Saturday, November 27, 2010

Beckie's birth story

So those of you who also follow my friend Beckie's blog you have heard about this already but for the rest:
A few weeks ago Beckie nearly got to deliver a baby. I was several hours away when our friend when into labor but Beckie got the call and jumped into action. The story is here Beckie's birth story  with pictures here and the close of the story here.
Part of me really wishes I was around at the time and then part of me is really glad I was too many kilometers away.... Life here is never boring!


It was pointed out to me that almost all of my pictures are of Nick working (though the one of the guys under the car is technically Ben and Dad but you really can't tell) so here are a few more pictures to show the other two really have done some work.

Benj made lemonaid.

Dad read the directions
Small additional note about the lemonaid- I was in the market about a week ago asking for lemons. I bought about all that were there because fresh squeezed lemonaid is so great here after a hot day of work. There are not usually very many lemons in market because so few Ugandans eat them but they grow well here. Somehow word spread that I was purchasing and the following day a guy came to my gate with a huge burlap sack on his bicycle full of lemons. I bought 2,000/= shillings worth from him. ($1). Now we will be having fresh lemonaid every day. And lemon bars. And marinade with lemons. And pretty much anything else that calls for anything of the citrus nature. All for $1.

Friday, November 26, 2010


 What a fun day. The team all got together, ate too much food and played a bunch of games. I’m very proud to say that the turkey turned out great. Dad and I got up at 5:30am to stuff the bird and squeeze it in the oven. But it was totally worth it. On top of the fact that it was my first turkey it was also the first time I’ve made stuffing and I was afraid with my limited resources here it wouldn’t be so good, but mom sent the necessary seasoning and it tasted just like home. 

 A little "American Football". Angie with the catch and Mandy with the tackle. We have a great team.

Even here- Indians and Pilgrims
 Just to add to Nick’s account I need to back up a little. Early last week I “ordered” a turkey from a local guy who promised he could get me one for 35,000/= (about $18). On Sunday at church I paid him for it. And but Tuesday night I was getting just a little frantic that I still had not seen it and now the guy wasn’t picking up his phone. I started asking all of my neighbors if they knew where I could buy a turkey. But, Wednesday around noon he arrived at my house in the back of a pickup truck. Though the price increased 10,000/=.  Within an hour the brothers had it ready for stuffing (with a little help from some local experts who seemed a little better at killing things than us). I’m now having neighbors that I’ve never met before come to the door trying to sell me turkeys. Here are a few step by step pictures. Some are just a little graphic though….

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thank you God

*A post from the youngest brother -Nick. Part of me is a little embarrassed to post this but I told him I'd put up what he wrote so here it it is. From his point of view. 

Well today we butchered a turkey. Needless to say that went about as well as you guess when 4 foreigners watch 2 Ugandan girls butcher a turkey. At one point Betty said “this is my first turkey” and Benj replied with “this is my first anything” or something along those lines. The girls laughed when we explained that American turkeys come in plastic wrap, cleaned and prepped with the giblets inside the bird in a bag. This ain’t no butterball but it will be so much better. Jennifer had her first opportunity treating the family today. With a something bite (spider?) on dad’s arm and discussion of stiches  to a minor cut that I still think she went a little overboard on the dressing but my assumption is that she is out of practice and needed to get the feeling back. She said stiches and I said spit on it. (To defend myself he trailed blood from the front door to the kitchen and back and I've seen infected foot wounds in this country. That dressing is not overboard. And as dressings go I'm far from out of practice Nick!)
As I sit in Jennifer’s dining room watching Benj and dad doing dishes and listening to Jars of Clay I’m struck by the closeness of our family. I have been more aware of how much I missed my big sister's guidance and maturity.  I’m once again in awe of the way my family functions almost seamlessly in her tiny kitchen of about 3 meters by 2 meters. My sister prepared another fantastic meal and I’m right back to hoping I grow up to be half as amazing as her. I think for now I will try to soak up as much from her as possible from her Settlers strategy to her ability to care for the children of this place. For all of you who aren’t here, in a way I pity you. This place is a complexity that I can’t even begin to define. It’s a place of wonder of excitement, of love and passion. A place where four boys can come to the yard and laugh and kick around a soccer ball so beat up that it only holds air for about a minute, a place where my clothes feel cleaner than they’ve ever been after being filthier than they have ever been. A place where every night my body seems to carry me just far enough to collapse into bed and still manage to rise in the morning with the strength to face another hot dry day. This is a wonderful place. Thank you God. Thank you for a family that loves you with such passion that it overflows. Thank you for a sister that has set an example that few others can claim. Thank you for two brothers who have toughened me and led me and been godly men. Thank you for parents who share love for one another as freely as they do with their children. Thank you for this place, this land, this earth that you have given us. Thank you for the wonder and the beauty. Thank you for a team that has evidently supported my sister as only a family can. Thank you God for I am blessed. A Jars song just came on that says this
Is it still my turn?
I think I'm the last one left to learn that the life I lose is the least of my concerns
Show me the beauty of a life 
No greater love
Can you say there's no greater love? 
Show me the beauty of a life laid down.
Thank you Lord for teaching me that in this place. Thank you for showing me the beauty in the foreigners in this land that don’t see themselves as such and aren’t viewed as such. Thank you God.

