Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Health Needs

I try not to post photos that may be too descriptive of life here. This photo of a child with measles, however, captures the current feeling of our medical ministry.  This blogpost is mainly to ask for prayer.

Over the past two months, we have averaged over 35 patients (and often over 40) in our pediatric ward that has beds for 28.  This means that we are stepping over patients and their families as we move from bed to bed to treat sick children. Currently, there are 2 nursing staff scheduled to work on the ward in the mornings for rounding and at least one overnight and on the weekends.  That means there is usually just one nurse per 35 sick children.  As a result, the staff are exhausted and it has become hard to fill shifts.  We often have only one in the morning for rounds and none over the weekends.  The leadership at the health center is trying to figure out solutions.  The bottom line is that it is hard to work in such conditions and those willing to make the sacrifice are taken advantage of and burn out.  We need prayer for grace, courage and patience to be given to our Ugandan partners working so hard to bring healthcare to this remote but over-populated area.

The increased patient load is due to a number of factors.  First, we are at a season where there is low food production.  This leaves many people hungry and those bordering on starvation are tipped to the brink of death by normal illnesses such as colds, diarrhea and malaria.  Their starving bodies cannot fight of the illnesses and they come to our health center with pneumonia, severe edema, skin peeling and glazed looks.  These children are admitted to our malnutrition ward where they get life-saving formula given by UNICEF.

We also find that there is an increase in premature births.  Our premie room becomes filled with nursing mothers kangarooing their tiny infants.  We supplement the feeding with droppers of formula and add presumptive antibiotic treatment.

It is rainy season and malaria count is high.  Children with chronic illnesses such as malnutrition or sickle cell disease present weak or obtunded with hemoglobin counts (blood level) of 2-4 (normal is 15).  Because government money has not reached the health center for 3 months, we often find that we have no blood to transfuse.  We then scramble to find transport money and send someone to the regional blood center (3hours away) to collect blood and return.  Unfortunately, they have returned too late a few times lately.

As noted previously, we continue to be in a nationwide measles outbreak.  The government has organized a national measles vaccine campaign.  Our tireless friends at the health center have gone into the villages to find those who have not been vaccinated.  The stream of measles has slowed to a trickle, but we maintain some very ill children in our hospital.

Lastly, we have been struck with a dysentery illness that is likely cholera.  There have been a couple of adult deaths.  The children on our ward have thus far survived.  Most have recovered after receiving the necessary IV resuscitation fluids and antibiotics.  Currently, we are determining what level of partnership we should take as a mission.   The local area has a rapidly increasing population that has outgrown its safe water supply. They also have tightly packed in housing that leads to difficulty maintaining good sanitation.  The new road is coming- something we are thankful for.  However, we are bracing ourselves for a possible six-month time period where the current water-line will be completely disrupted.  The District Government has been very helpful in discussing solutions. We are still trying to reach some level of cooperation with the local council.  I fear what we are receiving now at the health center may only be the beginning.

So, please pray for wisdom, funding for the government, endurance for our Ugandan partners and relief from the illnesses.  Pray for Oliver, Jessica and Chrissy as they kick off the Outpatient Malnutrition Clinic and Education program in two weeks.  We hope this will catch children before they are sick enough to enter our ward.  Pray for Josh as he works with the government regarding safe water.  Pray for wisdom for the CSB leadership on how to house 350 students with a minimal safe water supply.

We are urgently needing a PA or physician to work 6-9months with us (most urgently from January to May 2013) and an engineer apprentice to work 6-9months with Josh on the road projects. Interested? 

CSB Update

 Thank you everyone who jumped in to help our football teams make it to the National Tournaments.  As this is a long needed update, I am happy to say both teams made it to their tourneys and performed amazingly.

The girls played in Fort Portal and won the hearts of the crowd.  We watched them run to victory in rain and mud with a cheering crowd against girls twice their size.  They ended up with one win, two draws and three losses.  We are so proud of them and they returned with a noticeable increase in self–confidence.  

Bundibugyo remains a place looked down upon as backwards by the rest of Uganda.  When we talk with Ugandan friends in Kampala, they look at us with surprise when we say we live in Bundibugyo. We are often asked if we are “not fearing being eaten by those people.”  Great rumors of evil, witchcraft, poverty and stereotyping plague the perception of the people here.  Some of this may be true, however, we find that most of the people here are like us- struggling to survive with a family by putting food on the table and a roof over their heads.

