Wednesday, October 31, 2012

a responsibility.

"Everyone I know, it seems, wants to go to Africa, wants to volunteer for a few days in an AIDS clinic or an orphanage. And that's good. It's a good impulse. I encourage them to go... but inside myself I whisper to them: 'Be careful' - you will be haunted by what you find there, and you won't be able to wash away what you've seen and heard. You will see things and hear things, and then you will be responsible for them, for telling the truth about who you are and who you discover you are not, and for finding a way to make it right. That's why actually getting on a plane and going there is dangerous and very important. Because once you see something, you can't un-see it."

Monday, October 29, 2012

feeling helpless.

I started my new job today and it went extremely well - though all things Africa were close to the surface the entire day. While I was reading through the HR handbook, I found myself taking mental notes about adoption and day care benefits. You know, just in case ;)

I miss those sweet kids so much. Part of me feels like I just abandoned them in their time of need. We found out some pretty terrible things right before we left about one of the orphanages we worked at, and knowing about these things made it all the more difficult to leave. I feel helpless. I don't know what to do to help them now that I am back in the States - aside from pray, of course. But sadly, sometimes that doesn't feel like its enough, you know? Even though it IS. I pray for direction on my own behalf, I pray for protection and courage on the children's behalf, and meanwhile I sit and wait to hear from the Lord about the steps I need to take next.

Coming back takes more courage than going in the first place, doesn't it?

Sunday, October 28, 2012

upon returning.

Here's an idea of what happens when people return from a missions trip to Uganda:
  • Right after going through Customs, you rush to the nearest Mexican place and gorge on queso dip and burritos.
  • Shortly after consuming the aforementioned meal, you get horribly sick because your stomach can't handle American food yet.
  • You go straight from the airport to pick up your dog from where she was staying, and you smother her in kisses for the entire night, until she finally leaves your room to sleep on the couch so you'll leave her alone.
  • You take a hot shower for an extremely long time. Then you weigh yourself and realize that you've lost 6-8 pounds in the course of two weeks from eating nothing but rice and peas while you were in Uganda.
  • After showering, you look in the mirror and see how horrible your eyebrow growth was while you were out of the country. Instead of tweezing, you use a weed-whacker to get them under control.
  • You sleep for 15 hours straight and dream of Uganda and all of the children you worked with.
  • You wake up and unpack, and you cry the whole time.
  • You review your pictures, and you cry the whole time.
  • You look at your budget and cut out a number of things that you don't need - and, let's be honest, that money can go somewhere else, like straight to those orphanages and organizations that you worked with.
  • You go grocery shopping and are completely overwhelmed. Finally, you break down in the middle of the cereal aisle because you think of those children who have absolutely nothing and don't know when they will have another meal.
  • You journal. And journal some more. And journal even more...

Saturday, October 27, 2012

back in america.

We just landed in DC and are waiting to go through Customs. Courtney and I have an eight hour layover before our short flight to Nashville, but we are going to see if there is any chance that we can get on an earlier flight.

I have such mixed feelings about being back. Of course, I am so excited to see my Claire, but I miss Uganda already. It will take awhile for me to process everything that happened on this trip, so when I am fully rested and can chat with some of you, just know that I may only be able to give you a one minute synopsis until I work through some things. I just want you to be prepared for the possibility that I may not be able to go into much detail for awhile.

I will write more later!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

sangaalo babies' home.

I fell in love today. His name is Sam and he is ten months old. I will post pictures of him as soon as I get home. I've got pictures of Sam eating, sleeping, bathing, chewing on things, crawling, etc etc, so I will pretend that you are all as interested in his normal baby antics as I was.

I met Sam at Sangaalo Babies' Home, which is where we spent the day today. It was such a wonderful experience. There are thirteen babies there right now who were all abandoned by their parents. The director and owner, Damalie Nahyuha has an incredible staff who help her care for them. Thanks to a group who visited in July from 147 Million Orphans, Damalie, her family, and all of the babies were able to move into a bigger house (which is absolutely beautiful and clean and meets their space needs perfectly) and their rent has been paid for through the end of the year. She is hopeful that God will provide the funds for them to stay there next year as well, so please pray about this on her behalf! Damalie is working with Hope Grafted In to get all of the babies sponsors and, in addition, they are all available for adoption. I asked her what baby supplies she needs help acquiring, and here is the list of things that she came up with:

- assistance with rent for Sangaalo which is $300 per month
- bunk beds
- mattresses
- plastic mattress covers
- formula
- rice cereal
- cloth diapers, covers, pins
- bumbo chairs
- sippy cups
- children's tylenol and other medicine
- shoes for toddlers
- funds to go towards a reliable vehicle

If you feel led to donate towards Sangaalo in any way, items and checks can be sent to:
Sangaalo Babies
Damalie Nahyuha
PO Box 5097
Jinja, Uganda
East Africa

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


Yesterday and today's time at a new ministry left the team broken down. We are all trying to process what we saw and experienced in our own way, but debriefing as a group that has very strong and differing opinions has been very hard. On top of that, we are all physically, spiritually, and emotionally exhausted. Some of us are sick, too. We have not been able to get adequate rest or nutrition since we arrived, and I am sure that this does not help things. Please pray for us.

