Monday, February 28, 2011

Mean Girls

Being from Nashville, country music makes me happy. When you live in the Capital of Country Music, you either come to like the music or, well, leave. I have done both.

So, yesterday, as I was washing dishes, I sang along to Sugarland’s “Mean Girls” song.

From being a teenager to teacher to youth group leader to mom, I have known my share of what the song talks about: “ Mean girls: It starts on the playground pulling your hair, Then in high school it gets worse from there.”

And in Uganda, there is no exception to the concept of mean girls.

At 12:45am, we awoke to a phone call from CSB asking us to pray as there were “riots” from the girls’ dorms. Basically, a few older girls decided to welcome the new female students by dousing their 27 mattresses with water. Of course, this did not go well with the new girls who complained to the teachers. Between the teachers in charge and members of student council, it was decided that the older girls should give the new girls their mattresses for the night. Well, at 12:45 am, the older girls were raising a ruckus. Fortunately, God has provided new leadership that is both strong and wise. The situation was handled well, though the details of who, why, etc are still being worked out.

So, what to do?

Please join us in praying for wisdom, for the head teacher, for the teachers, for the girls whose mattresses were wet, for the girls who were mean, for the girls who were not mean but are in that class, for this to be an opportunity for repentance-confession-forgiveness-reconciliation, for students to know it is not ok to bully, for the community to know that girls are valued, for CSB to fulfill its vision of “an academically excellent senior secondary boarding school producing servant leaders for the good of Bundibugyo and God’s glory.”

While it takes great tenacity to be a girl who makes it through school here, pray that we can teach them that they do not have to be mean to be successful.

And while you are praying, remember our one year old lab named “Bhootu” who went from a dog who could jump over our 7 foot tall fence to one who cannot walk. Travis is treating him for “tick bite fever” and he is getting lots of love from all of us.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Cold Eggs Again

This morning, we both were glad to see the sunrise and to know that we had not been awakened in the night by the ascari (nightguards) who had slept in the katubi at the Clark’s house. In our one year here, after each departure of missionaries, houses have been broken into and items such as sheets, our only guitar or other items have been stolen.

After a very tiring week physically and emotionally, I was hoping for a relaxing Saturday morning with the family, one that would consist of a leisurely breakfast and cartoons (on dvd, of course). I was determined to stay in my pajamas to remind me that this is a day to just be. Travis made scrambled eggs.

And then there was a knock.

Gladys came with a question about money she thought the Clarks left for her.

Asita came for a key to clean the Myhre house.

Bhiwa came with a small boy with a health ailment.

Baluka John came to ask for money for his secondary school exams.

A Christian Couple came fearful that someone had done withcraft on them.

The eggs are cold.

We ate them anyway and he made some more eggs, in hopes to eat warm scrambled eggs.

And then there was a knock.

Robert came to talk about his school fee problems.

Kisembo came to ask for a contribution to Redeemer FM, the new radio station that the Semiliki Presbytery wants to create, and to ask about an advance for an ascari.

Alikanjero came to ask for clothes for ironing.

Sharifa came with her developmentally-delayed child who has a cough.

Joycie’s nephew came for a second opinion as he is recovering from cerebral malaria.

Eating cold eggs again.

But I am still in my pajamas! Hope springs eternal.

Thursday, February 24, 2011


We are going to miss John, Loren, Bryan and David terribly. They have been dear friends that have loved us well and taught us how to love the Babwisi community. They are passionate, steadfast, tender-hearted and fun. We thank God for this season He has given us with them.

Sunday, February 20, 2011


Patton is better. He had malaria and was very ill for 3 days; not eating, not keeping anything down, high fever and sleeping all the time. I am thankful for good medicine that is available and your prayers. He never developed cerebral malaria, which is the life threatening stage. He is now laughing, playful and catching up with his eating. Yesterday he told me he was dreaming of steak.

