Wednesday, June 22, 2011

a prayer for our chrissy

Chrissy Chipriano (who gave me permission to share this) joined our team the end of last September. In her 6 months here, she developed some symptoms that were not completely diagnosable. Following her gut (ok, the prompting of God!) that something was not right, she had every possible test done both in Kampala and then in America. Two weeks ago, surgery showed cancer on her thyroid. Tomorrow, Chrissy will have the remainder of her thyroid removed. Please join us in praying for a successful surgery and a speedy recovery. We love her and miss her here!

Water Water everywhere and not a drop to drink....

Tembo pulling out the root ball!

This is what it felt like living in the rain forest, during rainy season for the past week with a water system that was broken. PRAISE GOD, we now have water flowing and the water tanks are half full (or half empty if you will).

Last week the water stopped flowing. People were forced to carry water from the streams to their houses to drink, wash etc.

We had to send the students at Christ School home for a few days because the water shortage meant we could not cook the normal staples of porridge, and beans and rice. We paid someone to bring a truck load of jerrycans full of water, but we still had several students develop a gastroenteritis.

I consulted Dr. Scott about the urgency and he warned that in the past Bundibugyo had two rainy seasons that coincided with two significant outbreaks of cholera, which took the lives of many people. He said we could not afford to sit and hope the government would take care of the job. So, with two of the technicians trained by Michael Masso we began walking the 6km area of pipe where we suspected the problem. We patched several major leaks hoping this would provide enough pressure to push the water over the hills and into the Nyahuka water tanks. This failed. So I consulted Michael Masso and Josh Dickenson and the internet (looking for "Water Engineering for Dummies" and searching "causes of water stoppages in rural Africa"-google had some interesting tidbits). We also prayed, a lot.

After 4 days of digging and patching, we finally came across the problem. There was a large root ball stuck in a section crushed by a cacoa truck. We patched this area and water began to flow. You would have thought I was Jed Clampett finding oil!

The pipe is still in bad need of repair. There is a 70 meter section with 8 major leaks and a dozen or so more leaks up stream from this area. We hope to do a little more work to make the system a more stable. For now, we have a small tight bandaid on the problem and praying that it will hold.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Father's Day Thanks

Not wanting the celebration of Father's Day to be lost in the excitement and busyness of welcoming visitors and our interns, we celebrated Father's Day last Sunday with gifts, cards, prayer, time for a bike ride, grilling "in" and even ice cream. Together with Lilli, Patton, and Aidan, I am grateful for our "SuperDad" more now than ever. WE LOVE YOU, TRAVIS!

We are also blessed by the life of Travis's father, "Poppy" Terry. He is a man of strong conviction, unshakable character, great hugs, funny jokes, a great golf swing, tenderness for his wife, a healthy lifestyle, a patient doctor, and has a deep love for those that are his legacy.

Today, we also give thanks for my dad, "Papa" Gary. He is a man after God's own heart, one who can fix/build anything, has a special connection with animals, a prayer warrior, a sailor at heart (though always living land-locked), cherishes his wife, and considers no greater priviledge than to know "his children are walking in the truth."

Three cheers to these three dads!

Interns, eye exams, flat tires and pizzas!

JD and Loyd arrived to visit their friend Basime Godfrey and to bless us with friendship.

Summer Interns Sarah and Olvie arrived giggling and with big grins!
JD examines Lilli's eyes as she has been having eye pain lately. He also examined Travis's eye and made recommendations for correction. He also examined Aidan and affirmed us in the upcoming surgery for Aidan's eyelid. We are so grateful for his expertise!
Sarah and Olvie getting a taste of life here by washing dishes...with very little water as the water line to Nyahuka is still broken.
As always, a bit of our heart ached as we said goodbye to our visitors as they flew out on MAF. We are grateful for their kindness and encouragement towards us.
On the drive back, we met up with the Nyahuka water technicians who had been working to repair the leaks. Unfortunately, the line has been cut in so many places that it may be quite a while before the local government will secure the funding and repair the line.
As we continued on our drive, we passed a man who was dragging a woman by her shirt down the road. A crowd of children were following. Knowing something was not right, but not knowing what to do, we turned around and pulled over to inquire what was happening. At that point, attention had been drawn and the "mothers" of the community surrounded him and took action. However, that turn popped our front tire. No good deed goes unpunished. In the last week, the road has claimed both of our spare tires. Oh, well.