While Bundibugyo in general is looked down upon, the women remain the most displaced and are seen as below the men.  There remains a huge illiteracy rate, low female school attendance, polygamy is common and wives are seen by many as property.

Yet, for our girls, they got a glimpse that they are something special.  They are equal on the playground with women from around the country.  They can accomplish what they set their minds to.  They can win.

The boys continued their impressive performance.  They travelled to the Eastern Ugandan city of Tororo, where they won 3 games and lost 3 games.  According to the coach, they feared no one.  These boys are leaders.  They are teammates.  They are something.  Before they headed back to celebrate their victories in their home here in the far west, the bus took a detour.  They stopped at the border of Kenya and jumped out to set foot on the foreign soil.  They are now international travellers.  They beamed upon their return.

We pray that these experiences will lead to continued leadership and character development in our students. Even those not on the team lift up their heads a little higher around town expecting people to notice they are from Christ School, and they stand equal with their counterparts across the nation.

So, your investment is crucial as we take small steps toward redemption, renewal and celebration of who God made this community to be.  Thank you for taking the time and spending your money to help!

Outside of sports, we are continually encouraged by the academic success.   We found out this year we are ranked 115 our of 1000 Secondary schools in the country- almost in the top ten percent!  We also found out that 7 of our students have received a Government Scholarship (District Quota) for University studies.   Twenty-seven of Thirty-four of our graduates qualified for University by their National exam performance.  Additionally, this week we found out that my friend Isaiah was accepted into medical school.

It is my hope that these outstanding students will become leaders of renewal and redemption in this district and even across Uganda.

Please continue to pray for us and for Christ School.  We will keep you updated on any exciting news that happens.  Currently the students are starting new Volleyball and Music, Dance and Drama Clubs.  The debate team and math clubs are travelling to competitions.  The students are also starting to buckle down and prepare for the national exams held in November.

As always, we appreciate you help.  We know that you can help in different ways and at different times but not all the time.  If you missed the opportunity to support the football teams but want to help in other ways, there are on going opportunities.  See the links on the right.

  •  As a mission we supplement every students tuition so local families can send their children to a high quality educational institution.  To do this, we raise $50,000 a year.  Any gift to the CSB operational cost is welcomed.
  •  We also give special full tuition scholarships to qualified orphans that have proven themselves to excel academically and have a heart for service and leadership.  We give 10 Scholarships per academic for a total of 60 scholarships.  Currently we are in need of 20 sponsors. It takes just $50 per month ($600/year) to sponsor a student at CSB.
  •  We also are in need of new latrines.  Two latrines caved in this past month leading to unrest with the students and partial closing of the school.  We are hoping to partner with an NGO called GreenHeat that harvests the methane from latrines and uses it for cooking.  This will save us thousands of dollars a year in firewood we use to cook.  And of course, this will help save the rainforest around us.  The set up costs will be around $10,000. 
   Thanks!  God's blessings and peace.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

spectacular summer interns

Each year, WHM offers young adults an opportunity to be an intern missionary in various fields across the world. This year, God has brought three remarkable women to join us for the summer. Summer, a pre-nursing student at George Mason University, has been working with Jess in the Nyahuka Health Center. Emily, a French Business Trade major at Auburn, is running RMS Preschool. Ashley, currently working on her Masters in Entomology, is assisting her sister-in-law Pamela at RMS. In addition to these community ministries, they are learning Lebwisi, embracing local cultural activities (gardening, cooking, sitting, etc), and participating in team life. They are even taking hundreds of disorganized books from the mission and creating a WHM Library. We are blessed to have these three positive, helpful, kind-hearted, and peaceful women join us for these two months. We pray that God will use their time here to refresh their passion for Jesus, to bond them to the people of Bundibugyo, and to ignite a desire for a missional life. 
Sodas, rice, matooke, and sauces at Hotel Vanilla
Ashley assisting Patton and Lill in making pizzas

Emily is a Star Teacher for RMS Preschool. Aidan, who is a bit picky whom he bonds with, LOVES Emily. He has hidden her passport so she have to stay in Bundibugyo.

My youngest is off to school!