As a physician, knowing what malaria can do, his illness scared me. It also underscored for me one of the key reasons we are here. Malaria takes the lives of nearly 1 million children a year. Most of these children live in Africa. Most of these children would not die if they were given the correct medicine in time. Each and everyone of these children are dear to God.

Thanks for praying for Patton. Please pray for the children who live in Africa and do not have a daddy who is a doctor, or any access to good medical care for that matter. Pray for improvement in the healthcare system here to serve them better. Pray for people from countries overloaded with medicines and medical care to come and serve here.

Thank you for supporting us to be here so that we can fight for these little ones. Thank you to Saint James United Methodist Church who sent money to by medicines and nets to protect the little ones. Thank you for praying!

Saturday, February 19, 2011


Playing hide and seek in the tea fields and having picnics on overturned plastic basins have been unexpected joys of our marooning in Fort Portal.

Tonight, we count three blessings:

1. Yesterday, as we drove to town, we observed many of the voting stations alongside the road. There were men and women of different ages all waiting in a line that wrapped around white tape that marked off the grassy spot which held the white plastic box in which they placed their ballots. Presently, all is quiet.

2. Patton’s health is improving. Yesterday was the last day of his malarial medicines. Today we see an improvement as he smiled when he had chocolate cake at dinner. Though he is moving slowly and a little emotionally fragile, his color is improving and he is playing more. We are grateful.

3. We are also thankful for wise words from seasoned missionaries in Fort Portal. Over a delicious dinner of the comfort food of chicken spaghetti, they regaled us with funny and jaw-dropping stories of their lives here over the years. To see their four children and our three play together, laughing, and hiding was sweet. Their love for their community is evident. Their honesty about the struggles of missional life is refreshing. Their challenge to us to ask ourselves the difference between the needs before us and the calling God has given us is good. And the reminder they give us that this is God’s best for us is encouraging.

The moon out tonight is bright orange, hanging low in the sky. A beautiful sight over the even and still tea fields. A nice way to end the day.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Now What?

This was no time for play.

This was no time for fun.

This was no time for games.

There was work to be done.

So says “The Cat in the Hat Comes Back” that Lilli read to me yesterday. I relate to the main character who is overwhelmed by all that that naughty cat seems to be throwing his way. And like the main character, I have said, “Now what, Cat? Now what?”

Right now, it seems that we are to hold lightly all the calibrated and organized plans that we made to perfectly time our arrival to Bundibugyo before the presidential elections tomorrow. Because here we sit in Fort Portal, with four frozen whole chickens in the freezer for a party that we are not going to attend, a car that is not moving, and a child that just threw up again.

Maybe it all started when we decided to meet up in Nairobi with our friends and future teammates Michael and Lesley and their oh-so-adorable baby Finch. As we were leaving the airport for our 3 hour layover, we noted that the traffic going the opposite direction was quite heavier than the traffic in our outbound lanes. No problem, our drive was only 15 minutes and we could plan accordingly. With that in mind, we ate quickly and dreamed about our shared futures and joined in their celebration of Auburn’s great victory this year. As we 8 packed into their small four door car with an hour until check in, we remembered something…we were in Nairobi traffic. I am not sure there is worse traffic anywhere in the world. In fact, cars started commandeering the other side of the median’s lanes and turned those 4 lanes (which Kenyans use as 6 lanes as lanes are really merely suggestions in Africa) into two lanes of traffic each way. It reminded me of what US governments do during hurricane evacuations to quickly move fleeing people. So now, there were 7 or 8 lanes going inbound and 2ish going outbound from the airport. And then we sat. And then we crawled. And then we sucked diesel exhaust from the monstrous trucks in front, beside, and behind us. Travis, who was taking his turn to suffer from the stomach bug that we brought with us from our vacation, started sighing loudly and I knew he was wondering just what we would do if we missed our flight from Nairobi to Entebbe, Uganda. Lesley’s voice of hope pipes up “I just feel that we will make it” though she called a friend to look up online the small airline we would be flying with. This small airline reminded me of Southwest airlines but with even more of an African attitude of Hakuna Matata. On our past 3 flights with them, the pilot was going down the runway before the fasten-seatbelt light was even on, much less seat belts on! The average lapsed time between the door closing and air under the tires was about 4 minutes, so I knew that this airline was not messing around with delays. Michael’s expert nascar-ish driving pulled us into the airport at 7:17pm and we gathered kids and bags and pushed our way through security as we saw that the “final call” light was next to our flight number on the screen. Since it was an international flight, Travis checked through customs with his passport and ticket and ran to hold our flight while I waited at customs to clear the kids and myself. And then we RAN. Up stairs, through the hall, around the corner, and down a hall, all the way to, of course, the last gate. I looked at the clock on the wall and thought, “does that really say 7:27 and I am still trying to get to my 7:30 flight, running with 3 kids, bags, and in flip flops?”

