Tuesday, January 25, 2011

It takes a village...

This morning's 7:30am text from Loren notified us that sweet Bryan Clark had a fever all night so Patton could not come over to play. However, another quick sms said that Patton could crash 1st grade at RMS with Lilli and Miss Anna. And then Chrissy came over to watch Aidan. And then Asita came to pick up the menu and budget for tonight's Ugandan dinner. And then Joas came to make bread for our guest, Edward Isingoma. All of this before 9am, just to get Travis and I out the door to interview teachers for the last 3 opened positions and help lead the teacher orientation for Christ School Bundibugyo!

If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes many villages to raise a school of children!

We are exceedingly happy to report that of the 9 vacant teaching positions, all have been filled! What joy to know this as school starts on Monday!

As these last weeks have been crushingly difficult, it was a great relief to see the library filled with smartly-dressed, smiling teachers, optimistic for the new school year. As I was negotiating with a small crew of men to clean up the school grounds and with a wonderful powerhouse of a woman to clean the head teacher's house, I could hear through the screen windows beautiful voices singing praise songs accompanied by drums and Boniface's guitar.

Travis led a devotional time as we read through 1 Samuel 16 and 17, reflecting on the characteristics of David as a servant leader. The teachers commented that David was courageous in the face of adversity. His fear of God was more than his fear of man, even if that man was a 9 foot hulking giant. He was willing to risk his life in pursuit of God's glory. Travis made the distinction that it is easier to be the kind of leader that Saul was, the big man who stayed in his tent, sending his armor out for someone else to fight. The kind of leader that expects to be served. But as a servant-leader, David put the needs of his people and the name of his God before his personal desires. The servant leader versus the cultural leader. The path of being a servant leader is much less glorious than being a cultural leader, and definitely riskier. Travis challenged the teachers that like David, one's own brothers and sisters may even "burn with anger" or challenge the teachers to leave such servant-leadership and go home. But to enter into the battle for the glory of God is worth it as that is when we truly see the Father at work, fighting for us.

And those words mean a lot to us too, as we are learning huge lessons fast about leadership. As Dr. Dan Allender in "Leading with a Limp" says, " Leadership is far from a walk in the park; it is a long march through a dark valley. In fact, leadership has been described as wearing a bull's-eye on your chest during hunting season."

Though we would love for hunting season to be over, we are encouraged by the prayers of many, the strong words of our neighbors in this very subtle community, the cheerful faces of teachers today, and the grace-filled conversation with Edward Isingoma and Pat at our dinner table tonight.

And we are grateful for the village that we have here. That Loren, Anna, and Chrissy are all super willing to be with our kids while we facilitate the teacher orientation this week. That is true servant-leadership.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Grace C.C. Family in Bundibugyo!

Day 1: The Grace Team Arrives to Bundibugyo

The ten seat caravan Mission Aviation Fellowship plane roared over the mountains, appearing over the trees to deliver our eight Grace Community Church family members!
Josiah and Elizabeth are very happy to be on solid ground!
The World Harvest Mission team greets the visitors with hugs and vehicles for transport.
Kelly and Jen are on top of the world (or at least Pat's truck)!
Like beauty pageant queens, they wave to all of Bundibugyo signifying that the bazungu have arrived!

Day 2: Bible Club at New Life Presbyterian Bundimalinga
Josiah teaches the story of Daniel and the Lion's Den to children from the community in Bundimalinga (hosted by New Life Presbyterian Bundimalinga).
The children show their lion masks.
Vincent Byamuntura and Elizabeth assist the children in making the craft.
Loren looks on with Patton and Bryan.
Amy is a great craft instructor!
Pat and her lion friend.
Kelly "the Energizer Bunny" leads the games group with great enthusiasm!
Lilli enjoys her first Ugandan Vacation Bible School.
Travis cares for a patient who is brought to the community center during Bible Club.

Day 3: Bible Club at Bundikiora

Lilli and Amy make the 2 hour hike from Bundimalinga to Bundikiora.
Susan listens to David share the story of Daniel and the Lion's Den.
David and Ivan tell the children that they do not have to fear anything, even lions, when their trust is in God.
We expected a handful of children, but were greeted by more than 200!

