Thursday, May 20, 2010

Look at your eyes, they're small in size, but they see enormous things

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I guess life has slowed down enough to finally write about my first month back home. I got back just a little over a month ago, and I miss my kids, mamas, and the other people who became important to me. It has been hard being back in more ways than one. I’ll start the story here. I had a fever the Sunday morning before leaving Uganda. I was fine during the drive to Entebe, and even waiting almost 6 hours in the airport to leave. As soon as we took off, my health went down hill. I began feeling achy, I knew my temperature was rising, and I was shaking pretty bad from the fever. This lasted the entire plane ride, being sick coupled with being over tired made our 20 hour layover in London very frustrating. We got a hotel, and went to sleep right away. We woke up and went back to the airport to fly home. Again on the 2nd flight I was pretty sick and couldn’t sleep, I thought maybe I just had the virus that some of the other volunteers had been fighting off. We arrived in Philadelphia on that Tuesday, and no luggage was lost. It was so nice to see my Mom and sister, I wish I could have been more enthusiastic about reuniting with them but I was weak and tired. This was not how I expected to come home, after dealing with my fair share of illness in Uganda, it wasn’t allowed to follow me home! It was weird walking through those front doors again, everything felt strange. I tried to rest, but the high fever and body aches prevented any real sleep from happening. Wednesday morning my Mom made a doctor appointment because I wasn’t getting any better, only worse. The doctor did a throat swab, and I ended up having strep throat. We thought that was good news, that I would just take the antibiotic and I’d feel better in a day or two. The doctor also had me get blood work done, just to rule out malaria. At this point I didn’t even want the test because I had tested positive for strep already and was getting medicine, what were the chances I had malaria as well? I was frustrated on Thursday when I wasn’t getting any better. We got a phone call Thursday evening that my blood work came back, and I did in fact have Malaria. We went to UPenn’s ER and sat for 4 hours waiting to be seen. My fever got to 103, and at some points when the Malaria was cycling it got pretty scary. I remember praying and just asking God to make it stop, even if that meant Him taking me home, I couldn’t handle my body hurting that badly. We have a habit of doing that. Questioning God, and telling Him we can’t handle something, even when we know He won’t give us anything we can’t handle. Much easier to say that when you’re feeling better, or when you see how He has used that circumstance for His glory. At this point I had Malaria for at least 5 days, and it was only getting worse. I was admitted to the hospital and spent about 5-6 days, as they treated the Malaria, and monitored me. I was unable to eat, had high fevers, and low blood platelets for the majority of my stay in the hospital. My blood platelets dipped down to 17, a normal count is over 150. They said I would have needed a blood transfusion at 7. I’m grateful that I didn’t need that. My liver was still out of whack, and my blood platelets were still rising, but I was able to go home. I took it easy for a few days, and then was able to start hanging with friends, working, and I started summer classes. It was good to see friends, spend time with family, but I just felt and continue to feel a bit disconnected to everything here. I left so much of myself back in Uganda, and I’m just trying to figure out what God wants with my life, how He can use me to glorify Him even back here. Last weekend I went back to the doctor with what I thought was kidney pain, but it ended up that my spleen was enlarged. I was sent back to the ER at UPenn, and was admitted once again. They determined that I had reoccurring Malaria, this time it was Plasmodium Ovale, the first time it was Plasmodium Falciprum. They kept me in for only 3 days this time, and I was able to go home on a whole bunch of medications which they assured me would get rid of the Malaria this time. Through all of this people would ask me, “so are you going back”, I guess expecting me to say, no way. Spending over 8 days in the hospital in the last month I guess isn’t what most would determine as a successful or enjoyable trip overall. I would do it ten times over before regretting Uganda, or forgetting about going back. I know what Malaria feels like now, it definitely wasn’t fun, but I am so grateful that I was able to get the medication to treat Malaria, and that God has purpose and a plan behind everything He puts in our life. You hear about villages in Uganda where 1 in 5 children die from Malaria because they can’t even get to a doctor to receive treatment. How could I sit here angry or bitter about getting Malaria?