But we made it. And true to kind African nature, the attendants helped me through a second and then third security and onto the plane. When they asked the other passenger why he was also arriving so late, he shrugged his shoulders and simply said, “Nairobi traffic.”

Arriving into Entebbe, we were greeted by a taxi driver friend who took us to a mission guesthouse, but we had to go to a previous guesthouse to collect our pack-n-play for Aidan’s bed because it had not been transported as we had asked. And then the foods that we had bought and put in a cooler to be put in the fridge at this guesthouse had not been collected and sat out for several days until a worker smelled something stinky and then threw all of our precious cheeses (cherished and expensive) in the trash. About midnight, I was ready to crash, but Patton started throwing up and going to the bathroom often. His body was so hot to the touch. I wondered if it was the same stomach bug that we had, but by 5am, we decided to do a malaria test on him.

And it was positive. Ironically, right where we put down the test kit, a dead mosquito lay. Our best guess is that he has grown faster than we realized and we should have increased his dosage of malarial prophylaxis.

So, by 7 am we pack up all our trunks full of supplies for the next months, bags of dirty laundry, and various bits and pieces, and head out. But first, to buy more cold refrigerated items and then to drop off our passports to continue to pursue a work visa, and then the drive to Fort Portal to have car repairs done.

After lunch, we settled into Pat’s house while the car’s broken mirror was repaired, electrical system serviced, brakes examined, and air compressor fixed. Four hours later, Travis returned to tell me that the air compressor did not arrive and that the last mechanic named Edward in Kampala put dummy brakes on the back brake pads and asbestos brakes on the front. They would have to be replaced again.

Meanwhile, Patton cannot keep any malarial meds or food down for 36 hours now so we have to give him a shot of malarial meds and make the call that he is too sick to drive back to Bundi.

So, we take care of him here today and slowly, he has eaten small amounts and has kept some of it down along with some of the medicine. We sms to the team that we will not be there to lead the weekly team meeting or pizza meal together or school for Lilli, but will leave at sunrise to arrive to Bundi for the Clark’s special day gatherings.

So, when Travis called to say that, upon examination while the brakes were being replaced, it became apparent that the shock absorbers had absorbed all they could handle and would not make it over the mountains even one last time, I just laughed. “Now what, Cat? Now what?”

And the presidential elections start tomorrow. That means that all businesses (including car parts dealers) are closed, petrol is not going to be shipped out here, and public transportation is halted. And while the outcome can probably be predicted pretty accurately, the newspaper is reporting that there could be unrest if people do not feel that elections are handled fairly.

So, we sit here in beautiful Fort Portal because we can do not much else that we planned. The chickens that were to be the main food for the Clark’s Farewell Party tomorrow night are in the freezer here. Our gifts and poems will be given and read at a later date. Patton is sleeping after throwing up again.

If these past two days weren’t all so over the top, I wouldn’t be able to laugh and say once again “Now what?”

Off The Grid

Thanks to Anna Linhart, our newest favorite show is “Chuck.” This hour long scifi meets romance meets popculture has brought us lots of laughs and has even invaded our language. When character Chuck (who holds NSA and CIA secrets in his head) can no longer be tracked for his useful skills, he is considered “off the grid.”