Kelly and Vincent lead singing. The favorite song was "Jesus Power! Super Power!"

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Christ School Bundibugyo Year Begins

As the holidays are now completed, we are all preparing for the new school year. Parents are trying to gather money for the school fees for their children. Travis is interviewing new teachers for Christ School Bundibugyo and wrapping up projects in preparation for the arrival of students.

But, unfortunately, some children will not be able to attend school as their families do not have the resources to send them. And as this is a high mortality rate area, some children do not even have parents to struggle to send them to school.

To meet this need, Christ School Bundibugyo has established an Orphan and Vulnerable Children Scholarship Program which matches a sponsor to a student who has lost one or both parents and has high academic and behavioral marks.

CSB is now old enough that students that were sponsored to finish their education have now completed teaching school and are returning as teachers to CSB. Conversations with such teachers encourage my heart that the investment that someone made in their life through education is now paying dividends to future generations of CSB students.

Anna Linhart and Chrissy Chipriano are teaming up to match sponsors with approved scholarship students. And the good news is that there are just a handful of students that need sponsors!

I'd like to share the stories collected by Chrissy of a few students who were sponsored. May they encourage you as they have encouraged me.

Meet Nyangoma Agnes. Her story is one full of pain and hardship but also one of victory. She comes from Buganikere village and enjoys visiting home on term breaks, where she helps in her aunt’s shop and plays with her uncle’s young children. Agnes completed primary school but there was no money for her to attend secondary school. God provided her with a sponsorship at Christ School, where she began to learn about God and the teachings of the Bible. When she came down with smallpox, she thought death was near but after being healed, she began to trust God with her whole life. Two years ago, Agnes’s twin sister died. As Agnes remembers her sister, tears roll down her cheeks and the pain is still great. However, Agnes can still say “God has done great things for me”. She says with confidence that God has always been with her as she has passed through many troubles. She also states that God is for her and not against her, pointing to the evidence as she prepares to graduate from Christ School. Agnes has a passion for math and economics and hopes to one day become a businesswoman. Join us in praying for Agnes and other students of Christ School—that they would have similar stories of triumph and be able to say “God has done great things for me”.

Meet Kule Isaiah. At nineteen, he is confident and a born-leader. He eagerly explains to me that “Kule” is the name given to a third born male child. When asked about his journey to Christ School, he responds, “God did me a favor in coming here”. At the age of eight, Isaiah’s father was killed in rebel warfare. Isaiah felt hopeless and feared his future had been lost. His mother remained faithful to God and when Isaiah approached secondary school age, she told him to pray, as there was no money for school. He came to Christ School to interview for a sponsorship but the registrations had already been completed. He still interviewed, hoping for a miracle, and was found to be among the top 10 new students. When God answered Isaiah and his mother’s prayers, his life was changed. As he attended Christ School, he began to learn more about God and His character. Today he boldly proclaims that “God is the father of the fatherless.” Isaiah hopes to graduate from Christ School in one year and dreams of completing a Bible course afterwards. He also hopes to continue on and receive a degree in medicine so that he can give back and care for orphans. Join us in praying for Isaiah and the many other students with promise at Christ School, that they would become strong, Christian leaders of Uganda.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Too Much

Sometimes things are just too much.

It has taken me over a week to write this letter because it has been too much.

Last Tuesday morning, our friend Ben’s brother called us. The tumor on his knee was too much. Despite moving to Kampala and visiting a Cancer ward, an orthopedic hospital, and receiving advice from several places, the cancer took the life of this young man. We went to visit his family in their small village last Saturday. When we reached their small hut, we saw the grave dug behind the house. However, the brothers were not there. They were at another funeral for an uncle who was helping these three orphan brothers survive. There is too much death. Help for those who need it- not enough.

Last Tuesday morning, Baraba Paul and his family also visited us. I rejoiced to see the tumor was reduced! But Baraba sat in the Katubi with a hood on his head, hiding his face. There was too much sadness. I asked the father how things were. We found out that they failed to go to the last chemo treatment. They were now two weeks late. I asked him why. He said the vehicles were too much. They were afraid. This family is from a small village and coming to our town, the Nyahuka trading center, is a big deal. When they first went to Kampala, they were robbed on the way. I understand their fear.