Part of me does not want to leave Uganda, but the other part of me can't wait to go home. This is something that only my teammates will truly understand. I want to be able to do something to help all of these people with their significant needs, but on the other hand, I feel so inadequate and overwhelmed. I honestly don't know where to begin, and I am praying that God will reveal some direction soon. Until then, I will focus on finishing this trip strong, and I will continue to pray about it. That is all I can do.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

pillars of hope and canaan children's home.

We have had a busy few days since I was last able to write, so naturally, I have a lot to update you on. On our way to Jinja from Kampala, our amazing bus driver and friend, Abus told us that his wife had been hospitalized with malaria. We asked if we could head to the hospital to pray for her, and Abus said yes - which is incredible in itself because Abus is Muslim. The "medical ward" consisted of a room with twenty beds in it, and it was nearly full. We prayed for Abus' wife, and then others asked for prayer as well. One woman was hallucinating and incoherent. She didn't speak English, yet when we prayed over her, she became lucid and started to say the Lord's Prayer perfectly. It was more amazing than words can fully express.

After that, we did home visits with Pillars of Hope. It is a grassroots organization that is struggling to fulfill their mission right now because of financial hardship. The kids live in an area where most people have HIV, and many of them are also in bad health. We visited three homes that could hardly be called houses. They each consisted of one or two rooms that housed at least five children. In one of the homes, the kids slept in the same room as the chickens. Food is scarce and many of them only get to eat when they are at school. As for Pillars of Hope itself, they are five months behind on their rent so the building that the classes are held in has been locked by the landlord. Now they are holding classes outside until they are able to raise enough money to catch up on what they owe.

After our home visits, we made it to Canaan Children's Home, which is where we will be staying for the rest of the time that we are in Jinja. Pastor Isaac's mission is to take in orphans, provide for their concrete needs, give them a Christian education, and raise up strong leaders for Uganda. That being said, none of the children here are available for adoption. This is heartbreaking to me; though I understand Pastor Isaac's vision, there are over 100 kids here and not enough staff to give each of them individualized attention. Because of that, the kids are hungry for hugs and kisses. I am struggling with this: they are getting some food and some clothes and a good education, but they are missing being part of a family. And this really bothers me. Children need their relational needs met as well - they are just as important as material needs.

In other news, my ankle gave out the other day when we were doing home visits and my tendonitis is acting up again. I've been elevating my foot all day to get the swelling down, but without ice, it isn't working very well. The rest of the team is struggling with other ailments as well, so please keep praying for us. We want to be strong both physically and spiritually so that we can put our all into the work that we are doing here. Thank you!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

ekubo ministries.

Hi everyone!

We just arrived in Jinja where we will spend the rest of the time here. We have been in Kampala for the past few days working with George and Christy Magera and the rest of the staff at Ekubo Ministries. They are some of the most amazing people I have ever met, and I pray that I will be blessed to work with them again. Ekubo has a school for the children in the village of Bombo, and in addition to giving the kids an education, they also provide two meals a day and clean water for each of them. There is a medical clinic and a church on the property as well, and they are in the process of building a baby home, also. We have been playing with the kids, helping out in their classrooms, and assisting in the clinic. Though the Mageras have come a long way in building their ministry, they have many needs so that they can continue to provide and care for these children. Please pray that God will continue to provide for these needs, which include money to put a roof on the bigger building that will be their new medical clinic, money to complete the baby home, funds for another well so that more people from nearby villages can have access to clean water, and transportation so that their staff can travel to and from the school safely (right now they are walking two hours each way, sometimes in the dark, on roads that are unlit and are quite dangerous).

