30 July 2011

of work and play; reading and fuming

so, it's 1230...am. Under normal circumstances, definitely would be in bed. Not so tonight.

I worked for 12 hours today. Did you read that?! It said to-DAY...as in DAY TIME!!!!...as in, I worked during the DAY, while the sun was UP!!! definitely a treat. And my patients were treats too. love that.

After work, I caught the Metro to Busch Stadium where I watched the Cards CRUSH the Cubs (huge rivalry for those of you with the double misfortune of not being from the midwest and not being baseball fans) and Pujols managed to add his 2,000th career base hit to the excitement. Webaleh free ticket Sara!

I came home, checking email before bed and came upon a host of new WHM Africa blog posts. This is like icing on the cake of a good day. The sweetness of getting a peak into the lives of the people I love doing work that I love in places that I love but am so far from, is priceless. Pouring over their words imagining them going about their days, soaking in their insights and wisdom, imagining I'm sitting and chatting with them, or walking next to them, I wish I was there with them, but also glad to be here...all in the same moment...one of those life in two worlds moments.

Another dual-world moment - Tuesday night I arrived home from a quick trip to Chicago. Still glorying in the wonders of the Art Institute of Chicago and deep dish pizza, old friends and new ones, I walked into my brother's house. (I'm living there now, have I mentioned that? it's true.) Jeff has sacrificially allowed his older sister to take up residence (with all her crap!) in his minimalist bachelor pad. There has been the exchange of groceries and cooking to sweeten the deal for him a bit, but it's a sacrifice no matter how you slice it.

Anyways, because he has given up his room for me to live in, he's sleeping on a mattress in the living room which means that as I walk in the door late at night, I try to stumble past him quietly, usually unsuccessfully, in the dark. Tuesday night he stirred and I apologized, quickly remarking that it felt like the air conditioning wasn't on. (After freezing my tail off in the frigidly air conditioned rooms of most everywhere in Chicago I was very temperature aware). He sleepily agreed that it wasn't. To which I replied in a slow, puzzled, way - "well...why?"

"Someone stole the air conditioner today."

We are not talking about a little window unit folks, we are talking about what I have learned is called a "condenser"...that big metal box that whirrs outside the back of your house as it turns on and off to cool your whole house...somebody stole it, in the middle of the day, from the back of Jeff's house.

I was PO'd. and no, not taking things "by mouth" for all you medical people...PISSED OFF! Pardon my french. I realized that this was not the time or the place to continue this particular discussion, considering I had woken Jeff from what is now precious sleep in a house where at night the air is warmer than the air outside, so I went into my room, got ready for bed and went to sleep fuming.

Unfortunately this is a familiar fuming for me...you can probably search on the world "stolen" on this blog and find a fair bit about my experiences with theft in the last year or so...these are not some of my better moments, folks. I won't go into the details but I was mad. Mad on behalf of my hard working, sacrificial brother.

Turns out I was more angry than he was. The next day I learned from my brother, that it is possible to be more thankful for what you have than you are mad about what you don't...that it is possible to focus on what you've been blessed with instead of on the ways you've been hurt. I'm not sure how to give validity to the feelings of violation and the wrongness of things like theft and still choose to focus on more helpful things. But evidently it's possible.

Life in two worlds? Who knew theft could unite my two worlds for me. Who knew my anger could unite my two worlds for me. Who knew God would continue to drown me with His grace and show me His perspective. Who knew I'd be experiencing a taste of Sudan as I sweat with my brother in our little house in St. Louis this summer? People here are dying in this heat, but we have windows and fans and a cold shower and ice and strong-ish young-ish bodies, and so much to be thankful for.

Only by the grace of God go I.

P.S. - This is NOT to be read as a sly and/or underhanded way of generating sympathy points or pity or even a new A/C condenser - we really are just fine albeit warm - but rather as the rambling confessions of an anger-prone young woman who desperately needs her Savior (and her brother, it turns out - but not necessarily A/C)!

13 July 2011

the other side of the bed

I've spent a couple nights in the last week in the hospital - not as a nurse, or a patient, but as the friend of a patient. Isabel, who I asked you to pray for 2 Sundays ago, is still in the ICU in a coma, intubated, on a vent, sedated and paralyzed - with an uncertain future which no one short of God knows the details or even the general story-line of. My time with her has been sweet, in which God has taught me much about himself. It's also strange to be on the other side of the bed.