Saturday, April 24, 2010

faith like a child

Do you think of yourself as someone who makes good plans? God is not like us, He is perfect in the plans He makes. Philippians 1:6

We went to the equator, in the hottest van ever. the inside temperature said it was over 100 degrees, don't know if it was accurate but it was HOT. well worth the sweaty 4 hr. drive to be in two hemispheres at once.

Produce section of central market in Jinja. This place is beyond crazy. This pace literally has EVERYTHING here, from shoes to dresses, to handmade skirts, to blankets to dried ants, grasshoppers, and smelly fish. It's overwhelming and crowded, a true Ugandan adventure, you know?

A few weeks ago i heard a sermon about how we should be living out our faith. That often times Christians are so busy telling people what they are doing wrong, and condemning them. We forget about loving, about living out a life that makes people envy what you have, what you know, what you understand He has done for you. I haven't lived a life like that, not for an extended period of time. The qualities of a "good person" are formed by each individual as they grow up. People who have messed up big time, shamed their parents or community in one or many ways. It takes a long time for people to forget things. Past mistakes, the way someone has lived, often shapes the way an individual is perceived by everyone around them. Some people know bits and pieces or your story, and have judged you on that, some know everything and still love you. What i do know is this: i have a God who loves me completely perfectly, who doesn't dwell on what i have done, but instead, "As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us." Psalms 103:12. He does not love me less when i fall short, instead He picks me up. He continues a work in me that much of the time i don't understand. He uses the things i have been through to reveal to me just how much i need Him, just how much i don't deserve His grace, but he gives it to me anyway. He sees not what i was or have been, but instead how He sees how He will use these things to grow my faith. While everyone else only sees bits and pieces of my life, God sees the finished product. He knows where i will end up, how i will serve Him. He knows where i fall short, where i will continue to fall short, but still He loves me. It's difficult to understand a love like this, a pure and unconditional love. A Father's love that is so strong you can't screw up enough to have Him love you any less.

I'm writing this on my last day in Uganda. With everything God has a plan, it says so in Jeremiah 29:11. He knows the plans He has for us. Trusting His plan is not easy, Faith in general is not easy. I would be lying if i said it has ever been easy to believe in someone i can not physically see, believing in the love He has for me. If i told you there was a man sitting next to you and you looked over and there wasn't you would take me for a fool, would you not? I like to know things, not to just believe, i like to have proof not just faith. But see, He doesn't work like that. Our God is too big for that, He is far too complex for us to completely comprehend. That's where the faith part comes in. Believing in what is unseen. He's really not unseen if you take the time to look around is He? In how intricate the world has been pieced together, in how He works things out.

James 1:27 "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep on self from being polluted by the world."
To be in the world but not of the world. To serve and honor Him by loving those He loves. That is what i want with my life. I've always stayed lukewarm, afraid of what i would be giving up. Afraid of being mocked, being that "crazy Christian". I'm okay with that more so than ever. I know my life will look a little crazy, maybe really crazy from this point forward. I'm excited for crazy. I'm excited to live under God's plan for me rather than the plans i have made. 3 months ago, before i came to Uganda, i expected to definitely come back with a new mindset, to come back more grateful for everything i have. I didn't expect this. I didn't expect to have my world turned upside-down. I didn't expect God to call me back to Uganda as a forever home. I don't know what it will look like exactly, how He will use me. I don't want this to be my life, i don't want to hear about me doing "good things", but i want to honor my God in how i live my life. I want people to see what i'm doing and to think i'm nuts. I want people to wonder why i'm doing what i'm doing. I want to love because He first loved me, and to give Him the credit for anything good i accomplish in this life. Because without Him, without trying to understand His love, i wouldn't be capable of that.

