Friday, December 12, 2014

A Week In The Life...

I am holed up inside my hut, sheltering from the gusting winds outside. Every surface in my house is covered in a fine layer of dust. This is dry season, the half of the year I spend dreaming of anything green that grows. My poor little herb garden I planted last month is suffering terribly, battered and beaten down by the wind and the heat. My poor husband lies nearby, sleeping off his unreasonably high fever.

In spite of the blustery day and the sick one I am attending to, I am thankful. Thankful for an excuse to sit, thankful for the respite from visitors, thankful for peace and quiet.   

These past weeks have brought an onslaught of emergencies to our doorstep. First came a young boy with a hard mass on his liver. We sent him to the best excuse for a hospital that we have in Karamoja three hours away, but we lost him not too much later anyway. Then came a concerned mother with her mal-nourished baby, and Andrew and our teammate Jeremy made the three-hour journey to the hospital themselves this time. Two days later an older man came looking for help with transport to go to that same hospital for some severe liver problems. I knew it was very likely his own drinking that had led him to this point, but we helped him get transport nonetheless. The next morning we received a quick visit from a girl we had sent to the very same hospital for treatment a few months back. No longer emaciated from the combination of HIV and Tuberculosis, we barely recognized her with all that healthy weight in her cheeks. But her visit reminded us that she wouldn’t stay that way for long without more food, which she needed from us.  As Andrew dropped me off for my Akiru meeting that afternoon, a distraught old woman carrying a bundle of blankets came up to our car gesturing and asking for help. I went to inspect her bundle and found an impossibly small baby girl just barely two days old (we would later find out she weighed less than 2 pounds). The mother had died after giving birth two months early and this baby had no chance of survival without outside help. Once again, we loaded them up in the car and our teammates left for the three-hour trip within the hour.  I made it through my meeting and left for home, exhausted by the last 24 hours. Little did I know that another old woman with another bundle of blankets came looking for me moments after I had gone.  She found me later on that week, and once again I laid eyes on an impossibly small baby, a boy this time, who surely had been born premature as well. His skin was saggy and loose, his frame tiny for all of his two months. His mother had not breast-fed him because of her HIV and so he had survived so far on a cup or two of cow’s milk a day, if that. I went to the old woman’s home to take them some formula for the baby and found the mother suffering from her own debilitating mal-nourishment and some kind of cough that I feared was TB. Hours later after health center waits and tests and run-arounds that stretched over two days, I still didn’t have a diagnosis or a solution. Still don’t for that matter. I still don’t know if that mother even wants to help herself get better. I still don’t know if the grandmother can really be trusted to care about that baby or care for that baby.

But for now, I am a little bit thankful to have to care for my own sick husband so that I have an excuse to hide inside, away from the wind, away from the world for a little while. I will worry about today, because tomorrow has enough worries of its own.

***Often people ask what a day in our lives looks like. What is a normal day for us, they want to know. Though every day is not always how these past few weeks have been, weeks and days like these are still very common.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Do Not Merely Listen

Some days this landscape looks so bleak and so hopeless. When I hear of mothers who sell their malnourished baby’s formula to buy alcohol for themselves, I feel defeated. When I meet helpless malnourished old women whose family members refuse to waste their food on the weak, I am broken-hearted and livid all at the same time. When I hear of yet another man who has taken multiple wives and produced numerous children and still, all of his money goes to support his drinking habits, I want to give up and leave. Some days the selfishness in this place is suffocating.

But today…. today is a very different day.

Today I witnessed something beautiful: a simple, honest act of selflessness.

You see, yesterday I met with some of my Akiru women (visit to learn more) for a Bible study. We did what we always do and listened to a passage of scripture before discussing how we can do what it says to do. Yesterday we listened to this passage from the book of Acts:

“They (the believers) devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many signs and wonders performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”

This passage really resonated with one woman in particular named Auma, and unbeknownst to me, she immediately began making a plan to do what the Scripture said.  As we finished up our discussion, the women asked if I would be willing to drive them out to Auma’s village to pick up some food. I agreed without fully understanding what was going on. After reaching the village, Auma brought out a huge bag of dried corn and beans and I learned that she was donating enough food to feed everyone at our weekly Akiru meetings for the next three weeks. In our area where food is so precious, this was a big sacrifice for her to make.

