Monday, October 22, 2018

Will you pray for me?

Image may contain: ocean, sky, outdoor, water and natureWell, would you look at that. This blog is still here. I though I'd neglected it to death by now.  But, here it is and I'm headed back to Uganda tomorrow so seems like I should revive it.  I know I've talked to very few of you (as if I have any readers left) about this trip. But mostly because that is all that it is, a quick trip. But if you are actually still reading, I do want to try to update you. Hence this blog revival. Wow, I'm writing in circles. It's like I'm out of practice with this blogging thing.... mostly it's because I don't know what to write, I guess.

I loved being part of what God was doing in Obulle and most days I was up for the challenges of life in Soroti. But then suddenly it all seemed like too much. And I couldn't do it anymore. I tried to tell myself that a break was all I needed. But I'm finally at peace (sort-of) with the fact that I can't go back to Soroti and do what I was doing.  I may someday live in Uganda again but the work will have to be on a medical team and look a lot different.  I thought by now I'd have a plan for that. But I still don't know where that is or what it will look like.  I think God is still saying not yet.

There is a quote by C.S. Lewis in his book "A Grief Observed" after the death of his wife where he is talking about a feeling, that many have, in the midst of suffering, of how quiet God can be.
But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence.” 
I have felt this so strongly for so many months now.  In Uganda some of the problem was my own suffering and grief from the hardships that just come with being a missionary, but some of it was also being constantly surrounded by other's grief and loss. Young babies and children dying of illness that are so preventable, nothing I could do for debilitating, painful injuries and disease. The endless hunger and hopelessness that the poor, vulnerable and neglected of my adopted home struggled with daily.  Being in a position that I knew God put me in, a having resources to offer, but still feeling like what I was offering was a drip in the ocean. And calling on him, desperate, wanting to help people.  AND WHY WASN'T HE ANSWERING ME?!?
I got angry at God. Why was I hurting so much and he wasn't answering?! Why couldn't I do more?  Was I trying to work in my own strength?! I didn't want to be, but felt like I didn't have the strength to make it through the challenges of the days.  And He is a God of endless strength. So the disconnect had to be on my end, right?
Even after being away from it for a year now I still get mired down in hopelessness and discouragement more often than I'd like to admit. I don't even like to confess that because of the shame that always comes with it. But that is a topic for another post (or seven.)

Tomorrow I'm climbing on plane. I'm packed, international driver's license in hand, several currencies in pocket. Physically ready. But scared. Sad. Afraid. However, I really, really want to do this at the same time. Will you please pray?
I'm not even sure what to ask you to pray. I'd love to come back at the end of this short trip with a clear idea in mind of a place God is calling me to serve (or even a possibility or two that are divinely ordained, or even at least a sense I'm supposed to be living again in Uganda in the near future). But I'm not sure that is from the Holy Spirit. I need to learn again to trust, listen, wait. Be content in these circumstances. Be satisfied in God alone.  Thanks.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

So I really want to update this blog, not really because I have anything to share but it has been nearly 3 months so it seems like it is time.

I'm working regularly at Saint Mary's freestanding ER. I'd forgotten the joys of flu season... though it still isn't as bad a malaria season.

Rather than read my random ramblings anymore I'm just going to post some pictures from my brief visit to Uganda in December. Enjoy!


For my birthday I was given a jackfruit. It was a 20 pound fruit that took us literally hours to clean and prepare. Jackfruit is currently popular in the US as a "super food", though Ugandans just see it as a cheap staple. Usually it is just eaten raw but I'd wanted to try some other things with it We had so much that made four different recipes.  The pie was my favorite. We also marinated and stirfried it and BBQ even more. We were all a bit sick of it and I'm pretty sure there was still some left even after three meals and giving it away to 20+ people. 

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

My favorite christmas tradition

Decorating cookies!
One hot afternoon in Gulu we decorated several dozen cookies for them to eat but also to let their Ugandan friends experience for the first time!

