Monday, April 26, 2010


When we first arrived here, I commented to Ashley about the plentitude of ants in our house. She replied, “Ahhh, the ants. In your first year, you will say ‘Ugh! Ants.’ In your second year, your will say, ‘Hmmm, ants.’ And In your third year, you will say, ‘Yum, ants!’”

Yes, I am often found scolding the ants for being everywhere in our house. “Ugh!” is a common sound heard. But the other day, I pulled out the milk from the fridge and there were some tiny little ants floating around. Not wanting to waste the precious commodity of milk, I simply heated it up, frothed it with our battery aerolatte, and poured it in my coffee. “Yum, ants!”

Last Friday night, we received a frantic call for the keys to the Myrhes’ house to retrieve the potent ant killer as there was a mpali invastion to Heidi’s room. These biting ants, also called safari ants by our friends in Kenya, form huge ranks to walk in a serious line to eat anything in their way. From what I have heard, the bite of the leader mpalis can draw blood. So, as I waited for Travis and Heidi to return with the ant killer, I penned this little poem.

Ode to the Ants

Ants, oh, ants

Why do you come around?

Moving earth and home

In Nyahuka town.

You tiny little sugar ant

You vex me in the way,

I find you absolutely everywhere

All the night and day.

The medium black ants,

Who much prefer the trees

You don’t seem to have the need to be inside

So stay up there, would you please?

The fierce and biting mpali,

Who marches in a line

Your pinchers are so sharp and big

I’ve got shivers on my spine.

The only way to be rid of you

Is with kerosene or a spray.

Ugandans have to move from their hut

Only to return the next day.

We know you are industrious

And we know you are strong.

But would you kindly take a break?

Would it be so wrong?

You are walking in the kitchen,

And strolling in my pantry

You are waltzing across the counter,

Like a determined little infantry

You are in my refrigerator

Where I thought you’d be too cold

And even in my underwear,

How could you be so bold?

I’ll take a lesson from the wisdom

of the man called Agur

if, like the ant, you work hard and plan ahead

you will not end up a beggar!

I did not claim that it was a good poem. What else is there to do in Bundibugyo on a Friday night but write bad poems about ants?

A day of action


Hit snooze on the alarm as the rain blessed us and canceled my walk/jog

Baked cinnamon rolls

Collected milk from Myrhes’ cow (but did not milk it)

Pasteurized milk

Made espresso with fresh frothed milk (favorite part of the morning!)

Read together as a family

Empathized with worker about his sick father and invited him here for Travis to see

Dressed kids, Leashed dog, Bjorned baby to Walk all to school

Nursed baby

Napped baby (and changed his “nappy”)

Greeted the family at our half-made kitubi who had a health concern

Washed dishes

Packed a picnic, Wished that I had salty potato chips

Gave “Doom” bug killer to worker to kill the mpali that were on our kitubi tree

Sent the ironing out to a man who truly heats up an iron iron

Spoke with the kitubi man who wanted to wait 2 hours for Travis to return rather than discuss building matters with me

Drank sweet tea and Pondered life with my prayer partner and fellow mom Loren

Made balance (change) for shillings for workers’ weekly wage

Killed cockroaches that have infested our “motorcar”

Packed Aidan and bags for hiking

Picked up kids and Travis

Bumped along the road to Bundibugyo Town for fruitless effort to buy electricity credits and to get cash from the one ATM in town

Felt the stress of the last 5 hours fall away as left town

Gave Patton a bowl in which to throw up as he was carsick

Had wonderful conversations with people at the National Park station, though it was the wrong one.

Arrived at Sempaya

Chased off family of 10+ baboons from our picnic spot kitubi

Enjoyed a pasta lunch

Nursed baby

Hugged Myrhes who dropped off Julia with us as they took sons to Kampala

Listened to Aidan’s newly discovered shriek which sounds like a cross between a howling monkey and our neighbors’ goat

Hiked to Female Hot Springs

Boiled egg in 106 degree mineral water

Hiked to Male Hot Springs

Watched sweet Julia hold the hands of adoring Lilli and Patton

Nursed baby

Prayed with a Ugandan man who asked us if we are a part of the tribe of the Lion of Judah and that he loves Jesus but also loves alcohol

Loaded into the car, Killed more cockroaches

Bumped home along the dirt road

Bought 24 kilograms of flour for upcoming pizza nights, Looking forward to visit by WHM Sudan Team