Doing odd jobs

The guys have been working hard on a variety of things. I remember growing up that we seemed to always be working on one of Dad's projects. This feels pretty much like that. The only things missing are mom making snacks and brining drinks (but Angie is more than making up for that!) and Chip holding up a ladder or holding down the floor cracking jokes (just kidding Chip!). Every once in a while I think that these guys are all set for a few hours so I could go work on something else. But then I think, they are only here for a little longer, I'd rather do what they are doing. So this morning I have blisters on my hands and cement under my fingernails. And I'm really happy.
Nick- sitting outside our local "home depot" waiting for the parts we "ordered" to arrive. 
Contemplating the deeper thing of life like why my generator won't power the fridge.  
Mixing cement
This job seemed like a ploy to lay down in the shade for a while. 

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Turkey day

I have to keep reminding myself that it is fall. It seems so strange to be thinking about Thanksgiving as the days keep getting hotter and drier.  But the holiday is nearly here and I’m determined to make a good turkey and enjoy the day. I can buy turkey here but let’s just say it won’t be frozen, it won’t have a sticker on it telling me how many pounds it is and it won’t have one of those little popup timers that tells you when it is done. As a matter of fact it will have the feathers still on and most likely will still be clucking Wednesday night. I don’t own a roasting pan and I’m afraid my oven is both too little and that it can’t maintain 450 degrees for 4 hours (Even though it is already usually 100 degrees in the kitchen without the oven on).  But these are all minor challenges to overcome. Dad brought with him poultry seasoning so the stuffing will be good and as long as the friends and family are near the day is going to be wonderful.  I’m glad my dad and brothers are going to be here (but mom, you might want to have a small back up meal planned when they get home with a little turkey and some of the other fixings…) and most of the team is planning on being around to play some football and eat together all afternoon.  I have so much to be thankful for and this is going to be another fun story to tell... 