Making salsa in Gulu

Christina, the kids and I spent several hours chopping, slicing and simmering in her small 100+ degree kitchen, You can kind of tell in these pictures how sweaty we all are. However, at the end of all our hard work we had 14 sealed jars of salsa (and a few bowls for dinner) to show for it. Hopefully it lasts them a few weeks!

Just a few more pictures

Making snowflakes to stay cool.

Izaac made dozens of snowflakes. We had them hanging all over the house.

Friday, November 3, 2017


Going from this to this might take me more than a week or two of orientation.  But I'm glad I have a job. I'm also glad for well trained co-workers and actual physicians calling the shots. I'm glad for adequate pain control for my patients so quickly. And what feels like unlimited resources. (Actual lab work?! A CT scan within 30 minutes of arrival?! ) I don't think we are in Kansas anymore Toto!
In other news I'm trying to stop carrying a water bottle in my bag all the time. Did you know you can get clean, safe, free water practically anywhere here?! And I think I can take my Leatherman out of my bag too. I haven't used it in weeks. So I guess that means I can also stop carrying it around. But we've been through so much together.....

Thursday, October 26, 2017

October Newsletter

Well, in the HTML publishing the newsletter is there. But seems like it isn't actually there. So maybe it is easier to just follow this link?  By the way, if anyone knows how to help me actually make this embedded feel free to let me know.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Always thinking about Uganda.

I've been I've trying to send this last newsletter out for a while now but I realized part of why this is proving to be so difficult is how final it feels. (Side note: If you didn't get my newsletter and would like to let me know, otherwise I'll try to put it on a post tomorrow.)
Anyway, I'm having trouble right now with these things that feel so permanent. When I first arrived back in MI I had to purchase a few things but I realized that in the back of my head I was always thinking these will go back to Uganda with me whenever I go, for example running shoes or underwear. But now I need to start to get some winter things, or other things that I'll never need in Uganda. Like a belt.
I desperately need one here for the pants I had in storage but none of my Ugandan skirts have belt loops.  So I'm having a terrible time bringing myself to purchase one. I'm using a piece of paracord right now, which I think is fine, but my mother rolls her eyes at every time she sees it and if even she is judging my fashion choices I guess I might need to reconsider.
Same with warm clothes. And work uniforms. Seems like I can go back to work at Saints Mercy Health with the 2.5 old uniforms I have remaining from eight years ago, right?
This block is for pretty much anything I need to purchase that I won't ever need in Uganda. Which is the same issue as this newsletter. I'm having such a hard time bringing myself to do it. To admit that I can stop thinking about returning to Uganda for a bit. To stop having Uganda impact all my decisions, purchases, etc...  But I want to know when I'm going back. I want to have a date, even if it is six months down the road. Because this all feels so permanent.  And I really don't like it.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Medical scams

A missionary friend just shared this video, discussing one of the many problems facing health care in Uganda. The video discusses how Chinese "clinics" are opening up around Uganda, telling people they can diagnosis and treat all their problems but are nothing more than scams offering fake but believable (for uneducated, inexperienced people) diagnostic testing and very expensive supplements as though they are medicine. This news reporter is right on.  She doesn't address the problem in locations outside of the capital where it is far worse because people have even less understanding of physiology and disease.
I've encountered these "clinics" in Soroti, not run by Chinese, but by Ugandans who are part of the scam. The patient gets hooked up to a "machine" which is nothing more than an electrical tester, and gets a very thorough and very bogus diagnosis. The practitioner then gives them a list of "medicines" that the patient "has to" take.  One family spent more than 500,000 for this (keep in mind that this is about $140.00 for a family that probably makes less than $20.00 a month) went home with a bottle of weeds. (and not the good kind of weed)
 But people are attracted to the testing and the confidence.  I often had to tell people the testing they needed was not available to them or that there was actually no treatment possible. (The best laboratory is 8 hours away by bus for my patients and even that lab can't reliably do things like liver enzymes or ABGs at all. There are about 5 CT machines in the whole country and one MRI. There are  only two places in the country people can receive chemo so needless to say we don't treat much cancer.  And people don't understand that there is no fix for things like cerebral palsy or downs syndrome.) People want to grab on to hope, no matter how unrealistic is is and this huge scam really preys on the most poor, most desperate and most uneducated.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Obule Youth Conf

200+ youth from around Soroti, singing, games, dramas, teaching, baptisms... it was a busy three days but well worth the work!