I leave Amani a 2am tomorrow morning. Last days anywhere are always bittersweet. Excited to see my family, and friends. Not excited to leave my 2nd home. Not excited to leave my kids behind, my Ugandan Moms. But this is His plan and not mine, He loves these kids, and these Ugandan woman more than i ever could. It's easier to leave a place knowing who's in control of it.

Be back in the US in a little over 48 hrs.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

i'm going to love You with my life

So 5 days after we went to the North we came back down to Kampala. It was not what we expected. Not at all. Both Megan and I felt like God was calling us to go to the North, we thought He wanted us to see a need there, that maybe He was calling us to open something there in the future. While we never entirely understand how God works, the circumstances after we arrived in Gulu really shook us up. We left Jinja around 8am and arrived at the Kampala bus park around 1030am. The Kampala bus park was insane. Busier and more overwhelming than any part of New York I’ve ever been to. People yelling at you to buy things. dodging bodas, taxis, and buses while attempting to make it to the other side of the street alive. Having no clue how to find the busses that leave for Gulu. We finally asked someone if they knew where the busses to Gulu left from. Another man overheard our conversation and told us he would bring us there. Throughout this whole ordeal it was raining. As Meg and I tried to keep up with the man we hoped was actually leading us to the bus we needed, we were dodging mud puddles and merchants trying to sell us a wide range of Ugandan treasures. We finally reached the bus it was called “Baby Coach” All the Ugandan men cheared as two mzungu girls climbed aboard this bus to Gulu. We payed our “guide” 1,000 UGX (50 cents) as the Ugandan men huttled around the bus cheered as we climbed aboard. I think the longer you’ve been here the less overwhelmed you get by crazy situations. Everything here is a bit crazy, but you learn to just laugh about it. It was about 12:30 by the time we finally got seated. The bus was already almost completely full, so we left Kampala around 1:15pm. The bus ride was not as long or as bad as we expected. It only took about 5 ½ hrs to get to Gulu, we stopped every so often to pick people up and to allow people to buy different food or drinks people were selling on the side of the road. I dared Meg to try some of the chicken on a stick they were selling. She was smart and didn’t take me up on that. We were in the back row, I was between Meg and a young man named Samuel who talked to me a bit and I was even lucky enough to have this complete stranger fall asleep on my shoulder. Again Meg and I just laughed. We got off the bus in Gulu, with no clue where we were and what we were to expect for our stay there. We walked around and called the woman we were staying with. We took bodas to a small cafĂ©, and met here there around 6:30pm. She picked us up and showed us our room and introduced us to the girls and Mama M. We stayed at the home for girls called, Zion Project. This is a rehabilitation home for war affected girls. There are 14 girls there now, ages 4-14. These girls are Congolese girls who were at risk for sex trafficking. It was neat to meet them, to hear from the Mama how some of them came to be at the Zion Project, we got to hear them sing, and worship. We got to color, read to them, and play with playdough a bit. But things didn’t feel quite right from the start. Sarita was more than welcoming, the Mamas, the aunties, and the girls were as well. This made it even more difficult for Megan and I to understand why we were so miserable and felt so off being in Gulu. We were there Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, when we finally decided we needed to go back. We prayed a lot about it before making the decision, but neither of us had ever felt like that before. While we might not ever quite understand why it was so difficult for us to be there, we knew God was telling us we needed to head back to Jinja. We both made sure it wasn’t just because this was a new place, or that we missed our kids at Amani, but that it was God maybe protecting us or needing us back in Jinja. We visited a few different NGO’s up North. SOS Children’s village, Favour of God, and Zion Project. We were taken to 3 different churches on Sunday, all of which were interesting to say the least. KPC Gulu, a local church in the village, and a Congolese church. In each service we were asked to stand up and greet the Church, something we weren’t quite used to either. We walked around Gulu, visited the market. We were served antelope, and told it was rare bush meat that we were lucky to have. The only thing we did not get to do up North was travel to Pader like we had planned, but both Megan and I didn’t think we could last another night. Neither of us were able to sleep at all, we would wake up multiple times in the middle of the night terrified, and not knowing why. Mama M was so kind and prepared meals for us, and showed us around Gulu. She told us a story of a woman who had stayed in our room before us. Mama M explained this woman was “possessed” and she had attempted to harm her and the girls in the middle of the night on at least one occasion. Mama M explained that the evilness of the war still lingers in Gulu, while it is much safer, she never felt completely safe. There was not night guard at the home we were at, and Mama M said she felt unsafe a lot of the time. Even after hearing these stories it didn’t automatically make us want to leave. We know our God is way bigger than anything evil, however we do know that these things are real and we need to guard ourselves from them. Megan and I were both physically, mentally, and spiritually exhausted, which would have made sense after traveling a long way by bus, but not 3 days later. I asked my Mom to call my cell phone, and asked her for her advice when we began talk of heading home early. My Mom was understanding and prayed with me about the situation. Megan and I prayed before we went to bed that night, that God would help us decide what He wanted us to do, not what we wanted to do. We both felt the overwhelming answer of “you need to leave Gulu”. We were also informed about the volcano in iceland by some people up in Gulu. We hadn’t made our final decision to leave, but after hearing that all flights had been cancelled until further notice, we felt like we needed to head back now more so than before. We had no internet, and limited telephone service where we were staying, and if flights through Europe were cancelled, I needed to be able to contact my Mom, and Lisa and Alex to see if we could change our route possibly. Even in attempting to write this out and explain it, I feel a bit crazy, I have never experienced something like this before. All I can say is that when we got on the bus to Kampala we both felt a peace. We sat on the bus for 2 hrs, waiting for it to fill up, when we finally left it was past 4pm. We got into Kampala around 9:30 last night. As soon as we got off the bus, there were about 10 taxi drivers yelling to get our business. Megan and I laughed because we were wondering how and where we would find a taxi to get where we were staying in Kampala. After watching the taxi drivers fight over who would get to take us, we hoped in the first car that got to us. We arrived at Loving Hearts Baby Home, on Bunga Hill, where we spent last night. Today we are planning to visit Makerere University, and then head back to Jinja for 5 days. I feel a little silly after saying all our goodbyes to the kids, to our mamas and to our friends in Jinja, but it is going to be so good to spend my last few days in Uganda with family, and not completely scared and weighed down. It will be so good to gives and hugs and kisses to my kids when I thought I may not get another chance. People are going to laugh at us for coming back early, but that’s okay. I have 5-6 days left in Uganda. I’ll see everyone very soon.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Never Underestimate my Jesus