She had heard from Scripture that as believers, we should share with one another. And so she shared. Simple as that. No prompting needed by me because the Holy Spirit was already at work in her heart. What a beautiful act. Beautiful in its obedience and beautiful in its selflessness.

Today we ate together with glad and sincere hearts. And I am praising God for these women and for the chance to witness these sacred moments where the Kingdom of Heaven visits our humble stretch of earth for just a little while.

  Are you a doer of the Word?

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Two Shores

I stand on two opposing shores, straddling the ocean beneath my feet. I feel stretched, pulled, ready to rip apart at the seams. This tug of war between my worlds is mentally and emotionally exhausting. Neither side can truly claim me. I am not African and there are too many parts of me that never want to be. But I am also not American anymore. At least not in the ways it matters. I am somewhere in-between, sampling the luxuries that one world affords while grappling with the ever present pain and suffering of the other. I try to hold one in my hand and the other in my mind. Don’t forget the life you are returning to, I tell myself. Though you feast on caviar Monday, you will eat crusts on Tuesday. Don’t forget…

But how do I truly prepare for such a change? No other generation in history has tasted such extravagant luxuries as have I. Nor have very many in my generation tasted such desperate need. As the pendulum swings from one extreme to the other, my mind strains to comprehend the realities of both.

I find myself afraid that I will not be strong enough to handle the change. Can I really bear the stretching?

You see, comfort has an unfortunate way of anesthetizing. And I am no more immune to it than the next man. I do not desire to know pain in this life. I do not want a hard life. The reality I am about to re-enter simply terrifies me. I do not know what is coming. I do not know what hardship will await me in the next few years. The only thing I do know is that I want Jesus. And if suffering was the path chosen for even Him, how then can I desire anything else for myself?   

In this moment His promise anchors my wavering heart:

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name;
You are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned;
The flames will not set you ablaze.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Radio Silence

Breaking the blogging silence is an intimidating and awkward thing to do, especially when it’s gone on for a while. You know what I mean. Let’s be honest: everybody’s probably expecting something pretty profound, right? I mean, after all that time I’ve had to ponder and contemplate, surely I would have come up with something pretty touching and poetic.

Well…..I hope you’re not holding your breath.

But you have such an interesting life. Surely you have loads to write about!

Yes, it’s true. I do have an interesting life. But I also have a difficult one filled with disappointments and tragedy and crisis, of which very few are my own but all of which I witness in the lives of friends and strangers on a near-daily basis. And is that side of my life the kind of ‘blog’ material you’re looking for?  That is the question. See, I struggle with this. What makes a good blog? From the blogs I read and the blogs that I know other people read, it seems that an awful lot of us like the poetic, moving (real life, of course) stories that wrench your heart and give you a little kick in the pants to become a better person (albeit parent, spouse, Christian) while still wrapping up snug-as-a-bug-in-a-rug in a nice feel-good ending.

And in walks my little dilemma: rarely does my life look, act, feel, smell, taste, sound – you name it – anything like this. So, I wonder, do people really want to read the smelly, tear-smudged, irritating, frustrating, painful stories I have to tell? Sometimes I think, yes, they want to read them. So I start writing a blog only to second-guess myself half-way in. Sometimes my stories can be hopeful. Sometimes they can be light. But honestly, more often than not, they are heavy and difficult and even I struggle to find a ‘moral’ in those stories.

Most often, I have not blogged because I don’t know how to tell my stories without scaring readers or depressing them or perhaps offending them.

Life among the poor is not fertile ground for happy endings.

But I have resolved over the next few months to do my best to tell the stories of the tiny shoots of joy and happiness I see peeking out of the dirt. They are there; but sometimes I must retrain my eyes to see them amidst the thorns.

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