Nursed baby

Bathed kids

Pulled clean clothes in from the clothesline

Smelled garlic and butter for dinner’s bread

Ate leftover spaghetti by candlelight

Reflected on the day with kids

Read “Wilderking” book with kids

Sent money and prayers with Nathan as he takes the CSB boys’ soccer team to Ugandan National Championship

Settled in for a movie (The Hurt Locker)

Thanked God that we live in Uganda and not in Iraq

Prayed from missionaries in Iraq

Dreamed that WHM sent us to Iraq

Woke in the night to a wonderful thunderstorm

Slept peacefully

Monday, April 19, 2010

A day of rest

We are in the process of learning the meaning of Sabbath, to take a day of rest as a form of worship to God.
Typically, we start the morning with Johnson Swedish pancakes or Nana Johnson's bake ahead french toast (thanks to the recipe collection from Karla and Heather). We then gather on our one carpeted area to listen to a sermon while the kids do puzzles or look at books.

When the drums can be heard, we make the short walk to the community center to join believers at New Life Presbyterian for a morning of worship songs (in Lebwisi and Rotoru, the neighboring language), a report regarding last week's giving, greeting of our neighbors, more singing, preaching in both Lebwisi and English, more singing, an auction of the fruits and vegetables that were brought as a tithe and then a benediction prayer and song.

Our little ones, who are used to heading off to Sunday School for lessons geared towards children, sit on the short wooden bench with us for the duration of the two to three hour service. Patton beats his little drum and Lilli shakes her African maraca in worship to songs that they are beginning to learn. They then look at Bible story picture books. This Sunday, it made my heart soar to see Lilli and her neighbor friend Gloria snuggled together looking at a book as Lilli whispered to Gloria the creation story. Even Aidan is an intricate part of the community of worshippers. As we walked around the room during the greeting song, he sat in his infant car seat. When we came back to him, he had a long line of children that were waiting to shake his hand!

The afternoon has become our coveted family rest time. I love the opportunity to nap with the kids while Travis heads out for a long mountain bike ride. He always returns covered in mud head to toe! The neighbor children love to help him wash his bike afterwards...any excuse to get wet and cool down in the heat.
As it seems that Sunday afternoons are prime visiting hours, we are greeted by many new friends. One neighbor even showed Lilli how to climb the cocoa tree in our yard to collect cocoa pods. The last thing she asked before she went to bed last night was, "do you think I can climb that tree and collect more cocoa in the morning?!"
The sweetest time of the day is when the children are safely tucked into their mosquito nets on their bunks and we read the "Wilderking" series to them. They relate to Aidan, the Wilderking who is on a wild quest in an unknown jungle. And it does our hearts good to see them identifying with a young adventurer who is committed to following and obeying his one true God.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Two Answered Prayers

Yesterday was Wednesday. Wednesday starts with W, so at Rwenzori Mission School, Lilli and Patton prayed for Water.

It has been a dry here lately, so people’s crops are suffering. Someone even told us that cocoa has been drying on the tree, a bad prospect for this cash crop that sustains life here. On Monday morning, we woke to no water coming from our taps as our cisterns were dry. Fortunately, we were able to pull more water down from the Ngite Waterfall to refill the cisterns which are housed at the church/community center. Pretty neat that our life-sustaining water comes from the church…there has to be a really great analogy in there somewhere.

So, we’ve all been praying for water. And God answered our prayers with a Yes. Last night, we awoke to the beautiful sound of rain. Even the dead looking tree out our window has tiny green buds daring to come out as a result.

The second answered prayer came tonight in the form of a beat up brown box that has traveled over three continents. The first week of December, I mailed a box of Christmas/New Year’s gifts to the team, hoping that the Christmas cds and children’s musical instruments would make it in time to ring in the new year. Well, it never made it. I was a disappointed as I was really hoping that the team would know that even though we were not there yet, we were thinking about them and sending our love. And I had spent a good bit of money on it…and I can be a bit frugal at times, so this bugged me. Nonetheless, I prayed about it, asking God to bring the package. And I really felt that he was telling me to be patient, that He would bring it at just the right time.

And He did.

The package came this week. After an especially emotionally hard day for the team, our somber team meeting turned into a crazy cacophony of a kazoo, piano flute, jingle bells, tambourine, jaw harp, harmonica, and even a mini fiddle!