Megan and i leave for Gulu tomorrow morning at 8am. I figured i should write a little something before i leave Uganda all together. Closing in on 3 months, and only having 10 days left here is insane. I feel like life at home doesn't really exist anymore, and i know i'll probably have more culture shock going back home than i did coming here. Our Internet where i live has been down for the past week or so. We've still been able to go into town and use Internet at the cafe. A few days after not having Internet i started to get a little annoyed/frustrated, but i quickly reminded myself how crazy it is that we have Internet at all and the ability to keep up with friends and family back home. I sit here thinking about how bitter sweet this "see you later" is. We wrote cards out to some of the Mamas we got close to and bought them chocolate/necklaces for some. Got last minute pictures with them as well. I wouldn't write goodbye in any of the cards because i know i will be back here, and i know that i will see them again. It is amazing how much someone can feel like family after only knowing them for 3 months. I also asked the Mamas to give my toddlers lots of hugs and kisses from their Auntie Kelsey. To tell them "Nkwagala nyo nyo nyo", which is "I love you much much much" in Lugandan. I'm going to miss my kids, i know they will be cared for and loved by the Mamas and the new volunteers, and by adoptive parents. I think the hardest thing for me is not knowing what will happen for some of my older kids like D and F who may have parents or other family members who haven't signed over their rights. It's hard for me to understand why a family member would desire the rights to a child they never come to visit, or are not able to/don't have the desire to care for. I understand wanting to become financially stable so you can care for them properly, but what about the family that never comes back for them? I just want them to know real love from parents, but as i prayed through trying to understand this. I'm reminded that these are God's children. He has a special place for orphans and widows. He tells us that. I rest in that. He will take care of them and their Heavenly Father loves them more than any earthly parent ever could.