As we pulled back into our drive, we heard the cheers of the conclusion of the match of the CSB boys playing the CSB OBs (old boys...alums). We were bummed to have missed it. It seems that the students won the game, so I am sure there will be a rematch! The game was sponsored by the newly formed "Bundibugyo Hand of Hope" as a fundraiser for their charity work in the community. We welcomed the interns to their new home by hosting "pizza night" and enjoyed a yummy jackfruit brought by Anna. Even little Aidan made a pizza!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Small Miracles

Rose came into the health center Tuesday struggling to breath, blue lips, unconscious and intermittently convulsing. Her weeping father placed her onto the hospital bed and collapsed on the floor crying. Behind him was Rose’s mother and several women whooping and wailing the cry of death.

We had just lost Jason, the son of my friend and I did not think I could stand to watch another pass away in front of me. I had been struggling with Jesus all week trying to understand why He did not spare Jason’s life.

We diagnosed her with cerebral malaria and subsequent lab showed to many parasites in her blood to count. The nurse Amos was able to put in an IV line. We found the needed medicines but still watched helplessly as the child’s breathing patterns changed and we seemed to be nearing the end. I asked the father if I could pray for the Rose. He blanched and then slowly nodded. I did not understand. The nurse then told me the father presumed I was going to give the last rights to the child. Why else would you pray? Uncharacteristically, I looked the father straight in the eye and said I do not serve a God who only rules over death, but one that gives life. (Inside I was begging Jesus to show us his power.)

After I prayed, I remembered the oxygen concentrator that the Grace team brought last January. After dusting it off, I ran around the health center looking for a power supply. None with 110V power could be found. So I biked as hard as I could to our home and brought back a small generator. When I arrived, the women were wailing and all the mothers in the ward seemed to have gathered around the little bed where Rose was lying. Jessica and Amos had started the IV Quinine. Amy found some artemether at our house and sent it down to the health center for us to inject. We started the machine and oxygen began to stream out. We connected the tubing to Rose and began to pray. Slowly, she regained color. Her body seemed to relax. Feeling a little better, we left the bed to see the other patients.

When I returned that evening with my KaDoctor (ka means little in Lubwisi) to check on Rose, Lilli and I found her already sitting up and smiling with her mother. Praise God for small miracles!

Living at the end of the waterline

Bombo and friends working on the waterline

Over the past 13 years, Michael Masso and many helpers (both Ugandan and missionaries) built a water line from Ngite Falls to Nyahuka where we live. On the way the line branches to many communities and brings clean water to nearly 70,000 people. Before the line was in place, cholera epidemics were regular and annually many people died of this terrible disease. Since the completion of the waterline, there have not been any recorded deaths due to cholera in our area.

Three days ago, the water stopped flowing to Nyahuka. I checked the source at the waterfall and found it to be flowing well. Baffled, I followed the line of taps (many broken) from the waterfall to our town. With each tap the flow was smaller until at the hill just above our house, it stops.

Between the taps there are about a dozen of line breaks where water is spilling onto the land making large mud pits. You would think people would not want these mosquito-carrying, land destroying swamps in front of their house. Surprisingly, it is probably those land owners that cut the line.

It is currently not cocoa season. So, there is no income in our district. However, one can make bricks out of the mud on their land and sell it to make ends meet. There are some houses that are 2 feet above their surrounding yard. Why? Because they have cut away the dirt to make bricks and, over the years, the house has become elevated. Today, I passed one yard and saw mud seemingly flying out of the ground. As I got closer I saw a man digging a hole in his front yard about 5 feet deep and 10 feet long. Behind it was a large stack of bricks he was making.

So, with every mud pit and broken tap I passed, I became more and more angry. Why are people so careless about our waterline? Do they not realize that their selfishness of not replacing leaking taps or cutting lines is leaving thousands of people without water and possibly causing an epidemic that could take the lives of dozens of children?