Our heavenly Father knows exactly what we need and when we need it…and can even use the Ugandan Postal System to accomplish His Good Work.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Medicine in the Heart of Africa

This week is the week. This is the week I have been looking forward to because I was going to start to working regularly at the Nyahuka Health Center. With a healthy dose of fear for what might await, mixed with the sadistical excitement that only a doctor has for unusual findings and diseases, and a desire to engage the needs of this community we are already beginning to love, I got on my bike and headed to the hospital. Monday went well. I saw a few patients with Dr. Jennifer Myhre and a few on my own, asking Jennifer thousand questions about each. All in all, it was a mirenbe (peaceful) day.

Tuesday, before heading to the hospital, I found myself negotiating with the men doing four different projects at our house, treating patients that showed up at our door step. I did not make it to the hospital before I was picked up to go to a district health meeting to discuss the 47% malnutrition rate in our district that severely cripples mental and physical development of our children. Before this meeting was over, I was called away to another where Scott and I signed a couple dozen papers working out details about the new road that will be cutting through World Harvest Mission land. This road will bring much improved access to the resources of rest of the country. Thankfully, Jennifer had checked on the patients before the first meeting and made sure things were stable.

So today, Wednesday, after treating another patient at my doorstep, I headed back to the hospital.

Our team was already hard at work with a child that was brought in late yesterday with severe Kwashiokor Malnutrition. The child is 2 years old and his mother died a few months ago and the current caregiver wasunable to give him proper nutrition. He is now so severely malnourished that his body has no protein left to hold fluid within his tissue. The fluid has leaked into his skin, which is now sloughing off. We were unable to find a place to give him an IV line, so we placed a needle into his bone, where we were able to give him a blood transfusion and some much needed fluid. Heidi, a WHM teammate and a nurse, spent another hour covering his body with burn bandages to prevent joint strictures and infection.

We then moved on to our next sickest child, a 7 month old who had diarrhea. He may have had a chance of living through the diarrhea, but the parents took him to a “traditional healer”/witch doctor for treatment. I put the PC “traditional healer” in quotes because he performed an “extraction of a false tooth.” This is a common practice of theirs where they slice open the gums of babies to release “false teeth” to end the diarrhea. There are no false teeth and the gums become severely infected. Our child, who has diarrhea, now cannot eat. The parents had also refused IV antibiotics because of another traditional belief in internal sores, which are worsened by antibiotic medications. So we watched and pled. Today the child developed tachycardia (fast heart rate) and tachypnea (fast breathing) as his little heart and body started to go into failure from the malnourishment and anemia. After many pleas and a desperate prayer over the child, the parents finally agreed to an intramuscular injection of an antibiotic and a blood transfusion.

The next child has been in and out of the hospital, barely able to maintain enough weight to live. This time, Jennifer started her on TB medications and today, 14 days into the treatment, she has reached the minimal weight goal for health!

We next moved to my little friend who was admitted 3 weeks ago, also with severe edema from Kwashiokor malnutrition. He has lost 5kg of edemic fluid, revealing the fact that he is severely below the minimal weight needed to survive. However, he smiles at me and I can see the brightness of his eyes without the swelling eyelids and cheeks that once made his face unrecognizable. We are packing him with protein rich formula. The loss of edema indicates his body is now making protein and we are beginning to be hopeful for a recovery. A small child in the next bed also struggles to grasp hope of surviving. She was born 5 weeks ago without an anus. A fistula allows her to release stool, saving her life. Still, she presented two weeks ago with puss oozing out of every orfice. Today, she has gained weight again. With signs of the infection subsiding, we began looking for a hospital that will take her and perform the much needed surgery.

The next 20 beds are filled with children that have Sickle Cell disease, HIV, malaria, pneumonia and/or severe malnutrition. We finished the rounding in the ward with a child with severe 3rd degree burns on his abdomen from hot tea, an erosive flesh eating bacteria on a 7 month olds nose and a premature infant who has miraculously made it to its 33 week of life (4 out of the womb!). We are thankful he is still alive this morning, but we are sad that the other mother of a similar age premature baby has left in the night. She heard her husband (whom she had not seen in 8 months) had died and she feared his spirit would haunt her if she did not visit the grave. She took her child and there is little hope of it surviving.

It is quite overwhelming to see these children

suffering. I looked around the room several times, realizing how incapable I am to treat them because of my lack of knowledge and our lack of resources. I also thanked the Lord a thousand times for Jennifer, Heidi, Nathan and the nursing staff who patiently loved these children and taught me what we can do.