To celebrate our First Anniversary of life in Africa and our two birthdays, to meet the required exit of Uganda due to work visa issues and to save our sanity after an insanely busy few months, we went “off the grid” to the Kenyan coast for a week of rest and relaxation. Our Field Director fielded most calls and concerns for the week (thanks, Myhres!) so our little family could reconnect and enjoy time together.

A few highlights of the week:
Lilli can now swim across a pool.
Aidan went to the beach for the first time in his life.
Patton loves to be underwater.
Travis windsurfed.
Amy read a few chapters of a book uninterrupted.
Birthday meals that concluded with restaurant staff singing an African Bday song.
Being together.

Getting away can make coming back so much sweeter.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Answered Prayers- It so happens

Christ School Bundibugyo

Edward giving his vision for CSB at the BOG meeting

The Board of Governors for Christ School

When January 1st 2011 came, Amy and I felt that something new had to happen. Chiefly, we were spending a lot of time running Christ School Bundibugyo, a place that we love, but doing a job I did not feel qualified for or called to do for the long term. We have put out many requests both in prayer and in letters for people to come and help. However, for various reasons, no one has come.

Additionally, we found ourselves struggling with the school leadership to provide needed support for the teachers and even to uphold the Mission and Vision of the school. Two teachers who were pillars of the school left with warnings that the school was no longer headed in the direction it was founded upon.

So, we found ourselves living in the middle of Africa, watching our school that was created to declare God’s glory settle into an academic institution with eroding staff and student discipline. Each day we learned of another staff member who was leaving until nearly half of the staff left. All of this while the leadership of the school failed to show up to prepare for the new school year.

Something had to happen. My best efforts had produced failure and I sat overwhelmed and helpless. So we prayed- no, we yelled, cried, begged and…

Something wonderful has happened.

It so happened that a year ago our home church planned to send a team to love on us here in Bundibugyo. It so happened that the pastor of our church, since making this plan, took on a new position of leadership in World Harvest Mission. It so happens that our church has been supporting Edward and Christine Isingoma for several years. It also so happens that Edward is one of the first friends of the WHM, welcoming the missionaries into Bundibugyo 25 year ago and letting them stay on the health center property where he was the In Charge. It also so happened that Isingoma and his family had already planned on visiting us here in Bundibugyo (he now lives in Hoima, about 8 hours away) to see the Grace members and meet us.

It so happened that Scott Myhre had just suggested to me that we should consider having Isingoma come to help us with Christ School. He is a man that knows Jesus, knows World Harvest Mission and is a strong leader that can help develop strong leadership at Christ School.

So, this past January, it so happened that Josiah, Isingoma and I all met in our sitting area here in Bundibugyo to discuss the needs and future of Christ School Bundibugyo.

It also so happens that today, February 3rd, 2011, Isingoma has moved to Bundibugyo and has officially taken the job of headmaster for Christ School Bundibugyo.

We now “so happen” to have a God fearing Ugandan man who is a strong leader that is committed to making Christ School an Academically Excellent Senior Secondary Boarding School producing Servant Leaders for the good of Bundibugyo and God’s Glory (our vision statement.) The Board of Governors meeting today held to introduce him was filled with laughter, joy and tender sharing by the board members of how they see CSB as God’s treasure and not just another academic institution.

And it so happens that in the past two weeks, all of the vacant teaching positions have been filled. Last week's teacher orientation became a time of great worship for Amy and I as we realized what “so happened.” God showed up and made new again a treasure that he holds dearly in the heart of the Rwenzori Mountains- Christ School Bundibugyo.

Tonight, I sit and listen to the muslim call of prayer from the mosque and the sounds of Kung Fu movies blaring from a bar in the Nyahuka village. Christ School is nestled right between these two forces, offering a haven of peace for young men and women to become servant leaders for God's glory. It so happens that people have been praying for such things for years.