Friday, June 22, 2012

good ending to a long week

You could feel the exhaustion from all teammates when we sat in the round room at the Stevens' house tonight. We have all worked hard this week. When the phone rang at 7 am and teammate Jessica reported that the premature babies and their mothers were locked in the small room in the peds ward and no one had the key, then you know the day is going to be a doozy! Handyman Travis was able to use a hammer and screwdriver to open the door and rescue the trapped families who had been receiving food and water through the now-cut screened and barred windows. Sometimes, all we can do is laugh at the things we find ourselves doing.

Sickness has visited our team. All of my crew was wiped out on Wednesday with various ailments, necessitating a sign on our door that said "Sick here. Come Tomorrow. Webele". Two other teammates are battling a nasty g.i. bug. And it seems there has been an official declaration of a cholera outbreak in this area. This comes on the heals of a measles outbreak. (Note: our teammates do not have cholera, but have a virus).

In the midst of the absurd and the difficult, it is good to gather to discuss why we are here. In our conversation about John Piper's book "Holy Ambition" we read that missions is "about the worship of Jesus and the joy of all peoples"(p32). He desires worshippers from every nation and that includes from our little valley shadowed by the tall Rwenzoris and bound by the Lamia Congo River. So, we thank him for a full week. We enjoy our evening together filled with good discussion, pizzas made in the rain,   real salads from lettuce grown by friends in Fort Portal, and even a silly animated film.

And we press on. Because He is here and is calling worshippers from all peoples to Himself.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

praying for pastor

Last night, Pastor Kisembo Akleo and his family came over for dinner. If you ask, he will share how he was a belligerent man who loved alcohol too much. It is hard to believe that now as he is a gentle and thoughtful provider for his eight children. That is the power of the gospel; it changes us all.

Pray for Kisembo and the other pastors and teaching elders who will be gathering for the General Assembly in eastern Uganda this week. Pray also for his eldest daughter who has been very sick.

Kisembo Akleo and his wife Jessica and seven of their eight children.

Patton assists Travis in washing hands before dinner.

Aidan loves a good party!

Monday, June 18, 2012

photos from the last month

These past weeks have been full of wonderful times with friends and visitors, busy days in the health center, tense times in the middle of worker crisis and a strike at CSB, refreshing moments on our marriage retreat, hours of sitting with community members, fruitful meetings with teammates, and memories made with Travis's brother.

Ann is surrounded by girls from the nearby boarding school as she has just presented them with a pineapple which she bid on during the church auction. Everyone in the congregation cheered for her as she used her Lebwisi counting skills.

Grammie and Poppy sent matching outfits for our family! So preppy in the midst of the African jungle!

If you look closely, you will see exposed water pipes that were pulled up to be replaced in preparation for the new road. The road has been widened up to Bundibugyo Town which is now out of water. It is only a matter of time before it reaches us in Nyahuka Town. Unfortunately, since the population of this area has swelled, the pipes are no longer adequate for the number of people here. Pray for Josh as he meets with local leaders to try and get this point across!
This group of cheerful faces are our friends who come from New York City to pray over students at CSB. Led by George McC, this is their second trip here as a group. They have a good time and we are thankful for they ways that they partner in sharing the love of Jesus to Bundibugyo.
Sharing with female CSB teachers and wives of male teachers during our first monthly meeting of "Encouragement, Prayer, and Cake"

More sharing and listening at EPC

Packing and Unpacking: two words that describe our lives, both for ourselves and in the help we give to visitors.

Travis continues to work at the NHC, treating patients on the peds ward.

Some patients are just so very sad to be there!

Our kids LOVED having the Wheeler children to play with during their visit!

Yummy cold milkshakes on a hot afternoon

A great visit from the Wheelers! Notice how I am trying to give Patton a smile. He was absolutely heartbroken when William left!

All packed into the car for a trip to Kampala for supplies and to pick up Nate.
Travis's brother Nate joined us for an action packed week of teaching teachers at CSB, leading Sunday fellowship at CSB and with our team, holding RMS inservice about TCKs, meeting with CSB leadership staff, some great uncle time and even a safari and chimp trek. We loved having him and miss him already!

A spotting of zebras from the side of the road!
How many chimps do you see in this picture?

Kids looking over the escarpment for elephants that roam below.

Up close with the elephants
Nothing like a game drive as the sun sets!

Two Head Teachers Nate and Edward meeting to discuss educational matters.

Team Worship at the Johnsons with music led by Josh

We are so thankful for goodies sent with Tio Nate!
Happy Father's Day, Travis!