful for.

09 July 2010

4th of July: Bundibugyo Style

Miss Anna and her older students sporting their red, white and blue
The current RMS contingency singing the Star Spangled Banner to wrap up their parade
Mama (Amy) and Aidan
Miss Anna gettin' her hoolahoop on!
The hoolahoop toss face-off...a penalty toss elimination round...Amy vs. Scott
The cheerleader's focus
the hoolahoop toss is serious business...

05 July 2010

Standing in the gap, vol. 4: the REAL deal (the BEGINING and END of the story)

I know, I know, enough with “the gap” already…but bear with me for one more volume, because this is probably the cream of the crop…and I can take absolutely no credit for it…this is what came from sitting with my computer at the dining room table on a Saturday at lunch time. Anna was Miss Scripture Interpretation and Amy was the source of the tip, so they are clearly the brains behind this operation! I guess you can chalk it all up to teamwork, but I’m just the messenger. Bear with me as I put on my “Pastor’s kid” hat and sermonize a bit.

Amy mentioned the other day that there was an Old Testament reference to this idea of “standing in the gap.” The gap is a two layer analogy of sorts…there is a gap between what WHM used to be, and what WHM will be in the future, but the supernatural “gap” is a chasm between us and God that is full of our sin that separates us from Him. Unsure of exactly where this passage was, we talked about being interested to find the context and situation in which the term was used to begin to make comparisons. Webaleh biblegateway.com ☺ I typed “stand in the gap” into the search engine and voila, there it was, Ezekiel 22:30. I know virtually nothing about Ezekiel, so I went and started by reading the whole chapter.

It seems Jerusalem was pretty much a hotbed of sin. The chapter goes on and on about the evil and wickedness going on there at the time…bloodshed, idol worship, mistreatment of the poor and needy, sexual craziness, bribery, extortion…sounds like most places in the world today, eh? The United States and Bundibugyo both. Well, God wasn’t so fond of the situation. God speaks very clearly of his wrath that will surely come to Jerusalem, fiery wrath in fact. Doesn’t bode well for Jerusalem.

Well, this is where verse 30 comes in…

"I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found none.”

When I read it, I thought, hm, he looked around for someone willing to speak up and say no, don’t destroy Jerusalem, but no one was willing. But here we are in Bundibugyo, willing to stand in the gap and say, no, don’t destroy Bundibugyo. Well, Anna went way deeper. She pointed out, “He couldn’t find anyone because there wasn’t anyone, there was no one who could, no one who could save Jersusalem from their sin.” Likewise, there is no one who can stand in gap between God and me and save me from my sin that separates me from God. No one except Jesus.

Jesus is the only one who can save Bundibugyo from it’s sin. We can be physically present in the gap, but we cannot “mind the gap” so to speak, we cannot fill the gap. We can be representatives of God, we can be the hands and feet of Jesus, but we CANNOT be Jesus to Bundibugyo. But because we are physically present in the gap, physically present here in Bundibugyo, people will look to us to be Jesus to them, they will look to us to save them, but we cannot be their savior. We will fail them. We will be offensive and not love them well. As far as saviors go, as far as looking around for someone to stand in the gap on behalf of Bundibugyo - there is only one, and His name is Jesus.

03 July 2010

Standing in the gap, vol 3: not the end of the story

The valley of death is rough, but it isn't the only view from the gap.