Closing the "rabbit project"

I've been doing an informal rabbit revolving loan project with a few of the girls I sponsor in school. This was a really nice "closing" to their project. I got to see their newest litter of six and "handover" two to the next loan recipient. Really, they need their mother for a bit longer yet but now the next girl will start planting rabbit foods so she has something growing when she receives the babies in a few weeks. And we butchered one of my many males and roasted him. They had not yet killed one. They keep selling then for money but I've been encouraging them to also keep some for meat.
They practiced and agreed it was much easier to kill/clean/prepare and taster than chicken.
 Janet, in the black shirt, is the current recipient. She has told me that having rabbits to sell (an income) helps the neighbors respect her. (She has shared with me in the past that because her mother is a prostitute she is often mistreated.) In the blue shirt, Vicky, will be starting. She had lots of questions and Janet successfully answered most of them. (Seems there is still a bit of confusion on how to tell a male from a female but at least eventually, the one that starts having babies is surely the female.)
Sorry that I don't have any pictures of all of us feasting (nine people on one skinny rabbit isn't actually my idea of a feast, but anytime these kids get an actual piece of meat, rather than some broth with just bones and bits of meat is their idea of a feast) but my camera battery was dead by the time I finally got it back after the butchering. They took 400 pictures but I'll spare you the other 397. But at least you get an idea of how much the whole event was enjoyed.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Too many goodbyes

Recently said good bye to these two families.
This is Judith, her little baby, Anna, was the one who died back in March. When I went to visit she told me she was worried that she was never going to see me again after the burial. We had a really nice time just sitting and talking. (Usually the women insist on rushing off to cook when I come to visit and we never get to actually talk.) She is still convinced that witchcraft killed her baby so keep praying for her faith in God.

And Ester and her mother. Theirs is the baby that died the first week of June. It was the hardest burial I'd ever been to. Ester is mentally ill but remembered me and was actually happy to see me this last time. (The previous two times I'd seen her, when she was in labor and when we were bringing her baby's body back she was combative and angry at me- understandably.) Her mother cried when I told her I was leaving Soroti and said I was the only person who had ever loved them. I know that with the stigma of mental illness they are often criticized by the community and discriminated against. Even the other midwife at the clinic wouldn't help them because of Ester's status They insisted on giving me a chicken and a bag of cassava because I couldn't stay to let them cook for me. I know how they are barely scraping by to feed themselves but they would not let me say No to their gifts. Please pray they would feel loved by God. 

(Because literally everything I own at this point fits in one of two bags and I have even handed the keys over to the landlord so I don't have a place to give this chicken water, I needed to give it away again quickly. Unfortunately, it overheated in the back of my truck on a typical Soroti sunny day but the town's resident homeless guy didn't care and happily took both gifts.)

Sara and Lazaro

I've written about these two many times. I went to see them one last time. Goodbyes are never pleasant but I was very happy to see that Lazaro had been provided a wheelchair and Sara's small business is bringing in a bit of money. She has an old school sewing machine she powers by hand and does a little bit of taloring. She also is selling a few tomatoes and onions in her roadside stand. We didn't get to see Sara's baby, Steven, because he had been sent away to an auntie's house because the family decided it was time to wean and that is how they do it here. But they reported he is growing well and is healthy.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Remember Jarod?  The little one year old with a head wound, story here.  His wound is really closing well. Still pretty malnourished but coming around slowly with some food support from Obule church. Praise God!

