Monday, February 28, 2011

A day in the life...

Today is a good day to blog about, mostly because I haven’t blogged in a while, and I don't anything else to write about. It's as good a glimpse as any into life here, mostly because this kind of thing happens all the time. Usually I work harder to keep tasks like todays’ separate because I know they just will not go well. Today, well, maybe the heat is affecting my ability to think rationally…. Anyway, here was my day:
5:55am Already 80 degrees. Got out of bed, climbed out from under the mosquito net and sprayed myself with bug spray, grabbed a flashlight and my computer and headed out to the gazebo where it isn’t really any cooler but there is a breeze. 6am Monday mornings (10 pm Sunday night for them) I get to skype with the family.  I got the update on how everyone is doing and the latest gossip. Best part of my day. 
6:45 The sun is up and the temp is already climbing.
7:00 Attempted a run but got 10 minutes into it and felt too dehydrated to continue. Went home and drank a liter of water instead.
7:15 Broke a sweat doing the dishes.
8:00 Connected with the CLIDE staff with phone numbers and directions as they head out of Soroti for a spiritual retreat in Jinga that we were able to arrange for them.  (CLIDE is the organization that I will be working with in Karamoja.)
8:50 Headed over to SACAB (Soroti Association for the Blind- don’t try to figure out the acronym).   Angelina is the wonderful older lady who translates for me when I need help. She is blind and lives at SACAB. Back in October it was brought to my attention that their septic system was in desperate need of attention.  When my dad and brothers were here they did a bit of work there and we managed a temporary fix and at that time I tried and tried to arrange for a septic truck to come but it was a hopeless case. Anyway, I heard at the end of last week that there is one in Soroti right now and I’ve been trying to arrange with the local plumber to get them to come to SACAB. He called me Sunday morning and we agreed on Monday at 9 am.  
9:50 Still waiting for the septic truck to arrive. But I've had a nice hour talking and catching up with Angelina, Francis, Magdalena and other blind folks that live around there. We called the plumber and he said maybe 10:30.
10:00 I need to talk with Betty’s headmaster (principle) so I told the folks at SACAB I would come back shortly and went the kilometer or two out of town to Harmony primary school. Our meeting was good. It was mostly to communicate to him that I want to be involved in Betty’s issues so he has permission to call me if there is trouble at school.
10:30 As I’m heading back to SACAB I see a pig being butchered. Because I prefer my meat fresh (and it doesn’t get much fresher than that) and I like to choose the parts I get, I hopped of my bike and asked if they were selling. They put a chair in the shade for me and hacked a couple of kilos off.
10:40 I can’t leave 4 kg of raw meat in the front basket of my bike in this heat without consequences so I quickly went home to deposit it in the fridge and then headed back to SACAB.
11:30 Still no septic truck. Another phone call says they are coming but will still be a half of an hour. Suspecting that means 1pm, I told the folks at SACAB I have a few more things to do but will return again. Then, deciding that I’m sick of going everywhere in this blazing sun on my bike, I ditch the bike for the car. I head over to Dorcus’ house to check on the building of her brick oven. Last Friday I (finally!!) connected with the builder. I brought him to her place, dropped off a load of bricks and the steel box that a welder made for the inside of the oven, brought him into town, picked up cement and other things he needed and brought it all back out there. He was supposed to pour the slab Friday and by today it would be dry and he could nearly finish in a day. I wanted to check and see how it was going.
11:45 I get to Dorcus’s place and discover the builder left Friday after I dropped him off and he hasn’t been back. No slab poured, nothing else done. His phone is off and I can’t reach him. The up side of this trip is that Dorothy, Dorcus’ HIV positive 5 year old sister, is looking slightly better and I was glad for the opportunity to check on her.
12:05 On to Pamba Primary school where Sarah is now a student. (Sarah is Lazaro’s physically handicapped older sister).  I wanted to meet with her headmaster because Sarah told us she didn’t get a school uniform but when we registered her it was paid for. Well, the headmaster wasn’t around but I met with the deputy. He insisted that because my receipt didn’t say uniform that we had not paid for it so she had not been given one. It was too hot to argue with that logic so I just asked how I go about getting the girl a uniform.
12:30 I found a tailor in town who would make it without charging me a ridiculous price. I also get a call from Beckie asking if she could use the car to help some local women get water. (The city water has been off for a few days again now. The prices at the bore holes just keep going up. It is just too hot and dry to try to be surviving without water.) So because she was just outside of town and I was already in town I dropped the car off to her. I rode her bike back to our house, got something to drink and swapped back for my bike.
1:00pm. Back to SACAB. Still no septic truck. Surprise. Another call to them. Remind them they said they were coming at 9am. They said they were on their way.