Monday, April 5, 2010

i can feel your pain in my bones

A Ugandan Easter

I write to you now because well, right now i have the time. I'm currently pulling an all nighter to stay up with one of our older boys J, who sleeps on the very top bunk bed. Tonight i was putting the boys to sleep, slightly more chaotic than normal, and then J fell off his bed. Now these bunk beds are stacked 3 high and he had to of fallen at least 8 feet on his head. Poor J, the same little boy who got his foot caught in a bicycle earlier this week. Now J has no skin on his left heel, and a huge lump on his forehead. I was pretty frustrated when nothing was really done to help comfort him, no precautions taken. My immediate instinct when he wasn't kept in the clinic was to bring him upstairs and force him to ice his head, and to make sure he was okay. I go downstairs, he's back up on that same bunk still crying his eyes out of course. I never thought i'd be able to come close to understanding the love of a mother until i had my own kids, but this comes pretty close. Part of me was so frustrated with J because he was the one standing up on that top bunk, even when i told him not to. Part of me was upset that i didn't protect him or prevent this from happening. All of me just wanted to take his pain away, and put it on myself. So i sit here writing, as the timer is ticking for me to wake him up every hour. Obviously falling from so high could result in a concussion, we're just being safe. He was acting fine and interacting with us as usual. I love these kids, i don't know how i'm going to leave them in a week and a half.

If you remember M, the little boy who has HIV and TB, well if you remember he was transferred to another orpahange that takes care of only HIV positive children. We went to visit him a few weeks ago, and he seemed to be improving. I saw the couple who runs this orphanage at church on Easter, so i went up to ask how M was doing. I didn't get the response i was looking for. I immediately saw the man's expression change when he heard me say the words "How is M! Has he been improving?". He looked down and replied with, "No, M has not been responding to his TB medicine, which he has been on for quite a while. The doctor has taken lymph nodes from his neck to test him for cancer". I told him thank you and walked away quickly, i walked away tearing up, broken hearted , that my little prince wasn't improving like i thought he was. I was quickly reminded that this was Easter, the day we celebrate Resurrection of our Saviour. He is Risen. While i pray M's life here is long, i know that is out of my hands, and completely in His. My prayer is that God keeps him tightly in His hands. That when M is in pain, when he feels scared, that he feels his Jesus close to him. That he knows he is my handsome prince, but more importantly God's handsome prince.

I know a lot of the things i have seen, how much i love my kids, the stories i have heard, the people i have met. None of it will really hit me until i am home and i am not here. When i get the chance to process it all. When i have the time to think. The days where i don't go to bed before 10pm, and i have a little bit of energy to write, i open up a new entry and give up before i begin. Not because i don't want to keep whoever reads this updated, but because i honestly don't have the words to say. I don't know how to sum up a day here in blog form, let some big crazy life changing realizations i have reached while living in a 3rd world country for three months. Well i guess finding a forever home in a place where i only planned to live in for a semester might count for something. But even that isn't me. It's God. I've run it over and over again in my head, trying to figure out if my flesh just wants Uganda in my future, or if it is really the start of something major God is asking of me. Every time i start to figure it out, and plan things out. He shakes me and reminds me that this is not my plan. That He is God, and He's got it all worked out. That i can try and plan all i want, but He will work things out the way He wants to. I find peace in that. In knowing i can't screw up my life enough to make me useless for His kingdom. That He can turn awful circumstances into great things. That my God can take my life back and constantly remind me i am His daughter.