Then I sat convicted. Why am I only worried about this on day 3 of the crisis? Because it is only now threatening the water supply that fills up the cistern that gives water to my kids; in a few days, we will also be carrying jerry cans of water from the river for our family’s use. I have been thinking “Sure, people can walk to the river with jerry cans and lug them back to their house to boil. If they don’t boil, it’s their fault. This is how it has been for centuries. I have other good work to do at the clinic.” But now it is threatening us. Before this, I was happy to take two showers a day in the stifling heat just to cool off, even if others were struggling. After all, there is plenty of water around. They can figure it out.

Then I became even more angry. The people upstream did not worry about using the water because there seemed to be so much of it. The source, Ngite Falls, is a power full 300ft waterfall that is always flowing. If they took a little just for them, it shouldn’t matter. This is the mentality of our public officials have regarding their “cuts” of money they take for each good will project that comes along. Because of this, we have no blood or medicine at our government health center. None. The money has been sent to local officials for that medicine and blood and it has even been signed for, but still we wait to see any of it reach Nyahuka Health Center.

Then I became convicted. When I reached the people at the source, they seemed completely oblivious that there was any problem 12 km away in Nyahuka Town. If there was, it definitely was not their problem. Water abounded here. This is definitely how I viewed and still view much of life. There are so many resources that surround us in the West. What I use is like dipping three buckets of water out of the Mississippi River. What I did not realize is that with all of us taking out three buckets, there is nothing left at the end of the line. And, here at the end of the line, children are dying, one to two out of every five children born die before they reach the age of five. Most children do not attend secondary school. Most women and their daughters do not know how to read. Almost half of the children are malnourished which causes physical and mental growth stunting.

Frustrating days like these make me want to pack up and move back to the US. But now I am realizing, that even if we did, my heart would still ache for my friends suffering at the end of the waterline.

Post script: (Amy writes) Travis has located a man with water experience and is meeting with him right now to examine the leaks and try to bring some repairs. At CSB, students have been going to the river with jerry cans for water and some have now complained of stomach issues. Lorry trucks have now brought clean water for the kitchen to use for their meals which have been delayed due to lack of water.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

birth announcement

We are happy to announce the birth of a baby girl to our neighbors, Majerie and Salo! She is a healthy, pinkish, much loved, little bundle with a head full of hair!

I am also grateful for the ongoing health of Baby Jotham, son of my dear friend Loy, bursur at CSB. Last December, Loy had an emergency C section in Kampala and we are grateful for the saved lives of both mother and baby. She is doing a good job feeding him as this chunk is less than 6 months old!
Praise God for healthy babies in Bundibugyo!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Burial

Leaving the kids sleeping for naptime, with Gladys to watch over them, Jess, Anna, Pastor K, neighbor B, Travis and I made our way to the home of Francis and Sarah. Every covered and shaded area was filled with family and friends. Singing had already begun. Travis sat in the elder katubi with Kisembo and other muzeis. Jess, Anna and I sat on my kitangi on the outskirts of the women. As the family is Catholic, the lay priests shared in Lebwisi. Later, B explained that they spoke both of Jesus Christ and that the death of the child was rumored to be a result of a curse that was place on the child by someone or some action. As we continued to both listen to the liturgy and sing responsive songs, students from Nyahuka Parental Care Primary School, Alpha Primary School, and Christ School Bundibugyo made the number of mourners swell from 200 to 400. Speeches were made by the local councilman and a clan leader. One man rose to speak, but the director of the burial quickly asked him to remain quiet and others escorted him away and sat with him. As Chairman of the Board of Governors for CSB, Travis was asked to give a speech. He shared of our appreciation for the families of Francis and Sarah and gratefulness for our friendship with the couple. He continued that we do not understand why some children are chosen to leave earth at a young age, but we do know that Jason is now in the arms of Jesus. It was the only part of the burial where the group said “amen”.

Following that were more speeches, a reading of the amounts of money that various people and groups contributed to the burial costs and more singing. It was then that one of the brothers on Sarah’s side accused the family of Francis for not doing enough to care for Jason and blamed them for his death. The family leader of Francis countered with yelling until there were 3 or 4 people for each family yelling at each other. The end result was that the wife’s family demanded a payment of several goats. Teacher Desmond came and said candidly to us “Here, there always has to be some confusion.” I could say that about most of my days in Bundibugyo! Apparently, the goat deal was made as the burial of the casket then proceeded.