Most all of my time in hospitals has been spent on the nurse's side of the bed. I am familiar with that side of the bed. The other side of the bed - not so familiar. I mean, when I'm on the patient's family/friends side of the bed I can tell what the alarms are for when they go off, I know the general flow of care, I know who's responsible for what, who to ask about what - but it's my role I'm not so sure of, not so familiar with. Part of this situation is that I'm not family, I'm not Isabel's mother (although one doctor did ask me if I was...) or even her sister - which changes things a bit, but I'm not sure how exactly. Part of it is that Neuro is so unpredictable, the brain is a wild place and there is so much we don't know about it or how it will behave.

Should I ask why they just did what they did? Should I ask what their concerns at this point are? What questions are appropriate and when? I know enough to know some but not enough to round out the picture I'm used to knowing when I walk into rooms that look like this one - rooms with oxygen flowmeters and suction canisters and towers of machines with blinking lights and tubes going in lots of different directions...How much stimulation is too much for her? I can totally give the nurse a second set of hands, which with a 20 year old with no muscle tone could be helpful, but maybe that's not my role here tonight...?
I like having my role defined. I realize this more and more as life goes on. Definition is my comfort zone. That's not to say, however, that situations lacking definition are bad or harmful - they're just unfamiliar, with a degree of discomfort. But usually that degree of discomfort is good for me.

Not knowing, not being able to see the whole picture, lacking definition - it means I have to lean on the One who does know, who can see the whole picture, for my comfort.

The other night I was reading Matthew 14 while sitting with Isabel - the 5 loaves and 2 fish, the calming of the storm, Peter walking on water and the healings at Gennesaret - and it struck me that Jesus is quite capable of doing exactly what's best when we trust Him with our whole selves. So that's what I tried to do with Isabel. Over and over, throughout the night, I entrusted her into His care. I might not know, or be able to see the whole picture, but He does.

So, South Sudan, you might be wondering...that doesn't strike me as a place in which lots of roles are defined where the whole picture is easily seen and understood. You would be right. Matt 14 applies not only to the other side of the bed, but also to the other side of the world. My role there is now and may always be fairly undefined, I will NEVER be able to see the whole picture, or even most of it, but if nothing else, my leaning muscles will become well defined!

08 July 2011

Happy Birthday South Sudan

Ladies and Gentlemen…..

Drumroll please…….

In a matter of hours, The Republic of South Sudan will become the 196th nation in the world, and the 55th country in Africa. In a matter of hours, July 9th will dawn and South Sudan will celebrate it’s Independence Day, just 5 days after we celebrated the anniversary of our own country’s Independence Day here in the US.

How in the world do you start a new country?!?! This is my question. Luckily this is not my job and there are people who think about these things for a living J And, luckily these folks share their thoughts in layman’s terms in publicly accessible forums like the internet!

Karen Masso recently posted the following link to the website of the Government of South Sudan (GOSS). Here, if you have questions like I do, you’ll find all kind of information, including a helpful summary of what comes next – “What’s next for the new country.”

Here’s a few tidbits from that document:

· Background: The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (2005) brought an end to 21 years of civil war in Sudan and decades of struggle between the northern and southern parts of the country – this Agreement established the opportunity for a Referendum (January 2011) giving the South the chance to vote whether to remain part of Sudan or secede and become their own country. The vote was deemed open and fair and was overwhelmingly in favor of secession – 98.83%.

· His Excellency Salva Kiir Mayardit will be sworn in as president of the new Republic of South Sudan. (That’s him in the cowboy hat – evidently the hat is his trademark). He has been First Vice President of Sudan since Aug. 2005.

· The flag of the new Republic will be the flag which has represented the Sudan’s People Liberation Army (which during the war fought against northern Sudan for the South)

· The new currency – South Sudan Pound – will be put into circulation in coming months.

· South Sudan is not starting from scratch. For the past six years, the Government of South Sudan (GOSS) has enjoyed considerable autonomy, with an elected Assembly, Government and a functioning judicial system.

· South Sudan is comprised of 10 States, each with their own Governor.

· The official language of South Sudan will change from English AND Arabic, to only English.

· Southern Sudanese Assembly members currently in the Government of National Unity in Khartoum will leave their posts and join the South Sudan Legislative Assembly in Juba.

· The Government is committed to the concept of soft borders with the North, allowing freedom of movement for pastoralists and traders who regularly traverse the North-South boundaries.