Yesterday was a difficult day for us. We joined Christy and George and went into a remote village called Mazzi in the middle of the jungle. We saw poverty at its worst. In addition, some of the people there practice witchcraft, and you could tell who visited the witch doctor recently because they wore beads around their waists that are supposed to keep the evil spirits away. We prayed over a lot of the children and continued to tell them that Jesus loves them in our broken Lugandan. Not many of the people in Mazzi speak English and a lot of them had never seen a white person before we arrived. The kids were rubbing their faces on our arms, smelling our skin, and feeling our fingernails because they didn't know if we would feel as different as we look. It was unreal. But it is amazing how much you can connect with a person even with a language barrier. I made a little friend named Elizabeth who was about four years old - she stayed by my side the whole time, and she cried when we had to leave. It broke my heart! Our main reason for going to Mazzi was to attend a celebration for the unsealing of the first and only well that was recently built there. A little boy who was visiting George and Christy saw this need, went back home to the States, and raised the $8,000 needed for a bore-hole to be built. So we had the honor of being there when they unsealed it, and the community of Mazzi had a huge celebration! There is a lot of disease there because of the lack of clean water, so hopefully this well will cut down on the amount of waterborne illness. It was so exciting that we got to be a part of this!

Right now, I am sitting at a table at a cafe that overlooks the Nile, and I am drinking some kind of juice that is the very best thing I have ever tasted. It is beautiful here. We are resting this afternoon, and then tomorrow we are heading to another ministry called Pillars of Hope. The Internet is spotty in Uganda, so I don't know if I will have another chance to write an update, but I will try! Keep the team in your prayers!

And can someone give my love to my sweet baby Claire? :)

Saturday, October 13, 2012

ready to go!

We've made it through security and now my team and I are waiting to board the plane! It is crazy to think that I'm traveling halfway across the world with a team of people I've never met before today. But in the brief time we've had to interact, I can tell you that I love them all already. God has clearly called each of us to go on this specific trip, and He has equipped us with very different gifts that will enable us to more effectively help those we will be ministering to. I am so excited to see what is in store! The next post that is written will be written from Uganda!!!!

Thursday, October 11, 2012


I can't believe that we leave tomorrow for Uganda. I am so excited to see what God has in store for us and for the ministries we're going to be working with. I have to be honest: a part of me feels incredibly spiritually immature to be going on this trip. But when God calls, you go - even while asking millions of questions along the way. And, like Isaiah, I am willing for God to use me for His great purposes - despite feeling somewhat unprepared.

I think back to where I was five years ago, when God first laid Uganda on my heart. I have come so far since then - in so many ways. I have no idea of why now is the time for me to go on this mission, but I trust that it is all part of a greater story that I will someday understand.

And then I think back to all that has happened this past year, and I see that I have been incredibly self-absorbed. I've even been cynical and bitter about certain areas of my life; these feelings are the scars of wounds that have yet to fade. I pray that God would take a chisel to the stone walls around my heart so that I can let His love in freely to pour it out into other people.

All I know right now is that good things are happening, friends. I can't wait until these things are revealed fully so that I can tell you all about it.

While we're in Uganda, please pray for health and protection for me and my team. Pray that God will prepare our hearts and the hearts of those we'll be working with. Pray for miracles to happen, and pray that we might have the eyes to see and the ears to hear how God is working in the city of Jinja. And also, pray that Claire will have so much fun with her friends while I'm gone that she won't have time to miss me!

I might be able to get online once or twice to write a quick update, and if I can, I certainly will. I'll be journaling throughout the trip, so even if I can't say too much while I'm there, I will for sure fill you in on everything when I get back. And, because I'm going as a photojournalist, I'll also have thousands of pictures to share with you all. Thank you so much for your thoughts and prayers!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

nine days away from Uganda!

I am officially nine days away from being in Uganda - AHHH!! I am extremely excited... and maybe a little bit nervous too, but it's the good kind of nervous! I've been spending my days trying to wrap things up at work, seeing that my last day here is a mere two days before I leave for the trip, so it's kind of funny to note that my thoughts about Uganda have been showing up in my dreams each night!

I went to Target this past weekend to purchase everything on VO's official "Packing List", and $200 later, I've got everything that I could possibly need while I'm there! In addition, the medical team and nursing staff at the Children's Hospital have been helping Courtney and I gather medical supplies to bring over, too, so we sat down yesterday to figure out how we're going to get all of this stuff over to Jinja!

And here's something that's pretty cool:
About a year and a half ago, I was working with a very sweet family whose little one was a patient on my unit. One of the mother's main supports was a volunteer for World Relief. Because we were both so involved with helping this family, we got to know each other better and found that we both have a passion for Africa. I just found out today that this friend has been living in Kampala since August and will be there until November, so we're going to try to meet up one day while we're both there!

Okay. That's all for now, but I'm sure I'll write again before we leave! Say some prayers for my team members - we've all been feeling like we're under spiritual attack lately, so pray for our continued protection and strength.