As a mass group we all followed Francis and Sarah, holding them up as they were weeping and wailing, to the grave down behind the houses. The small casket that was draped in deep purple fabric was laid down and both metal rebarb and then cement was placed over it. Amidst singing was wailing and crying, the most vocal was the mother Sarah, until she passed out and was carried by her sisters. When Travis checked on Sarah, he found that the sisters had placed a plastic bag tightly over her mouth to help her breathe. He showed them how to make it looser and then found himself explaining why she needed more space in the bag for carbon dioxide and oxygen interchange before he remembered that they did not understand English and he did not know the Lebwisi word for carbon dioxide!

Last night when Travis met with the CSB teachers, he asked what ways they could support Francis and Sarah. The immediate need was to help provide for the burial. They also said that they needed to be patient friends as a person is not the same after losing a child. They explained that sometimes the person is angry, or quiet, or loses interest. Their marriage would also need to be supported as clans blaming each other can create a wedge between a husband and a wife. Additionally, they probably owe people a great deal of money for all the medicines and hospital trips they did in search of help for Jason, so financial sharing with them would be a support.

I have been reading “Bwamba: the Functional and Structural Analysis of the Patrilineal Society” and finding it totally interesting and it allows me to have a framework from which to understand this culture in which we live. Among the Bwamba people (which includes the Babwisi), there is a serious belief that there are spirits out who will try to grab your ankle as you are walking alone in places. Those spirits will intend to do you harm and are often sent by local witchdoctors or by angry ancestors who demand a blood sacrifice. So, if sickness, or worse, death occurs and there is no evident explanation, then there needs to be a place to put the blame. If someone dies from being hit by a motorcycle (a common occurrence), then the blame is placed on the driver and a serious penalty is paid. We once witnessed a gasoline tanker hit a boda boda (motorcycle taxi) at an intersection in Kampala. When the tanker driver had seen what he had done, he jumped out of his truck and quickly ran away, leaving his truck abandoned as he knew a mob mentality of justification for the accident he had just caused was imminent. However, if there is no visible reason for the death, such as in the case of a child’s death, then blame must rest somewhere. Thus, families blame each other for lack of care, for bringing a curse, for not appeasing the angry ancestoral spirits. And a blood sacrifice has to be paid. Yesterday, that was one of the reasons why the mother’s family was demanding a payment of goats.

For months now, I have been carrying around an article that appeared in the February 16th Daily Monitor entitled “Only 25% of children with cancer complete treatment.” At that time, I could barely read it as we were mourning the death of Baraba Paul, the boy whom we had tried and tried to provide medical care for by arranging free cancer treatment, through visits to the hospital, by following up in the village, by sending people with him to Kampala so they would not have to be alone, and through the efforts of the kind staff at the Hope Ward at International Hospital Kampala to keep him there, even without parental support. He was given the treatment. He was offered a free and safe place to stay. But it was still too much for his family to leave their village and stay in Kampala. And when they missed their treatments, was it fair to give the very, very limited chemotherapy resources to one in whom the disease had already progressed too far while others are desperate for medicines? The article states that “as many as 1,200 children are admitted to the Uganda Cancer Institute but less than 300 complete medication largely because of the high cost of drugs and other remedies.” And that statistic is just for those who are diagnosed and are able to be admitted to the UCI.

Sometimes, I am overwhelmed by the needs here. By the statistics I read. By the number of requests for food, pens, school fees, and medical help. By the lack of resources in developing places like Uganda. By the hopelessness of those who blame each other for the unexplained death of a child. By the pressure on a young couple who has believed in the Amazing Love of God to renounce their faith and turn towards ancestral curses.

And then I am reminded by the most common phrase here, “buke buke” meaning slowly, slowly. For the power of the gospel to make an impact here, a place that is as hard as the sun-baked clay, it takes prayer, sacrifice, patience, love, perseverance, and a faith that God IS working. He promises He is.