Still, Burkett’s lymphoma grows incredibly fast. I called the oncologist in Kampala who has been so kind in treating Baraba. She replied over the phone that they cannot take Baraba back. He was late to the November chemo and missed the December chemo. By now, the fast growing cancer that was already penetrating his jaw and into his orbit would be too much. There were also too many other children who need access to the limited amount of chemo-therapeutic drugs in Uganda. The cancer is too much. The amount of kids with cancer is too much. The expense and barriers to chemo was too much. I finally begged her to take Baraba for palliative chemo in hopes a miracle can happen. It is too much for me to watch him die. She said yes, but this will probably not be enough.

While we talked on the phone with the hospital, Baraba played legos with our children and the neighborhood children. He began to smile and even pulled back his heavy winter coat hood. I guess sitting with a bunch of kids “who have no skin” (us) made him feel that the growth on the side of his face was not so unusual.

Pray for Baraba. The cancer is too much. The therapy will not be enough. But for God, surely this is not too much.

This Tuesday, we were visited by a “son of the mission,” a lab tech at the health center that was “adopted” by the Myhres and well loved by all of us. He said there has been no blood in the Health Center for 4 months. My head went swimming as I thought of how many dozens of children in these 4 months have lost their lives because of the lack of blood to cure the anemia resulting from malnutrition, malaria and sickle cell. The anemia is too much. The time without blood is too much. The corruption that prevents proper use of funds is too much. Advocates for this place with out a voice- not enough.

It is too much. So, I weep. Perhaps this is what led to Jesus weeping at the tomb of Lazarus. I love Christ School and am hopeful because of the leaders that it is helping to shape. But the time until they come is too much. The number of deaths of children between now and then is too much. My knowledge of medicine given as a gift is too much- too much to stay inside. The workload to run a team and a school is too much- too much to also help at the Health center.

So, please pray with us for the needs here in Bundibugyo. They are too much.

I am holding onto the hope that it is not too much for God. I know He knows the problems, I know He hears the cry of the needy, I know He is working, and I know He also is weeping. It is why we are here.

If it was not for the hope of seeing God in the land of the living, I would be in complete despair. Ps 27:13

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A few firsts today…

. First time to kill a snake. A burrowing asp (though a small one, poisonous) was in our katubi and I whacked it to death with my flip flop. With a soft sole, that is a lot of whacking.

2. First time to make and eat millet. I thought I was buying crushed gnuts at the market, but as we were boiling it, Joas told me that I had bought millet. Usually it is eaten as a breakfast or a dinner with some sugar. It reminds me of Hawaiian poi. Not a single one in my family was impressed by it, even Aidan who eats baby cereal, spit it out. Even the dog left it in the pot.

3. First time for Travis to hike to Nyahuka Falls. He and John made their way through rugged jungle until they found the trail. What was expected to be a half day hike ended up as an all day excursion in which they thought they were completely lost but then had a surprise meal with one the sponsored medical student's family.

4. First steps! As we were in the katubi, Aidan pulled up on the center pole and walked to me! My baby is growing up (thank goodness!).


Monday, January 3, 2011

A Day in the Life...

In November, we had dental appointments with our longtime good friend and almost-twin-to-Travis, Dr. Shawn Edwards. He has an amazing office, staffed a with cheerful, kind-hearted team, who made us feel so welcomed, even though we had two impatient children and one crying baby with us. As I was getting my teeth cleaned (or my cavities filled...yikes!), the dental hygienist said, “I would love to see just one ‘day in the life of Amy Johnson’”. So, this is to you, the dental team in Easley, South Carolina, and anyone else that is curious about what a “typical” day in Bundibugyo is like, whatever typical may mean...

5am: Sleep through the call to prayer from the mosque as I have a pillow over my head as a result of trying to block out the dance party coming from the local bar last night. Noise ordinances are a outlandish concept. The common thought is “Wow! We now have electricity, so we should share our loud music with anyone fortunate enough to hear it.” The same thought is held by those that “sing” from the mosque in a language no one here understand five times a day.