There are few bigger pleasures in life for me than making sick children smile. And yesterday, smile they did!
  • Baluku, the malnourished boy who we put on TB meds after noting the older sister with a dramatic spinal TB protrusion
  • Kabugho, Baluku's older sister with the dramatic disfigurement from TB - I remember her initial diagnosis admission and referral to Kampala and remembered that she had become my friend during that admission and had brought me an avocado as a discharge gift.
  • Byamukama, the malnourished toddler who came for weighing and as he swung in the basket scale, I looked smiled and cooed at him in lubwisi and english and he shot me half a dozen ear to ear grins that were life changing at that moment :)
  • Simon, who has a hole in his rear end the size of a tea saucer (his rear end isn't much bigger than a tea saucer) where an abscess from an private clinic injection gone bad was removed, but who reaches for his sweet and after we caused him a great deal of pain and anguish in changing his dressing still found it within himself to smile at Travis and I...likely because we were heading out of the door on our way home.
  • Masika, a malnourished developmentally delayed girl with microcephaly AND sickle cell disease, who managed a little slobbery grin when I took her picture sitting on her mom's lap.
  • The 17 year old mom who was sitting on the bench when I arrived on the ward with a 750g premie born 3 hours earlier (EGA 20 weeks based on mom's self reported LMP, but clearly would not be breathing and alive if 20 weeks were accurate...) tucked inside her dress for warmth. When I asked if it was a boy or girl, she reported girl and smiled when I said "ah! Webaleh."
Then there was the middle aged woman who Biguye (the lone clinical officer at the health center) was seeing last week when I stopped into the Outpatient Dept. to ask him a question. She looked strong and healthy and was in her last month of the 6 mo. treatment course...a result of Biguye's wise clinical judgement and functional diagnosis and TREATMENT, totally outside of the realm of influence of any of us World Harvest staff.

Also the Antenatal Care seminar that the In Charge Midwife, Rose, applied to the district for funding for and got it and was fully underway with posters and handouts when Pauline and I did inventory of our Nutrition store the other day.

The Christ School crisis last weekend when a teacher was locked inside his house by students, and the strong calm that Deus handled the situation with, the wise spiritual input and presence of Eric; riots averted.

The presence of 2 teachers at the Bible Study the Anna's are doing for the female CSB Orphan Sponsorship students, and their friendship with and encouragement to the Anna's this week.

Speaking of Pauline, meeting with her and Lamech and Baguma (our Agricultural and Nutrition Extension Officers) the last few days (speaking of standing in the gap...) and hearing their view of the gap. It is so encouraging to have wise, insightful, experienced coworkers in the gap. Pray for them too, they feel the effects of the gap probably just as much as we do as they are seen as extensions of us in the community.

And that bring me back to the subject of prayer...

I hope you get the picture: We are FEW, the expectations and needs and resulting challenges are MANY, but God is at work, giving us the HOPE we need to continue on.

But PRAYER is needed. The minute we think we can do this on our own, we fall flat on our faces...We are in desperate need for you to join us in putting Bundibugyo before the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe in these ways:

  • Pray that people will to turn to God with their needs/hopes/desires and not only to us
  • Pray that God will bring health and wellness to Bundibugyo through the Ministry of Health
  • Pray that corruption will be brought down
  • Pray that Christ School would have the resources it needs to raise up Christ-like leaders for the future of Bundibugyo
  • Pray for unity, and spiritual growth and encouragement among the church leaders and therefore in the churches as well
  • Pray for the provision of clean water for the district since the water system which is precariously positioned just below the surface of the road will get displaced when the road is paved
  • Pray for the gospel to encourage and sustain Pauline, Lamech and Baguma Charles, the Nyahuka Health Center staff, Deus and the rest of the Christ School staff, in their work
  • Pray that the culture of fear and jealousy will be replaced with hope and love
  • Pray that we would see Bundibugyo and every interaction we have everyday in light of God's movement of redemption in us and this place.
  • Pray that God would give us opportunities for rest and rejuvination.
  • Pray that God would help us discern how he would have the few of us spend our time, energy and resources, on a daily, monthly and yearly basis as we look to the future.
  • Pray that God would send us "fresh blood" so to speak, just the right new teammates we need to do the work He has called us to and has set before us.
  • most importantly, pray that the GOSPEL will reign in power here, in all of us

02 July 2010

Standing in the gap, vol. 2: Look, listen, feel

What does life look like in the gap? Here is a snapshot from my view:

Upon arrival in Bundibugyo you realize quickly that if there were a book written in Lubwisi about “love languages” there would be only one chapter. The title of this lone chapter would be “Ompeh” (“you give me…”). Gifts are the currency of friendship and the demonstration of love. Combine this cultural norm with the following cultural norm - relationships are communal…if you are “friends” (in a relationship involving the giving and receiving of gifts) with one person, you are by default friends with all of their friends/family/clan, etc – and for our team right now you get: a lot of saying no.