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Dear Pam,

*Letter from my Dad to my Mom*

Good morning it is 6:30 AM Friday Saturday. Well, we made it to Jennifer house about 12 hours ago ate and went to bed. Sitting here the sun is coming up you can hear all manner of birds and chickens, else it is so quite (Jennifer's two cats are playing tag in the house). Jennifer is off running, Benjamin just got up, I have not seen Nick yet. Pam, I wish you were here. I feel so alive, it is new yet old, so different yet the same. I could close my eyes and be back in our home in Alale, it sounds the same. For the trip in GOD took such good care of us. Going through our security check, Nick droped his boarding pass and I left Jennifer's computer but we got them both back with no problems (Thank you GOD) It was so GOOD to see Jennifer at the airport, we got all our bags and NO customs, we were some of the first ones outside. Loaded into Tim's 7 passenger mini van all of our stuff on top of Jennifer's and Tim's stuff and two chickens in (felt like Africa). Headed off to our guest house for the night- very nice and clean. The van ride into Soroti, we left at 9:00 and then all the stops to get supplies on the way out of town, last stop pizza and flowers (for Tim's wife). On the road for real by 11:30, we had our dinner about 2:00 in a truck stop. Somosas, french fries, (in real animal fat) and TWO Bitter Lemons to drink, so close to heaven. The back ground sounds of big trucks pulling in and out, overloaded buses (rated for 67 and caring up words of 100 people, chickens not counted, I saw no goats on the buses) people hanging out the windows, talking to people on the road or other buses. Just like I remember. The ride after dinner I had a hard time staying awake and in that state of eyes shut and not fully asleep or awake (even I can not sleep fully in a van on African roads) I hear children's voice at play or herding goats by the road (the latter most likely) I hear voices of adults at the open air “strip malls” 15 feet off and parallel to the road, and every time the van slows or stops every open window is set upon by sellers selling every thing from single cigerates to phone minutes. I smell the burning trash (smoldering more like) then I smell cooking fires for roasting corn. This is all a mix of what I remember and what is really happening. I feel the pot holes and speed bumps as my head and shoulders bounce off the window and roof. As I come fully awake again I realize that I've been dreaming, picturing the way it was and the way it still is. So little change from 17 years ago.... I find that all four wheels of the van are in a pot hole, it is that big.
And my heart hurts to be back here.....

Friday, November 19, 2010

My Dad, Benj and Nick are here!

So their first full day in the country… it went well I think. Benj and I went for a walk in the acid rain of Kampala this morning to get breakfast for the group. We were pulled over on our way to Soroti and the officer asked for a bribe. And we had pancakes with mango syrup on them for supper tonight. Overall, a good day. We traveled without difficulty the 6+ hours from Kampala to my house. They all look pretty tired tonight and I’m sure between the travel and jet lag they are ready to call it a day. Tomorrow I’ll let them sleep in. Then Nick asked me to show him where the Home Depot is and we will start to figure out which projects they want to take on.

I’m loving having them here (although I suspect that Nick is looking for a way to get arrested so he has a good story to tell) and I’m sure these three weeks are going to fly by.

Monday, November 15, 2010


 The kids at Remembrance Church collected a big pile of clogs and sandals. Don and Marybeth brought a bunch of them and I had the privilege of handing a few of them out in the village today. These kids were so excited and I loved giving them something that was new and fresh and just for them. These kids laughed and sang. That part made it a wonderful afternoon.

Opio sang his thanks. I wish you all could have heard him.  
Only one not excited about her shoes. I think she became more excited about them as soon as I left. She didn't really trust me.

I left 4 pair, one for their mother and 3 for the brothers at school. They put them inside the hut and arranged them nicely so it would be a good surprise when they got back.  

*just a side note: the little guy on the far right on the very top picture is nearly blind and it was really sweet to watch
all of this brothers help him get his new shoes on the right feet.

Out to Katine

In about 30 minutes I'm headed out to Katine (the village) to see Lazaro again. He was so neglected last time it made me ill. I'm bringing more food, shoes, soap and am going to try to encourage his mother again (if she is there. Last time she had been away for two days- hence the neglect I'm sure.) It hit me how much I dread going there. I feel like I NEED to do something but there is so little I can do. He seems worse every time. And so painful and neglected. But I'm going this time to try to start him on formula. He is two years old so it seems silly but I think because he eats so slowly no one is takes the time to feed him well. And the family is too poor to have fresh milk. If I bring it to them it spoils so quickly. So I'm going to try formula. I don't have much left but the kid needs some kind of nutrition. This seems like a good safe source.
(Side note- for all of you who donated formula before I left THANK YOU!!! It was so good to be able to give it way. If you want to start gathering more for me that would be wonderful and I promise to figure out how to get it here and give it to those that need it most.)
I'll post again in a few hours to process I'm sure...