Monday, August 14, 2017

I've been really cut off lately. I got a new smart phone while in the US and it should have been rather straight forward to get it connected to a Ugandan network. But nothing in this country is straight forward. I needed to do a sim swap and went daily to the network shop and initially they didn't have 4G cards to sell. Then the cards arrived and the staff person who knows how to swap wasn't working and they weren't sure when she would be back. Then finally (after several days off) she showed up for work and she said their internet network wasn't fast enough to do it. Which, I should have seen that coming because for the first two weeks here I've had no internet to speak of. I mean, I paid 300,000/= (about $125) for data on my modem and it connected but it was too slow to even connect to e-mail. But, seems like I didn't actually want to be following the news this week anyway.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

On being anonymous

I have not been here long enough to miss pizza yet or even have gotten over my jet lag. But I already really miss some things from Michigan.  
Turns out the very first thing I miss from being in the States is being anonymous. I’ve gone for three runs since I’ve been back and I’ve already lost count of the inappropriate comments, the kids yelling at me or the people pointing and laughing.
A few weeks ago, when I was training for the tri, I had decided to go to the beach to do an open water swim workout (in Michigan). On the way there I couldn’t help but think, people don’t go to the beach alone, and they really don’t swim laps back and forth beyond the swim bouys, and people are going to stare at me. But, turns out, it didn’t matter. No one even looked at me twice. (Or if they did it was subtle enough that I didn’t even notice.) And I loved it!
Yesterday while in market several people welcomed me back. Which seems like it should be nice. But the conversations went something like this:  “You’ve been missing!” “Yeah, I went to go visit family.” “Next time, you take me with you!” or “I always want to go to America! Get me a ticket!” I kid you not, roughly some variation of this conversation happened three times. This seems to be a bit of a running joke with Ugandans. But it is not completely a joke. They say it to most foreigners and they mean it. They really want to go to America. But the truth is, very few of them will ever get the chance. So what is my response supposed to be?  Do I just smile and laugh?  However, I’m very sensitive right now to how unequal things are. I don’t find it funny that they will never be able to travel to neighboring Kenya, let alone America. And the truth is, they are actually sensitive to it too. They joke about it but only because it is something most of them really, really want. So, I really don’t like having this conversation. Especially with people whose names I don’t even know and who don’t know my name. Why is it OK that the guy I purchase meat from once a month demand I get him an airline ticket to the US?!! Yet, I can guarantee it will happen many more times this coming week. I would rather walk through market and not have anyone recognize me.
Here is another one. Still in the market, I was having a lady measure out 5 kg of rice for me (which takes a surprisingly long time considering she does it 200 times a day) when the lady in the neighboring stall picked up her toddler and pointed at me and said “See muzungu!?”  This is also very common.  Like if you saw a deer while driving you’d say to you kids “See the deer!?”  But they do it with white people. And they tell their kids that we will eat them if they are naughty.  I am not the bugy man! And I don’t think it is funny when you scare your kids with me.
Anyway, back to the lady measuring rice. While my hands were full with my other market items, and I was trying to make change to pay for my rice, and juggle the 5kg bag she was handing me, her young children, probably six and four came up to me and tried to greet me. They were actually pretty cute but I declined to shake their hands. So as I walked away I heard the two ladies talking about how terribly rude I was. And maybe I am. But I was going to have to set something down on the floor in the market to shake their hands.  And they were filthy. Their hands were covered in grime from playing in the mud. And the truth is those ladies would not have expected any Ugandan to shake their child’s hand in that situation. But all day long I’m expected to greet the children who are screaming greetings at me. Maybe I’m just being overly sensitive about this. But when a group of children in my neighborhood are playing (and they are always in a group!) One will see me and start yelling “Muzungu, Muzungu! How are you?!”  And if I ignore them they eventually go back to whatever they are doing (though not without yelling several more times in case I’m just deaf.)  My neighbors think this is terribly rude. I guess it is. But if I actually respond to them, every single one now has to ask “How are you.” I am not exaggerating. I will have to hear “how are you?” and say “fine” for every child there.  No Ugandan has to do this. Children would never scream at them as they walk or ride by.
And don’t even get me started on the inappropriate comments from young men. Let’s just say that “Hey baby, you’re just my size” is the thing said to me yesterday that bothered me the least. 

Ok, this rant has gone on far long enough.