When you have a history of 20 + years of WHM missionaries in this community, that equals a lot of inherited “friendships” and a lot of expectations for our, now very small in comparison to the past, team. So, when any of these friends loses a family member or gets sick or has any problem, they come to us as their friend for assistance. The fact is, we cannot be “friends” to all of these people, not by Babwisi or American cultural standards. Now, that might be easy for you to understand, but for the person who just lost their cousin-sister’s daughter’s child and is expected to contribute to burial costs but doesn’t have the money and was friends with Alan Lee (for example – a pioneer WHM missionary in Bundibugyo), it’s not only impossible to understand but also offensive when we tell them we will not give them the sum of money they are asking for. So, with such a long history of friendships and so few of us, that’s a lot of saying no. With such a long history of really cool ministries and programs and resources, that’s a lot of blessing God has given our team the privilege of doing. It’s also a lot of expectation. Does that mean that the cool friendships, ministries, programs and resources are/were not so cool afterall? NOT AT ALL, please hear me out on that…it is just a reality of “the gap” and what it looks like to be standing here.

Saying no so much is exhausting…way more draining than saying yes. So, standing in the gap is what? It’s exhausting. But it’s what God has called us to right now. I believe it’s good for us and good for the community, but it’s hard.

When there have been 17 years of cutting edge community health initiatives; health promotion, disease prevention, outreaches, community education, acute care diagnosis and treatment, PhD’s in Public Health, PhD’s in Nutrition, several MPH’s, PA’s, and MD’s – the word gets out…there’s health care to be had…we were making contacts with people all over the district and people flooded to a health center that is poorly staffed at best. Medicine was provided, care was provided, lives were saved, medical and spiritual training was done, all as work was done alongside our Ugandan coworkers.

We are now a part time nurse and a part time doctor, Ugandan staff are few (many off getting more education), no National Medical Store essential medicine deliveries in several months despite bimonthly orders, hunger season getting underway (gardens are small and cocoa is in it’s off season), our own WHM medicine stock depleted and plans for purchasing still yet to be made amidst all of the transitions…The word is out that medicine is scarce, that those of us with white skin are few & far between, the wards are eerily empty compared to their usual packed to capacity volume, the ones who are coming are coming on their death beds, and we offer what we have but most often it’s not enough. Death is frequent, common, and has cast a heaviness in the air on the ward. The malnutrition section of the ward was totally and completely empty this morning, save a lone bottle of Normal Saline hanging at an empty bedside where the last of the occupants died yesterday. A few nutrition patients remain scattered throughout the ward, but nobody wants to be moved into a section where all but one patient died instead of being discharged. I don’t blame them. I stand here, 3days/wk I stand in the gap with my Ugandan coworkers, as does Travis 2-3 days/wk. I am honored to stand there with them. I am honored to stand where few white people have stood before, not able to offer the necessary solutions only able to offer a few resources, and mostly support and encouragement. This honor is mine not because of anything I’ve done, but because this is where God has called me right now, for just a time as this. Watching death is hard, it’s not what we were made for, it’s not what children were made for, but it’s where God has called me right now. What does the view look like from the gap? It looks like the valley of death.

But the valley of death is not the end of the story…

01 July 2010

Standing in the gap, vol. 1 : the BIG picture

So yesterday morning the tears came….they came as I watched my little buddy Chance take his last breaths sitting on “the bench” next to the nurses’ desk, in the arms of his mom as tears trickled down her smooth dark skin…You should see the “deaths” column of the nutrition admission book…take my word for it, there are far too many check marks. I admitted 4 nutrition disaster patients last wednesday, and a week later, they are all dead…So, my tears joined mama and mamba Chance’s…but none of my coworkers seemed so affected, so I tried my best to keep them to myself…they probably thought I’m getting the dreaded “red eye disease”…no, instead, I have the disease of privilege…

These are hard times around here…the times they are a changin’. I’m going to try to do the best I can, from my meager 2 and a half years of experience, to describe just how it looks and feels and gets worked out here on the ground…it will likely take me a few installments to get all that jumbled around in my head down in some coherent fashion “on paper.” And I’m likely to get details wrong…and granted this is only my perspective on reality, so it is likely skewed.

When I came to Uganda in January of 2008 the ministry of World Harvest Mission here in Bundibugyo looked very different. We were a team of 4 families and 6 singles, each of us directly involved in ministries in the areas of Health/Nutrition, Education, and Water.