8:50pm Well, a little better than a week ago. Lazero was not alone, he was outside, had a bath and was being fed when we arrived. But still his mother was no where around. She had got the message that we found him neglected though and asked his older sister to stay home from school to take care of him. Sarah  also has Osteogenesis Imperfecta. Her legs have never been able to bear her weight and the bones of her arms are so deformed they are hardly functional. But she is very tough. She has learned to pull herself up onto the bottom of her wheelchair in order to get around. She is smart and tries hard in school. But then I hear that she has been taken out of school to care for her brother. I'm happy that he is more taken care of but I don't want her to miss school. I think she would do really well in the school for the physically handicapped. But I'm afraid of her leaving her home as she is Lazaro's primary caregiver. But she really deserves a chance. And maybe it is completly unrealistic to think that in any way keeping Lazaro in his home is best for him. So, what should I do?


11/9/10 4pm *I just realized that this one never got posted- I think I was still processing...
We took Don and Marybeth and other visitors to see Lazaro today. I've written about him and his family several times but haven't seen him in far too long. Today we arrived at his place and heard him crying in the hut but no one around over the age of 9. Lazaro is really skinny again, his little misshapen ribs stick out. He has infected sores on his legs and no wonder  because his little pants are soaking wet with his urine.  Thankfully he had no fever this time but he is clearly neglectected.  His mother was not around and hadn't been around since sunday. So he hasn't had a bath and possibly hadn't eaten. The other kids around hadn't eaten either. And there were about 15 kids just hanging around.  I brough with us posho and beans and it was all consumed without any difficulty. I just don't even know what to do. My first though when I heard that his mother was gone was to take him home with me tonight to provide that care that he needs. But we leave first thing tomorrow morning so it just isn't even a possibility.

Marybeth (Beckie's mom) feeding Lazaro posho and beans after the bath we gave.

Many other hungry kids were happy to share our posho and beans.

Saturday, November 13, 2010


My dad and brothers arrive in Uganda in 5 days and I have nearly finished their itinerary. I've put much planning and thought into this trip and while I want them to see the best of Uganda, I am very pragmatic so I want them to have a realistic picture of life here, not just tourist attractions. Here is a glimpse of what their next few weeks may entail.
For starters, when they arrive in the country we will need to spend a night in the capital city. I've stumbled on this little place to stay.
Sorry the picture is a little blurry, it says Ghetto Rest Inn- Bed, Breakfast and Fully Stocked Bar. Nice huh?
While we are in Kampla we will check out some of the wildlife.

For sure this place. Smiles Guaranteed! It's right there on the sign.
Of course, we won't waste much time inKampala and will quickly head out to Soroti.

There is much work to be done and my family likes to work. I have several jobs planned for them.
There are always tree roots that need to removed from the pipes of the septic system.
But most work in Uganda seems kind of like this.
Or this.
So it won't be all work.
I'll take them out to do some shopping for some souvenirs to bring home.
And we will have to go out to eat at nice, little places like this.
Clearly we will have to eat at this place more than once because we can get African food, Uganda food and Stake food.
But eating out all the time can get expensive so I'll be doing quite a bit of cooking for them. However, don't worry- they will still get local dishes because I buy local, fresh ingredients.

I'm going to stop here though as I don't want to give away too many of the suprises and take away all of the adventure of the trip. So you will just have to ask the guys when they come back about it. And if this tempted you just say the word and I'll plan a very special trip for you too!

Thursday, November 11, 2010


I write about the babies at Amecet fairly often. Paul is one that grabbed my heart immediately last week. The staff at Amecet blogs too so if you are interested in Paul's story you can click the link.  Unfortunately, he passed away on Wednesday.  I hate to hold these little ones and then hear of their deaths and know that they were so preventable.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Car trouble

Beckie said it well the other day when she comented that we have had two flat tires, a broken CV joint and one busted shock all happening in the driveway so far, but never once broken down on the side of the road. So I'm not really complaining when I talk about this latest need for repair. But here are a few pictures for grins and giggles.
They always leave the parts that they have replaced in the car when we get it from the shop so I take a picture of all the parts that we pull out of the car when we get it home. It make me laugh a little.
So on that note, we are about to hit the road again. Time to begin the treck back to the airport. We have several stops on the way so we are taking about 3 days to get to Entebee which will be nice. But will you pray for safe travels? Thanks!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Bulago Island

Here are a few pictures I've been wanting to post.
This first is the crocodile that I almost swam with.
He doesn't look so mean.