Please continue to pray for the faith of Francis and Sarah to be strenghened and for the CSB teachers who surround them. Please pray for their families to understand the love of God through Jesus. Please pray for the students of CSB to have open and receptive hearts today as Master Peter and Travis speak at chapel about God’s power and love. And pray for faith for all of us to continue to bless the name of God even when it doesn’t make sense.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Asking for another miracle

This afternoon, Travis received a sms from Kataramu Francis to please come as his son is dying. As Travis and other CSB teachers reached the home in the village, Jason had already passed on. A boy the same age as my own. A father with dreams much like those of Travis. A mother who will cry herself to sleep tonight.

The words of a colleague now ring true: the greater miracle may be that the family will still have faith if he does die.

The teachers (and Travis) have gathered for a fellowship night, one in which they can pray, sing, share in suffering together, and meet the practical ways of caring for their fellow teacher by preparing for Jason's burial.

Please pray for that greater miracle; that in the midst of deep sadness we can all have faith in a Sovereign and Loving Father that now holds a young Babwisi boy in His arms.

Asking for a miracle

As you read this, please pray for Jason, the son of CSB teacher Kataramu Francis and his wife Sarah.

Travis has already written about his situation and, since then, it has only worsened.

Please pray for a way to get blood here as the closest blood bank is 3 hours away.

At our visit this morning, he was listless with labored breathing.

Pray for a miracle.

Just another Saturday in Bundi

Banana waffles
Met with two different fathers to provide transport money for them to receive services for their children at OURS (Organized and Useful Rehabilitation Services)
Approved and paid for shutter for mission house made by local woodworker (15 year old shutters have rotted)
Pasteurized milk
Gave tour and history of WHM to interested RMS teacher Molly; sent Molly with Anna for market in Nyahuka
Greeted along the way
Gathered ironing for Alikonjera, muzei who uses a charcoal iron for community ironing
Searched for a musei to translate to our neighbor of the urgency for her to get to the health center to have her baby as her water had broken 4 days earlier and the ultrasound Travis did on her the night before showed no amniotic fluid left
God brought Gideon to translate and we went to neighbor's house for meeting
Travis and Jess found necessary equipment and did surgery in katubi on very infected finger of Gideon, with Lilli observing until it got "too bloody" for her
Had quesadilla lunch with Molly
Tried to gather things for drive to hike Nyahuka Falls, realized kids were too tired for 3 hour hike, day getting too late, etc, so rethought plan and opted for drive to see area with Molly
Anna and Jess stayed with sleeping kids and did internet
Had great conversation with Molly about her interests and service here in the future
Saw a small truck slowing in front of us, asking for directions
Realized it was the Civil Aviation Authority, looking for us!
Travis stayed with the CAA on the airstrip while I drove back home
Served warm chocolate chip cookies and talked with CAA about airstrip issues in katubi
Served same to 6 men who are relocating goat pens from our backyard to the CSB Farm
Greeted and sat with Asita and Beligi
Travis finally took long-promised trip to the river with all 3 kids and Bhootu
Barking Bhootu sent group of very naked and very scared young bathers up trees until Travis called him
Upon return, Travis received urgent call from CSB teacher whose son is very sick, so he rushed there, returning late in the night.
I managed baths, PBJ, and bed for kids
At 11pm, fell into bed exhausted, looking forward to a Sabbath.
Awoke at 3:30 am to non-stop honking of super-bus Kalita which was waking up riders to get on for trip to Kampala
Realizing that our guest Molly was one of those early morning riders, ran to get her and take her to Nyahuka for Kalita for her journey back.
Fell back to sleep, realizing that "Sabbath" had already begun.

Picking other people's fruit

One of the joys of being the third wave of missionaries here is that we get to see the fruit of the labor of years of work here. One such "good fruit" came to our door the first months we were here and over the year and a half, we have built a relationship with John.

John's father died when John was just a few years old. His mother remarried and was relocated to the DRC. During his primary years, he was back and forth between Bundibugyo and the DRC, staying with different families. He had all but given up on pursuing secondary education as he had no means of paying school fees or family to support him. However, met with the local pastor Kisembo Akleo who directed him to sit for the CSB entrance exam. He scored in the top tier and as an orphan, he qualified for an "Orphan/Vulnerable Child Scholarship". These scholarships still continue today as 10 sponsors are matched with new OVC candidates each year. He continued to do well throughout CSB under the care of Kevin and JD Bartkovich and continued support of the Pierces. He and several fellow CSB graduates finished their primary school teaching degrees and have returned to Bundibugyo to impact their home community through education.