7am-ish: Up to feed a barking dog, read from a daily devotional, retrieve a crying baby, get down a 4 year old from his very high bunk bed, make espresso (these days, coffee is for wimps), scramble some eggs (our main source of protein...we buy 2 trays of 30 each), heat some cinnamon rolls from yesterday on the propane stove, get the milk from the front porch (gratefully, milked by Belige, from cow DMC who is enjoying her new stall and the corn/maize that was recently purchased from Fort Portal as the one place that grinds it here was not grinding...), pasteurize the milk, froth the milk (the “aeorlatte” battery operated frother is the best gift I ever gave Travis!), enjoy the milk with the espresso, read daily devotional with kiddos

8am-ish: Greet Joyce (called Joycie as a cute little “i” is added to the name of a friend, such as grown men call Travis, “Travisi”) the tiny little woman (who seems to be 65 but has a teenage son) who washes twice a week for us; Clean up breakfast, get kids dressed, change a cloth diaper, try to pack up for a trip to Bundibugyo Town; Greet Kapu and Joas, two men who do work in and around the house and at RMS; Lock up things that must not “walk” away just in case; Grab petrol cans, kerosene cans, bags for produce. Head out. Once out of drive, turn around to get electricity card. Drive out, but once again, turn around for ATM card.

9am: Bump down the road that has not seen a grader but a few times in 2010, trying not to hit young unsupervised children, old women with heavy loads on their heads or “backs” (which is really a load that rests on their back, but is carried by a strap that goes across the woman’s forehead), men on bicycles, motorcycles that carry 3 people, or the wayward goat along the way. Marvel at the sheer magnificence of the mountains in front of us and remember that we live in a valley.

10am: Take electricity card to Electricity Office and wait in line for savy, sharply dressed woman to take my card and insert it into a machine which adds credit to it based upon the shillings that I hand her. Park at CalTex petrol station to fill up the two jerry cans of petrol for our house, two for RMS, and two of kerosene to light the refrigerator for the incoming short-term team. Run to the Post Office to retrieve mail and pay for packages for the team and an unknown CSB student whom I will somehow track down to give it to him. Give delighted children a letter and a package from friends in US. Buy 10 green apples (what luck today!) from my friend at the gas station who tells me that I was “lost.” Realize that “You were lost” means “Wow, I haven’t seen you in a while and I missed you!” and return the greeting that I also thought my gas station friend was “lost.” Am greeted by a cheerful young woman who calls me by name and asks all about me and the kids and teammates, but I cannot recall who she is until I remember that I met her in Kampala 10 months ago in the evening, through a tinted window. Wait with kids in the car while Travis gets money out of the one bank’s one ATM for ministry expenses for the next week. Breathe a sigh of relief when he is only 5th in line and the ATM has money (though it only could not give us all that we requested due to “insufficient funds”, theirs not ours).

11am: Try to find the MTN Mobile Money store that seems to periodically move storefronts where we can put money on a cell phone account to make safer transfers than handling money over longer distances. Park at dukas where flour, chalkboard paint, pipes, fabric, and envelopes can and are bought. Try to explain to sewing lady how to mend a mosquito net so that it is longer and without so many holes. Smile at the many curious shoppers who stop and stare at me and my three blonde children and my many baskets for produce shopping. Navigate the muddy piles of cast-away and rotting produce to find fresh tomatoes, carrots, onions, a few green peppers, gnuts, imported garlic (with chinese writing on them), and small pumpkins for our family and the incoming team. Hand the melting kids to Travis for a return to the car while I finish shopping. Try to count in Lebwisi and make change. Lug the really heavy baskets back to the car for a drive to locate someone with crates of soda.