Boat ride to the island
These other two are a few pictures of the team retreat on the island. Thanks Tim for sharing your pictures!

Dorothy and Paul

I just met Dorcus' sister Dorothy, this morning. Dorcus is the 16 year old girl Beckie bloged about here (Dorcus) and I've mentioned before. She is frequently at our house. While our house help has been out on maternity leave Dorcus asked to do some work for us to make some money. She worked really hard and I felt bad because Helen is back and we really can't afford to hire both of them.

Anyway, Dorcus brought her little sister to me this morning because she clearly needed to go to the clinic but they don't have the money. I took one look at her and knew in my gut she is HIV positive. She has sores all over her little body. She was hot and complained of pain all over, clearly dehydrated from vomiting. I tested for malaria- negative. So I taught Dorcus how to make/use the oral re-hydration solution. I gave tylenol and motrin and explained when and how to use. We talked about HIV and I encouraged her to take her little sister to be tested. But then, very quietly, while looking at her hands, Dorcus told me she has a younger brother who is positive and Dorothy's father is positive and so is Dorcus' mother. Well, I think that answers that.

Then we sat and had tea and talked about other things.
Later in the morning we walked over to Amecet and I held little Paul. Paul seems to have thrush in his lungs. He has open sores around his mouth and all over his tongue. He has a feeding tube because the thrush is so bad he can't eat. He can't weigh more than 12 pounds at 8 months old. He had the worst retractions I've ever seen and I'm really afraid he doesn't have the strength to maintain his work of breathing. In that states he would be on a vent but that isn't part of the chance he's being given here. Instead we hold him and pray.
Now I sit at my computer and try to think of other things before going to bed....

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Black water fever

Well, always a steep learning curve around here....
I think I've diagnosed my first case of Black Water Fever. Good news is it's not contagious and the patient is well on his way to recovery.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The challange to get from Entebee/Kampala to Soroti

So we started our drive from Entebbe to Soroti with high expectations of learning how Jennifer and her friend Beckie live. Hello, my name is Don Hendriksen. Today I am guest writing in Jennifer's blog in hopes of explaining what it's like to travel in Uganda. Let me start with a single word; Unbelievable!

My wife, Marybeth, and I arrived in Uganda on October 27. We spent the first few days visiting with Jennifer and her roommate, our daughter, Beckie, along with members of the International team stationed in Soroti. We enjoyed helping the team do some team building while we looked after their children. It was a great way to meet the team and to get to know the children.

So now it was time to travel from Entebee to Soroti. We were very excited to see Uganda for the 1st time and to see how Jennifer and Beckie live. We were told that the drive would take around 6 hours and that the roads were not so great. “Not so great”??? An understatement to say the least. It was culture shock like I've never experienced. I thought the roads in Michigan were bad after a long winter. I thoughts the roads in Mexico were in bad shape. I thought I saw some bad roads in Kuala Lumpur. I hadn't seen anything till Uganda.

To start, there are potholes everywhere. Not just little potholes but large, deep potholes. Ones that swallow the whole car. There is no avoiding them all so you focus on avoiding the biggest ones. If a pothole is filled it's filled with dirt so it last only a week or two.

Second, the shoulder encroaches on the road so that what should be two lanes becomes only one with deep edges to catch a tire or two. It becomes a game of chicken with an approaching car, truck or bus. You stay centered as long as you can and at the last minute you see who gives in first.

Now add into the mix hundreds or perhaps thousands of bicycles, scooters and people walking sharing the same road. Some of the bikes have large items balanced horizontally across the back, using up even more road space. Some of the walkers are balancing large items on their heads while keeping small children in tow.

Now lets add in the trucks; lots of trucks. These are slow moving, overloaded trucks (hence the potholes). If it is dark, the trucks turn on their brights just before it passes.

