Sunday, May 15, 2016

Wish you were here...

Friday May 6, 2016

Try as we might, we didn’t find one single taco to help us acknowledge yesterday’s Cinco de Mayo.  We have to daily count the cost of serving our Savior.  Ministry is hard, y’all.  We made it through only because our great faith assures us that there will be chips and salsa at THE banquet table in heaven.

Our "guy-on-the-ground" Solomon got a call today during a meeting that the neighbors still trying to stake a claim on a sliver of our property, were back and trying to beat our fence guys.  Our rising blood pressures were assuaged with the laughter brought on at the report that our builders simply tied the guy up and continued with the fence work.  It is not our way but we were entertained non-the-less.  Lord knows I have thought that through in relation to a few situations here at home...Have mercy if I temporarily forget the laws of this land when frustration overcomes my better judgement. 

Thursday should have been a meeting with the builder we’ve had our eyes on and feel like God has confirmed many times over.  The morning we landed in country we received a text that his mother had fallen ill and he was headed to the UK.  It felt like a missed opportunity, but there were still people to see and progress to check out.

We spent the morning going over details, preparing for our meeting with the local architect. 

Toilets here, sinks there, drainage, meeting room size, church/school kitchen.  I have to admit every technical drawing in my mind is over-layed with young faces, contagious laughter and a hope and a future.


Friday morning was spent gathering a wealth of information from the well company’s owner.  Whatever amount of disappointment about the first dry hole was tempered by the wide river of great advice he had for us.

We finally got our arms around a few of the kids at Chayah. Three of the four secondary students, Olivia, Edrine and Melissa and Jesca, Yoweri and Doreen who had finished their primary exams. 

We sat casually outside the boys quarters and Edrine played the guitar and sang for us. They explained the process of beginning secondary school with 16 subjects the first year, eliminating some each year based on test scores so that by the 5th year, they are immersed in the three subjects where their performance is strongest.  Not so much choice of study as aptitude will dictate the direction their education takes.

Janet and I caught up on some bookkeeping and we shared a few minutes of grief with Auntie Jennifer (cook) over the death of one of our dogs, Mist.  Oh, she spoke loudly and harshly to that animal, but she raised him and was very attached.   I do think the chickens looked a little more relaxed, but still.

Saturday we’ll head to the house early.  With only two full days left, time is short and so we’ll have to soak up as much as we can on this short trip.  We’ll meet with the architect again tomorrow afternoon, pick up some items we’ve ordered and have dinner with our local board members tonight.  

I write, but for sure the WWW has been less than WIDE this trip and by the time this finds itself on the blog, it could be old news.    We have a new understanding of our dependency and desire to communicate with home.    I wish you were here.  Wish you could see the lush beauty that the rainy season brings the land around us…and hear the laughter over stories from school.

I wish you could see the plots already planted on the hill and see the chickens standing under the tree when the rain comes down.   I wish you were here to pray away the uncertainty when the inevitable comes and we wonder if we are able to complete what God is doing here.   

But mostly I just wish you were here to see and hear and feel so that when we meet there would be someone else to share that knowing with. There is nothing like it...


Saturday, May 14, 2016

The Gaza Strip...

Wednesday May 4, 2016

We have been back in Uganda for two full days, but have yet to lay eyes on Chayah’s children.  The school term finishes this week and each of them are taking their final exams.  In the meantime, though we are staying on task, noses to the red dirt in the next steps of building on Chayah’s property.

We spent a good deal of time there today getting caught up on the different projects.  Topping the list as the most interesting, is very possibly the ongoing fence saga, and a small sliver of land we like to think of as our very own “Gaza Strip”.  A raucous crowd of neighbors carrying machetes, yelling very real sounding threats, stopped our fence builders in their tracks last week.  Meeting were scheduled with the police and attorneys.  Claims of land titles and rights and crops were exchanged and negotiations quickly became a raging battle.  Once they played out “our Dad is stronger than your Dad” kinds of games, well the favor fell on us once again and you might just say that the enemy ran for his life and has not been back.  

Our God can do things easily and quietly or allow some drama and noise for the sake of a good story.   Of course, He wins in the heavenlies, but sometimes He allows us the pleasure of a little victory on the ground, too.

We spent the afternoon at the bank, finding the lost.  There was a chunk-o-change that went missing in early February and it seems that it took a personal visit and about 90 minutes with the bank manager to finally locate the missing funds.  Oh Uganda…how I love your version of high-finance.

The walls on either side of the entrance to Chayah’s property are being finished and it was time to choose a gate design.  A physical introduction to the ministry site, gates that swing wide open to a plot of land, rich in fertile soil and praise to God. 

Janet fought against a cloak of disappointment and discouragement after getting the news that her newly planted crops were weeks away from a good plowing under…its almost time for grading of the property and buried utility lines.  She rallied as we sat on the porch and talked about the future, how it is unknown, but only to us.  About the importance of passing on faith and vision, one generation to another.

She has been so excited about this huge plot of fertile soil that she has been hoeing and planting and weeding like crazy.  It is the rainy season and she reads it and digs in like all good gardeners it’s just that the whole scraping off the top layer of soil and cutting and leveling hillsides, was just outside her land development experience and the harvest date is months away.  Bless her…she has invested so much.