· Some critical issues in the CPA remain unresolved such as the final status of Abyei, arrangements for the states of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile and the demarcation of the North/South Border. These issues are still subject to negotiation, with the support of international mediators such as the African Union High Implementation Panel.

Teammates have said today feels like Christmas Eve in South Sudan, celebratory festivities in preparation, and excitement is in the air!

Please join us in praying for South Sudan! Praying for joyous and peaceful celebrations tomorrow, for peaceful and just finalization of border issues still in negotiations, and for this process to lead to the flourishing of the people of South Sudan.

03 July 2011


If ever there were a pictorial dictionary, next to the word "sweet" would be Isabel's photo. She's 20 years old, 2nd born of 7 children to Rick and Mary. Quiet, shy, but a lovely young woman with personality and spunk and a love of life that is quickly conveyed in her twinkling eyes and smile when you talk with her. Her family and close friends may know differently, but this is what those of us around her see :) Sweet Isabel.

Isabel is very sick. Symtoms this last week that could have been any number of minor illnesses culminated in a trip to the ER yesterday, loss of consciousness, and imaging that showed bleeding, causing swelling of her brain. "Throwing clots" but the doctors with little idea why. She's on a ventilator in the ICU and the prognosis is poor. Very poor. She will likely die, and possibly very soon.

If you are of the praying variety, please plead with God on Isabel's behalf. Plead with Him on behalf of her solidly grounded and immensely loving parents and her 6 smart, creative, fun loving brothers and sisters, the youngest of which is 4 years old. Plead with Him for mercy, for life, and for comfort and His closeness for those who love Isabel.

01 July 2011

on the road again: 2nd stop - Northern VA

Friday morning I packed my things back into little blue and headed for the Red and White. I had made plans to pick up my illustrious Bundibugyo teammate Pat Abbott who was in town visiting family to make the trek to Northern VA together, and her recommendation for a place to meet up was nothing less than the best thrift store in Pittsburgh. Classic. Pat could be the best "used clothe-ez" shopper I know and apparently that skill spans several continents :) I left early, leaving myself some time to peruse the depths of the "Red and White" - I didn't even make a dent in my exploration before it was time to meet the Abbott sisters in the parking lot.

I finally got the chance to meet Nancy, Pat's sister who visited Bundibugyo and I'd heard so much about from Pat and from our Babwisi neighbors. Pat's stylin' America haircut and bronzed skin from a recent week at the beach were the visible signs of a rested woman. We loaded her things into the car, said our goodbyes to Nancy and the Red and White and took to the road. Story telling, heart sharing, rehearsal dinner toast writing, and a little Mumford and Sons got us to Sterling VA in no time.

Sterling VA is the childhood home of our also illustrious Bundibugyo teammate Jennifer Myhre. Grammy Aylestock still lives in Sterling and loves hosting any Bundibugyo "family" passing through and had every so graciously welcomed 4 single women into her home for the weekend. Ashley had already arrived when Pat and I pulled into the long driveway. With iced tea and lemonade to greet us we sat on the porch and jumped right into the discussion of the details of the weekend, who needed to be where and when and how...There were showers to be taken, toasts to be written, technology to be gathered, and directions to be detailed for Pat to pick up Pamela at the train...the flurry of activity was a pattern we fell back into with each other like no time at all had passed since we last lived life everyday together in the flurry of activity that is life in Bundibugyo. And Grammy was no exception. Like mother like daughter.

Pat left in little blue to pick up Pamela and Ashley and I left for the rehearsal dinner once we had made ourselves presentable. Working together to write a toast, one writing while the other was finishing blow drying, one copying the toast in a readable manner while the other was driving. With googlemaps and a GPS we managed to get ourselves to the restaurant with even a bit of time to spare. Scrambling to finish the final touches on the toast and figure out how to connect to the wireless network, we each got a drink from the bar and sat down at an empty table, no one we knew had arrived yet. Ashley took a sip of her wine, set her glass down on the table and looked at me and said "So, Heidi, how've you been?" with a smile. She pointed out that we had greeted one another hours earlier but had naturally fell into a pattern of getting done what needed to be done, saving the real conversation for when there was time. We remarked at how it was nice to have friends to fall into those kinds of natural patterns with despite the passage of time apart and proceeded to catch up with the goings on of the last 8 months since we had seen each other last.