3 or so months before my arrival, God called the Gray family away from Bundibugyo in order to care well for the medical needs of their children. After their many years of service here, their departure necessitated the handover of the church planting efforts here in Bundibugyo into Ugandan leadership (no more missionaries whose primary responsibility is mentoring the leadership of and overseeing the churches in the area that have been planted by World Harvest over the course of the last 25 or so years).

2 weeks after my arrival, God called the Bartkovich family away from Bundibugyo after spending 10 years spearheading and nurturing the establishment of a Christian secondary boarding school for Ugandan youth here in Nyahuka called Christ School Bundibugyo. 2 years later, God called the Pierce family away from Bundibugyo after serving in leadership at Christ School after the Bartkovich’s moved. After strong solid leadership from the Barts and Pierces, Christ School also moved into Ugandan leadership with it’s first Ugandan Head Teacher, Tumwesigye Deus.

About 9 months after my arrival God called the Masso Family away from Bundibugyo to start a new WHM team in Mundri, southern Sudan. After establishing a water system that provides access to clean water for a large part of the district of Bundibugyo, Michael handed over control of the water system to the district water office. Now water is also in the hands of Ugandan leadership for operation, maintenance and repair.

So that means that the ministries of church planting, education and water have all been handed over to Ugandan leadership. This is a big deal! It is so encouraging to me to see God working in Bundibugyo in ways that make this possible! You also should know that this is not the end of the story for the connection of World Harvest to any of these ministries. We still support the Ugandan leaders in the church (for example, bringing the opportunity for Biblical teaching and education to them with visiting pastors), we still support the leadership and students of Christ School (with financial oversight, staff encouragement and Bible studies, farm consultation/oversight, accountability for the Head Teacher, and in Direction of the Board of Governors, etc), and we still support the water system’s leadership in communicating to them when maintenance/repairs are needed, in bringing Michael back for assistance with ongoing mechanical issues, etc. So, we are very committed to all of these ministries and are glad to remain connected and involved. It also all takes time.

All of these steps towards Ugandan leadership require steps of faith on our parts. It requires faith and trust in God’s love for Bundibugyo, to believe that these churches, this school, this water system can and will not just survive but THRIVE without primary involvement from one of our missionary staff, to believe that God will continue to raise up capable and hard working and Godly leadership in Bundibugyo. We COVET YOUR PRAYERS for each of these ministries as we trust God with them.

In less than two weeks we will add to the family departures from WHM Bundibugyo with the Myhre family’s move away from Bundibugyo for scheduled furlough and the new role of WHM Africa Field Director for Scott. This means, with the departure of 2 physicians, that in large part the health portion of our ministry here will be returned more fully to the national leadership in the Ministry of Health who have technically been in charge throughout the Myhre’s time here.

This is where God has called us: today is the first day of July, and when this month comes to a close, we will be 2 families and 3 singles, with all of the same ministries present as there were with the 4 families and 6 singles here when I started. Not sure if you noticed those numbers…but it is exactly ½…we will be half the size with the same number of things on our plate as a mission. The solution: our roles will simply have to look very different – how exactly? That’s a VERY good question. We are in the throws of figuring all of that out (and it may never get totally figured out), there are many decisions to be made in this regard. For how long will we be few? All that said, I really do believe that this is where God has called us as a Mission. I believe very strongly that God’s hand has been at work in the callings of each missionary away from this place in the last 3 years, both for their good and the good of the community here. I simultaneously believe that His hand has been at work in the call of each of us here right now. We are each here for a reason, we are few for a reason, and our Father is sovereign for exactly this reason! I haven’t got the foggiest idea of what the reason is, but my comfort is in the fact that there is one, and for now that is enough…most of the time…

So, what does this mean for us? It means that we are few, and will be even fewer…but this is what God has for us for now. It means that we need A LOT A LOT A LOT of prayer. It means that the Bundibugyo community needs a lot of prayer. It means that the Mission’s involvement in the community looks very different than it has in the past, and it means that a community not very welcoming of change is having and will continue to have a hard time accepting and adjusting to that. It means we are standing in the gap – the gap of what there once was and what there will be.

What does life “in the gap” look like?…stay tuned…