So i don't know exactly what my future holds, i know it will end with me meeting my Heavenly Father face to face, but everything in between that, well i just hope he can use me to glorify Him more and more every day, and that i would be willing to give up anything He asks of me.

We also got to see B meet his Mom and Dad for the first time, and M & D meet their Mommy for the first time. It was the coolest thing, again with the happy tears. I still don't know if i quite understand how they work. A child with out a family getting to meet their family for the first time is the most amazing thing. I love B, M & D a bunch and i am so happy to be here when their parents are getting to know them.

Easter was far from normal. What else would you expect from Easter in Uganda? It rained a bunch the night before, so we spent our morning walk to church dodging mud puddles, not very successfully. Singing worship songs both in Lugandan and in English, hearing a sermon translated into Lugandan after every sentence. We spent the afternoon walking through town in search of last minute ingredients for our Easter dinner. We were planning to have the egg hunt with the kids but a thunderstorm came trough so we just did it today, the kids loved finding the eggs and eating their sweeties just the same. We went out for coffee at flavours. We took bodas both ways, because what is an Easter in Uganda without being on the back of a boda? We came back home, began cooking right away. Almost all of us cooked or baked a different dish. We had guacamole, chapatis, mac & cheese, mashed potatoes, zuchini, banana muffins, and deviled eggs. It was pretty funny, and very different. But it was nice. Wouldn't have changed anything, expect maybe the rain part.

I come home in a little under 3 weeks. I don't know where the last 2 months or so went. I leave for the North on the 16th with Megan. We are staying with the women who is in charge of the Zion Project ( We are very excited to travel to Gulu, to meet these women, and to visit some different places in Gulu.

if you read this, write an email.
it would be cool to hear from you.


Thursday, April 1, 2010

Thursday, March 18, 2010

because if seeing is believing

we had a princess party with our toddler girls. Watched Beauty and the Beast, made lots of treats, popped popcorn, bought juice boxes, and best of all each of our 10 girls had a princess crown. We have the most beautiful princesses ever.
Yes, we actually tried white ants. They look as disgusting as they taste, well at least in my head. When in Uganda, try new things right?
The last night before the Faroese girls left. It's strange without them here. We're missing Alisa in this one as well, but i'm lucky to have had majority of my time here with such great ladies.
This is S, he got here a few weeks ago with his Ugandan name that nobody could pronounce, and jiggers in his feet. He came not understanding English, and now i can say "i love you" and him say it back in his high pitched, squeaky voice. He runs around the yard with me kicking the soccer ball and giggling. This boys laugh, and mannerisms combined will make your heart melt within seconds of meeting him, guaranteed.

I know i have been bad at updating this, i wanted to write a little bit for now, and i'll try and do better. I still love it here, i fall more in love with this place the longer i stay, and leaving permanently seems unrealistic. while i continue to face challenges/frustrations in all areas, i wouldn't change anything about where i am and what i am doing. I have over 60 of the most beautiful children you'll ever see. I am on a non-stop adventure for 3 months, hearing story after story that humbles me and puts things in perspective. My life is so cool here. I don't think i've ever thought or said that about my life before, but here it is. While i miss friends and family at times, i know that if and when this became my forever home, people would be okay and move on, and i would be where i need to be. I have to remember to keep my ears and eyes open, but most of all i need to keep an open mind. I have no clue what my future with Uganda will look like, but i'm excited for it. We have only 5 weeks left here, only 4 more weeks with my kids, and then we go to the North for 10 days. More than halfway there, i thought i'd start feeling ready to come home, but it actually is sort of scary. I can't wait to see my close friends, my Mom, my brothers and sister, and my pup. Everything else seems completely boring and i know it won't measure up to what i have here.

i'll write more again soon, promise