After taking a little breath, we moved across the room to see the referrals from the outlying health centers. Here we treated a child with a swollen knee, concerning for a severe joint infection that could leave her cripple if not take her life and a child extremely lethargic- probably with severe malaria. The dismalness was counteracted with several children with sickle cell doing well on the preventive treatment course of zinc, penicillin and folic acid. Sickle Cell normally has a 98% death rate by the age of five. They had actually come back to get more medication and there is hope that they will survive.

We took the child with the swollen knee to the treatment room to withdrawal fluid. While prepping the patient, Jennifer was called away to a child that was “not doing well.” The child had an underlying diagnosis of HIV, developed cerebral malaria and began seizing. I finished aspirating the child’s knee and then opened up another strange abscess on the head of another patient and then went to join her. The seizing child was resting quietly. In fact, much of the crying and moans had stopped. The blood for transfusions was hanging (another small miracle) and the medicines were being given. I thanked the nurses, Jennifer, Heidi and Nathan, quietly thanked the Lord and slipped out to check on my wife and children. Amy had texted me that safari ants were attacking the house.

Please pray for these children. Jennifer promised that everyday is not quite like this. Then she added, “However, daily, life hangs by a thread here.”

Saturday, April 10, 2010


For the past three days, we have noticed a rather unsavory smell wafting through our kitchen. The smell would come and go, annoying us, but not enough to take serious action.

Until this morning.

Travis and I officially started the "Sonship" study and were sitting down answering the first question that delved into our beliefs about being accepted as God's children versus living with an orphan mentality. The first question told me to describe what it looks like when I am acting as a spiritual orphan. As I began journaling about sin patterns that I see in my life, that unpleasant smell hit me with full force. And this time it was not going away.

But like a good student determined to persevere with my homework, I simply put the green sage citrus diffuser (thanks Mom J for that gift!) right under my nose. Ignore the bad smell. Keep plugging along. But no matter how much aromatherapy I tried, the smell persisted.

"I'll just live with the smell." I thought. Focus on the homework. Question 4: Choose one characteristic of being a spiritual orphan and describe a specific and recent example in your life that illustrates this characteristic. "Ok, how about last night during dinner prep? I had planned dinner by buying the tomatoes, preparing the sauce, making noodles, reheating the sauce, and was almost ready to put it on the table when Travis asked what we were going to do for dinner. A simple and kind question. But I took it as a confrontation that I had not thought about feeding our family, an insult that he had not noticed that I skipped out on the water fight with the kids to work in the kitchen, and an annoyance that he asked at the last minute as I was about to put it on the table. Feeling unappreciated, feeling tired of being the only one working (which is so bogus as Travis is the hardest working man known!), and definitely not serving with joy or love, I glared at him and grumpily put our pasta dinner on the table."

This is my "spiritual orphan" mentality: that I am alone in my efforts to love God and others, working really hard to do everything just right, and then becoming exhausted in my strong-willed and self-sufficient efforts that I blow up, mope, run away/scream for time alone. It is after the Lord works in my heart that I am reminded that I am not alone. I can trust less in my own efforts and more in the work of the God's Spirit. And I am safe and accepted in the loving arms of my Father. I don't have to huff around demanding appreciation. When I do, it spills out on my sweet husband, like my watching children, like this new community... and it stinks!

It stinks...kinda like that putrid smell that I can no longer ignore? The smell that is breaking our concentration on these important truths enough to move Travis to open up a door to a cabinet where we put a rat trap last week? Sure enough, the 6 inch red metal trap that has such a sharp snapper that it could easily break a finger off has done its job.

After identifying the source of the smell, Travis ran to the bathroom to throw up. But as much as we did not want to deal with the week-old dead and decaying rat, we could not simply ignore it. It would only get worse.

And then I got it...My sin is not so different than that dead rat. I can ignore it for a while, move to a place where I don't have to smell it, use a scented diffuser to cover it, but eventually, it will get so awful that it cannot be ignored. It has to be searched out, identified, examined, and ultimately, removed. Or e"rat"icated as we joked. I guess I needed a very concrete object lesson to remind me that I am not a spiritual orphan. I am loved by God my Father. He allows me to bring to him my stinky, smelly self and he gently and repeatedly washes me clean of my filth. He even fills me with himself, so that his aroma of love, joy, and peace can come forth from my life.

So, today, I say: Thank you, Father, that you love me enough to not allow me to remain in my stinky sin, but you move me towards yourself. You take the filth upon yourself. You bring forgiveness that changes me. And for that, I am grateful.

I just hope that Lesson 2 of Sonship does not require such a vivid object lesson!