12pm: Locate soda duka. Am asked by a man for 100 shillings. Feel both crummy and annoyed that I am continually asked for money by strangers, but try to make light of it by doing the African thing of making an analogy/story/joke that does not directly answer the question but gets the point across. Knowingly pay more than should for sodas (really not that much, but still more than usual) but do it because the shopkeeper would not budge and I am hungry and tired. Look out window at the clothes that are spread on roadside tarps to see if there is a striking skirt or funny tshirt. Head to Vanilla Inn, the usually secluded place to have a meal and a cold soda.

1pm: Lilli is bummed that they do not have gnut sauce, but excited that there is chicken sauce. Order that and a plate of beans, both over heaping plates of rice. Two plates for 5 people and we still cannot finish them. Always amazed by the mountain of rice (or another form of starch) that Ugandans can easily eat.

2pm: Drive around while wait for mosquito net to be finished. Are asked if we are “lost” but the meaning is literal as we explore side roads not accustomed to trucks or mzungu. Revisit the sewing lady who has sewn the extension fabric the wrong way so that it cannot be used and must be redone, for us to return to another day. Loud music store blast wakes up Aidan who is inconsolable the next 45 minutes. Decide that we are, indeed, done shopping for the day.

3pm: Bounce home, with near misses the whole way, the crates of soda clanging, Aidan screaming, Patton miraculously napping, to our home with a kitubi full of kids and two young men. Travis greets them, one a friend who was “lost” (the “miss you” sense of the word) and a young man who is in medical school on a scholarship given by donations to the Jonah Kule Memorial Fund. Encouraged by such stellar, civic minded young men after a drive in which I saw most young men doing not much more than hanging out. Unpack the car.

4pm: Bath for Aidan, who has an internal magnet for dust. A look in the fridge to retrieve assortment of left-overs and try to create something edible. Send kiddos out to the trampoline (the best Christmas gift ever from grandparents as it is wide enough for two small kids and only 2 feet off the ground) with snacks and directions to play together and outside...listen to them laugh and wrestle. Throw a football (soccer ball) to the neighbor kids and remind them it is better to ask than demand if they would like to borrow “the pump”. Share math flashcards with the remaining kids in the katubi.

5pm: Send Travis for a run with Bhootu as they both have too much energy. Bathe other kids, feed Aidan, finish dinner, check a quick email. Think through details of arriving team. Check on Travis as he has been waylayed by the CSB farm worker who says that the health center does not have medicine for his infection and another “lost” friend and another scholarship student have arrived. Give him the signal that katubi hours are closing soon.

6pm: Eat, put Aidan down, bribe kids to finish food with their remaining rice krispie snowman. Open Cmas presents from Garrett family in California, a truly perfect collection of thoughtful gifts for each of us. Feel loved across the miles, a gift in itself as I can feel quite lonely (ironic as it is hard to be alone here!).

7pm on: Brush teeth, give malarone, read, pray, tuck kids into mosquito netted bunks, wash dishes. Put remainder of things away. Write this. Call it a day.

So, there you have it, Dr Edward’s office, a day in the life. Thanks for asking! Good night...

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Super Heroes

Today, we hunkered down at our house, just the 5 of us, playing indoors during the rain storm that lasted all morning and playing outdoors in the afternoon. Lilli and Patton decided it was Super Day and they shot around all day in costumes and with homemade super-contraptions. What joy they bring to us with their creativity and love for each other!
New Year's Dinner: Patton as Batman and Lilli as AstroGirl
They spent all morning transforming their bunks into a pirate ship and a space rocket!
The reward for Lilli's book reading...making REAL rice krispie treats with pink and white "mmallows" from Kampala. Thanks for the Christmas aprons, Aunt Kathleen!
My Super Hero Husband and Super Dog Bhootu who has amazing powers
of jumping over our 6 foot tall fence!
Super Kids!

Five things that happened yesterday that I am ok to leave in 2010:

  1. The six foot, 3 inch diameter cobra that was (dead) at the end of our driveway.
  2. The mysterious phone calls from the Democratic Republic of Congo offering for us to buy the animal skin of an opaki.
  3. A stomach bug.
  4. A foreign film (left behind by former teammates and for good reason) about a Scottish man who speaks French to save people from a lunatic asylum from the Germans.
  5. Drumming, whooping, and celebratory gunfire in the middle of the night.