There will be many, many seasons and types of harvest here.  Both gardens and souls will be cultivated on this land and we pray for fruit of the very richest sort.  Most will not come without pain or weeds that attempt to choke out the growth.  There will be battles and threats and weapons wielded against our own.  There will be some painful cutting away of territory, making for a better place according to the Master plan, of this we are sure. 

Monday, April 11, 2016

Leaning into the hard places...the "See-er"

 Again...she sees.  Where others are aware and have knowledge of things....she sees.  In a manner that will not allow her to let go, to turn away or carry on...

with her  H  E  A  R  T ...
she sees

In such an intimately acquainted village, where everyone knows everyone, where relationships flow easily, and one red dirt floor runs into the next... hardship and hunger go unnoticed or unattended for a whole variety of good reasons but mostly because it is universal...

with her  H  E  A  R  T ...
she sees

Seventeen-year-old "N..."'s place is second to last in her family.  Her mother abandoned them soon after Cerebral Malaria took "N..."s healthy mind and left her unable to speak or reason beyond that of an infant.  Malaria can hit hard and fast and without ($4 worth of) medication, can take a life or a sound mind.  "N..." was 7 when she lost both her mental ability and her mother. 

Her body has grown strong and from afar she appears womanly.  Nearness makes another kind of distance sadly obvious.  She has no ability to understand what is best or safe or know that the best protection is inside the boundary of the cluster of mud homes.  

Her younger sister is her caretaker, but as the older/stronger is prone to wander without hesitation, protection looks like being chained to a table while their father works the sugar cane fields.  It would appear cruel even if it were a pet...chained inside a room all day.  In this place, it means the best chance for safety.  

Except that in the shadows someone likely studied the younger's routine. Returning from a trip to the well for water, she found the door ajar and an intruder within.  There is no describing the invasion of evil on such vulnerability.  

There was no screaming, no understanding, no way to fight it off or fight it away.  No counseling, no reasoning, no identifying, no way of speaking, processing that kind of victimization, and too, I guess no misplaced shame.    

Just silence...sameness

There was of course the witness and a father summoned home.  There was anger and grief and reporting...there has been no justice...
but a pregnancy

That is when the "seer" Janet, saw.  A teenager with a swollen belly, feet tied, hands tied, being carried for a doctor's visit.

Asking and then visiting, the concern grew from the rape victim to include the baby and what the future held for both of them.  There is the immensity of the tragedy, the vulnerability, the pain inflicted on this young woman... a toddler really, locked in an adult body. 

And then there is the urgency measured by the calendar, by the weeks ticking off and the middle growing.  Every option was considered.  Midwife and doctor consulted;and two ultrasounds difficultly accomplished at the Nile International Hospital.  

Everyone agreed that a cesarean delivery was the safest for mother and baby.  

No one agreed to care for the infant afterwards.   No one had the means, no one else had the ability or interest. 

It's foreign, it's undefinable, it's hard, really hard to accept and try to understand a baby, any baby, anywhere with no one to fight for it's belonging.

Gestational age was calculated and the infant girl was given a scheduled birth date.  Provision for additional days in the hospital for recovery were arranged, the search for a postpartum caretaker at home began.  

Bedding and supplies purchased for the dirt floor surrounded by dung walls all going on completely outside the understanding of the mother-to-be.

Janet picked her up for the last ultrasound, the day before surgery was scheduled.  The soon-to-be grandfather was grateful for the help, for the compassion, for the seeing of their need.  Returning them home, the soon-to-be mama would not be still, silently she arranged and rearranged herself.  Janet studied her until the fluid leaking and soaking into the ground explained what was happening.  The holy nod of God over this little one's life provided her with immediate escort back to the hospital where the infant made her appearance within minutes. 

A phone call from a very excited Janet told every detail of the day and how the events unfolded in this precarious situation.  Along with all of the preparation for safe keeping that man could do...God had taken both of these girls into his own care and protection and amazed us all with the perfect timing.  Mother and child were fine,  Janet was asked to name the baby...She chose "Blessing".


The story is hard and true and unimaginable. Janet came to visit again the next morning and was told that a village official came to the hospital, got the proper signatures and took the child to be placed in a baby's home.  It's the law, the procedure, the nature of things. 

Grief swept over her realizing that she had become attached not just to "N..." but also the infant.  Grief over this tiny child's unbelonging.  There are strangers now assigned to carry out the future best for the one she was called to watch over and a loss in the mystery of who and where and how.  

It's painful to see.  It's difficult to watch...but it's painful to S E E and respond and watch and know this is your calling.  There is great joy too, in being called into the suffering and to see God himself save, maybe a baby, maybe a mother, this time...both. 

To feel worn out, rung out and spent is part of the laying down of our lives for another.  To say "yes" knowing the cost will be dear and to sense the rightness of our own suffering, leaning in to the hard and choosing obedience over comfort.  

We don't know for sure where the baby is, but we know she is alive and God was her seer even before she was conceived.  "N..." is recovering well and life has gone on in the village.

It will be about two hot minutes before my GPS tries to hone in on that little one next month when we go back to Uganda.  Like many she may never know her story.  But we do and are so grateful to see God's compassion on the tiniest of lives.