The food was scrumptious, italian fare with salads and breads, meats and pastas, with a monstrous piece of chocolate cake to top it all off! Friends of Sarah's who were in the wedding party joined us at our table, along with family friends of Nathan's. Fun to meet people we had heard so much about over the past few years, putting faces to names. Meeting Sarah's sisters and brother in law and Nathan's sister, again, more faces to names and stories. There were pictures in a slideshow put together by Nathan's dad and brother, and then there were toasts. Family and friends attesting to cherished friendships with Nathan and Sarah - fun again to hear a similar theme of genuine relationship. These two love people and love them genuinely.

The Myhre family falls strongly into the category of people that Nathan and Sarah love dearly. Video skype-ing in Scott and Jennifer from Kijabe (along with brief appearances by Julia and Luke I believe) - all to Nathan and Sarah's surprise - was so fun. Scott and Jennifer have been cheerleaders for and mentors to many young people coming to Bundibugyo and living and working and learning cross culturally in ways that challenge and grow and for the purpose of seeing God's kingdom come in that small corner of the world. Part of their sacrifice in this calling and passion of theirs is not being able to be a part of the significant events in the lives of these people whose lives they have poured themselves into. Scott and Jennifer as team-leaders and mentors and friends played integral roles, not only in the individual lives of Nathan and Sarah but also in their relationship together now flourishing into marriage. As a result, Nathan and Sarah are particularly dear to Scott and Jennifer and Scott and Jennifer particularly dear to Nathan and Sarah and so it was so fun to make it possible for Scott and Jennifer to be present in some small way in the celebration of this marriage. The audio connection was great, the whole room heard everything Scott and Jennifer (and Julia and Luke as representatives of the Myhre children) said. There were tears and there was applause! Not only was it special for the couples involved, but everyone in the room who loved Nathan and Sarah know about Scott and Jennifer and really enjoyed this little slice of international connection. It was about 4 am Kijabe time, and everyone was so appreciative that the Myhre's were willing to make that work (including me :) Especially since I had last heard from Jennifer at midnight and apparently Scott had only arrived home from the hospital at 3:30am...THANKS GUYS! It couldn't have worked any better than it did. I was only sorry that I didn't take the opportunity to pan the room with my computer while you were still on and let everyone else greet you too. I was just so surprised everything had worked so well!

After the evening was over and the chatting was done and bar was cleared, we wandered out to Ashley's car and drove back to Grammy Aylestock's house, climbing into bed about Midnight, excited to see what the next day would bring!


There was a lovely breakfast at Grammy's followed by a flurry of shower and bathroom activity with 5 women getting ready in one house! We piled into 2 cars and headed to the church for the 11am ceremony.

Nathan and the groomsmen were standing in the narthex as people filed into the sanctuary. We greeted him and he seemed calm. I called him on it and he could only agree :) He said he had unsuccessfully tried to work himself up about things, thinking he was too calm about it all given this was "forever we're talking about here!", but we assured him there was never a better time to be calm and confident!

What side of the church do you sit on when you know the bride and the groom? Not sure who decided for us, but we ended up on the right, which meant we had a perfect view of Sarah's face :)

Sarah was STUNNING as she walked down the isle with her dad. The photographer was right infront of me so I had NO view of what Nathan's face looked like as he watched his bride walk towards him and a life to be spent together, forever :) But I can assure you he was radiant as well. The halter dress, a Sarah trademark, was perfect for her (not without a few moments of panic in the process we heard later, but mom Reber saved the day with a needle and thread :). The bridesmaids in dark blue with yellow gerber daisies - the color combination reminded me of a kitengi print from Bundibugyo, the guys in black suits and Nathan in a tux. It was a simple service, 2 congregational hymns, the homily, vows, introduction, kiss and recessional. But the most poignant for me - a reading from Revelations 21. An anthem of sorts for us in Bundibugyo, and knowing Nathan and Sarah a theme for their lives together - a creed of sorts - a statement to remind them of what's true no matter what the circumstances.

A simple and lovely reception - just their style. There was food, there was drink, there was dancing (yes, even me - if that's what you want to call it!), there was talk of Revelations 21 when asked how it is we believe Africa will one day thrive in ways not yet seen, there were pictures taken with Pat's camera for documentation requested by Kymigisha and there were hugs and laughs. Although I have oftentimes failed to do it well, I love these two a lot and they love me (or at least they said they did :) and it was so fun to celebrate them, to celebrate their love for one another, God's love for them, and the life He has in store for them together. Watch out world, here come the Elwoods, you'll never be the same again!