John is now the Headmaster of the two year old PicFare Primary School. Currently, they have 197 students in preschool-grade 4. Their stick and iron sheets structure occupies the entire plot they pooled money to purchase. Recently, the owner of the adjacent plot offered to sell it to the school. So, on a Sunday afternoon while Aunt Jess watched the kids (thanks, Jess!), Travis and I walked for three hours with John to PicFare to talk with him, see the PicFare community, visit the school, and pray about "giving a hand" towards the purchase of this adjacent land.

It was a blessing to us to walk with John and to see the fruit of years of love, labor, sacrifice, and prayer by those who have come before us. The investment made into the education of many, many youths is now paying dividends. And those dividends are now making an investment into the youth of today.

R and R in FP

As we currently are running five budgets (and happy to hand some of those over to incoming teammates!), during the RMS break, we headed to peaceful Fort Portal for some R and R. No, not rest and relaxation, but RECEIPTS and RESTAURANTS!

The kids were entertained by the wonderful gifts send from the community group of the Sun Family and from our dear cousins, the Caldwells. We also enjoyed dinner with FP long time missionary family, the Cashes, who have four wonderful and creative children. They graciously added us to the dinner table alongside their interns and kiddos. We laughed as we tried to have conversation amidst no electricity (corruption by local electric company there), an incoming propane freezer, and other guests popping in and out.

I especially enjoyed eating at the three local restaurants who serve western food as it gave me a break from cooking. What a joy to find a new friend who makes cheese and can order mozzarella cheese for us to bring back to Bundi! My exuberance in regards to cheese may have been a bit much as I purchased 10 kilos (22 pounds!) for pizza and dinners here, especially as we came back to Bundi which had no electricity.

The time in FP also allowed me to write over 100 postcards and mail them from Uganda. We shall see if any make it to America...

As we prepared to leave our "working holiday", Lilli cried "This was NOT what FP is supposed to be like. You worked the whole time! We need a family day!" So, heeding the well-spoken and wise words of our eldest, we postponed our trip by one day and had some fun swimming and being together as a family. And we needed just that, a family day, without the interruptions of demands at the door or receipts being calculated!

"Now, which budget does this receipt go to?"

The tea fields of Fort Portal
Captain Awesome Aidan

Patton loves Bella

Lilli blows colored bubbles to Bella
The kiddos loved their Fort Portal Clubhouse

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Feeling at home

The last couple of weeks, with Amy's help with admin at home and loving the children, and Jessica coming to partner with the medical work, I have been able to consistently be in the health center. Its amazing how this change has made me feel a bit more at home. I have made a few new friends that are daily struggling to treat patients at the local health center despite the chronic lack of resources. I have had fun, the kind of fun that comes when you feel you are doing what you are suppose to be doing.

Here are a few children we saw this week.

Please pray for Jason who has Tropical Splenomegaly Syndrome. Jason is a child of a Christ School teacher who has developed a complicated array of symptoms. Miraculously he is still alive today. He is still not walking, his spleen still fills his abdominal cavity and his blood count remains bafflingly low.

Pray for Rose, who weighs less than 65% of the normal weight for her height. She is one and only weighs 11 pounds. Her mother is from a village near the Congo border and was just recently diagnosed with HIV. She has been faithfully breastfeeding her child, yet the child is failing to thrive. The child probably has HIV as well.

Pray for the three 2 year olds that we admitted this week who all weighed around 14lbs.

Pray for Charles, Betty and the many other nurses struggling to provide good care.

Pray for medicines. This week the health center ran out of malaria medicines and several antibiotics while we are struggling to treat over a dozen kids with severe malaria and severe pneumonia.

Pray for wisdom as we try to treat each of these children and determine a workable plan to support the medical and lab supplies of the health center without replacing the current system.

Thanks for helping us be here in so many different ways. It is hard to be here, but it is good to be here too.