Oh, and did I mention the cows? Yes, there are cows also sharing the road. Sometimes 20 or more are trying to cross. Sometimes it's just the lone cow or goat trying to join up with the heard.

Along the way we passed people in dressed all white suits, the police. They stand along the road to wave you down if they see a violation. When there are no police and no potholes, there are speed bumps. Lots and lots of speed bumps. Some are rippled, some are humps. And when the government can't afford to spend the money on speed bumps, the people in the village dig their own trenches across the road to create a reverse speed bump.

Now, add all this to driving on left and this American felt like he was in a very intense video game for 6 hours. I know now why Jennifer and Beckie asked that we pray before we left. The next time they say there are going to Entebbe to pick somebody up from the airport, pray for them. Really pray for them.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


Beckies parents, Don and Marybeth, are here visiting Beckie for two weeks and it has been so fun having them stay in our house with us. It is both interesting and kind of strange to experience life with them as I seem to have already forgotten how different life here is sometimes most of the time. We had chips and cheese for lunch yesterday- 7 months since I've enjoyed that wonderful snack. (They brought with them a block of cheddar cheese and the two pound bag of El Matador corn chips- thanks guys for the work it took to get those here!)
I find myself continually looking forward to when my dad and brothers can experience life with me. They leave Grand Rapids to begin the long journey in only 14 days!!!
We are without water again as the city water is back off. When this happened last month Beckie and I did fine. We rationed well, used our grey water to flush the toilet, washed our clothes in rain water and managed to still have a tiny bit of water in our reserve tank when the city water came back. This time may be a little different. There are four of us in the house now. We've needed to shower and I couldn't wait for rain water to wash our clothes as we had been on the road for more than a week (more than two weeks in my case) and we were running out of clean skirts. It hasn't rained in a couple of nights and I'm afraid that the tank will soon be dry. Don and Marybeth may get to experience going to the borehole to collect water with us if it doesn't come back soon....
Anyway, it will be a busy couple of weeks. I'll see if I can get some of these visitors to write up their experiences so you can see through their eyes. 
I have a few prayer requests-
  • Please be praying for Beckie's parents and their time here. Health, safety and great experiences!
  • Please pray for my Dad and brothers (Nick and Benj) as they pack and prepare to come. There are MANY things that need their time and experience (plumbing, electrical, carpentry and vehicle maintenance and repair) both for the team and our ministry partners. I'm trying to prioritise and prepare so we can best use their time to honor God in the short weeks they are here.
  • Please continue to pray for the team. We had a GREAT time away together. We want to continue to support and encourage each other in the work that God is calling us to to. We are also still facing attacks every day and need God's protection, guidance and direction. 
Praise requests-
  • Praise God that I'm part of such an amazing team. I really love this group that has become as close as family. God really blesses me daily through them and I can't even begin to imagine living here without these guys!
  • Praise God for all of the supplies that arrived with Beckie's parents. (and THANKS to all of you who sent stuff!) I got a bunch of much highter quality medical supplies (and now I can't wait to start the next IV with a cannula that will actually work!) and other things we needed. Only a very few things "got lost" in transit.
Thanks so much for your ongoing support, prayer and encouragement!!

The team last month on our team retreat. What a wonderful group!

Monday, November 1, 2010

One minute south of the equator...

Wow! God is so good. I feel so refreshed and renovated. I've been away from Soroti for what feels like several weeks now.  We arrived back literally an hour ago and it is so good to be back home. We picked up Beckie's parents from the airport and will spend the next week showing them around.

Just back from our team retreat. Several fun stories from that- like the afternoon I decided to go for a swim in the lake in front of our house only to be told by the staff that there is a crocodile that makes that a bad idea. Sure enough, the next day a good sized croc (7ft?) was spotted very near where I'd been swimming.

The house the team was staying in.

Hanging out, enjoying the sun.
More pictures and stories to follow soon but it is time to call it a night. We left from the island outside of Entebee at 9:30 this morning and have been traveling since then to get back to Soroti. Not a simple treck at all....