1:15 Finally! They arrive, then open the tank and tell me it is “too full”.  Well, duh. That is why I called you.
I had been expecting to pay 90,000 shillings for the truck. They told me it would take 7 trips to empty it and it was 100,000 per trip. Yikes! I was not expecting this to be a 700,000 shilling expense! (roughly $350).  I told them we could afford two trips. So they got started. Within 15 minutes it seems the truck was full. They left to empty it. At the end of the second trip it had not hardly changed a thing! They explained to me it would be best if they could get it below the level of the pipe that drains the latrines because then they will stop backing up so badly. I told them to do another trip and I would go to the bank.
2:30 I headed into town, waited in line at the bank and biked back out to SACAB.
3:00. The truck is full again. But success! We can see the “water” flowing into the tank from the backed up pipes that run from the latrines. I debated in my head a little longer, then told them to make another trip. I feel like a job worth doing is worth doing right. I don’t know when, or even if, this truck is ever coming back to Soroti and now that they are finally here I want them to do it right. A total of 5 trips seems to have gotten the tank to a tolerable level. I called it good enough.
4:50 Home and into the shower. I would have liked a cold shower but our tank is black and I think the water coming out was around 80 degrees. But I’m not really complaining because at least I have a water storage tank and I didn’t have to stand in line at a bore hole and carry my water home on my head.
5:00 Betty is out of school and arrived here. She wants something to eat and needs mending on her school uniform. Fed her, listened to her day then sent her with a bike to get some of her family’s water from the bore hole (and the rest from our tank) and then locked the gate behind her and sat in the quiet sewing the seam back into her skirt. Then that 4 kg of pork- removed the skin and bone shards, sorted out “choice bits” for cat food, began rendering the fat and dicing up the rest to freeze.
6:30 Betty is back before dark to get her skirt and I haven’t even started cooking dinner. She helped me cut all of the remaining meat and she re-sorted for herself and brothers what I had deemed unworthy of human consumption and had set aside for the cats. She happily takes the bag of pork bits home to make her family's dinner.
7:00 What I wouldn’t give for a box of hamburger helper and hamburger. I don’t even like hamburger helper. I just like meals that take less than 45 minutes to prepare. 
And that leads me to now. A don't really feel like a missionary today. But what does it really mean to be a missionary? I'm glad I was able to help out the blind. I'm (mostly) happy to be here when Betty gets home from school and needs someone to listen. I'm glad to be able to check in on Sarah, Dorcus, Dorothy and possibly communicate to them they are valuable.  Tonight I'm content and I don't want to over think it.
A few more pictures because I'm a sucker for pictures:
The "hose".  It would occasionally start making a whistling noise  and one of the guys would walk its' length trying to find the source of the sound then he would wrap another bike inner tube around. I'm not convinced that there was any hose under there at all. 
The septic tank is in the center of SACAB's inner courtyard. I estimated 10 families/ 50 people live in this tiny space. The walls are lined with rooms that each family has one or two of and they all live together sharing the latrine, clothes line and pretty much everything else.
Everyone needed to check the progress. The kids especially needed to stand as close as possible and were fascinated. It was all I could do to not to tell them over and over again to back away from the sewage. Some orange cones and some caution tape would have been lovely. 

Friday, February 25, 2011


I just sent out my latest newsletter. Hopefully it is sitting in your inbox. But if it isn't and you want me to send it to you just let me know! (Sorry, I'm not techno literate enough to put it here. Maybe someday...)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Fear and Faith- by Nick

My brother Nick was here a few months back and he has done some processing and sharing and he taught at youth group related to some of what he learned here. Bonus- he chose to also share with me and now I'm sharing with you.

In the time i spent in Soroti i slowly became aware of something that at first i couldn't quite put my finger on. When i returned to the States and had some time to really step back and absorb what i saw i came to realize what it was that i had seen. Fear. Now when i say fear, i don't mean the emotion really, but the possibility of fear. Fear as an entity. The possibility and inevitability of being afraid. And the more thought and prayer that i poured in the more i came to understand that fear. The children i met have so much in their lives to be afraid of. We worked one day with a group of street kids who had no home but the gutter, until a shelter was provided. I met girls whose grandmothers were beggars, whose siblings they watched suffer with HIV, who had no guarantee of daily meals. And i saw the fear that lived below the surface of their lives. So often i saw these girls sing and dance. i saw them smile and laugh. And in later months i realized that through it all below it all was fear. There were times when amongst there songs and their laughter i saw i true joy, but in other times and vastly more often i saw a way to distract from the fears in their life. An escape from the reality. And the more i prayed and wrestled with this thought the more and more i became aware of the fear inside of me. What i came to realize was the fear below my surface the fear of failure, the fear of being alone, the fear of losing my friends and my family is the same the fear.

1 Peter 5:8  Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

The devil is that fear. He is my enemy, he is our enemy and he prowls this earth looking to devour us. He feeds this fear that lingers beneath the surface waiting to spring up and bring the tears to our eyes, to drive us to our rooms to cower alone and let the fear of this world wash over and engulf us. And with this realization came a few more. i realized the feeble ways in which we as a people choose to deal with this fear. Whether we choose to accept it or not we are aware of this fear. We are aware of its presence in the world. Aware that it exists beneath the surface. And with that awareness i've begun to realize that i want to hide from it. i want to stick my head in the sand and pretend it isn't there. i discovered that where the Ugandan girls i met used singing and dancing and playing to distract so do i. We use television, video games, books, jobs, school, sports and so much more to try and fend off that fear. To hold it off and keep it from pulling us under. And the girls i met used what they had to do the same.

This all came to light when i was asked to speak to the Jr high and Sr. High groups at my church on the topic of faith. And more specifically on Jennifer and Beckie's faith and their choice to become missionaries. My struggle with that was simply this: do i have any right to speak to jennifer and beckie's faith? I know my own and to a degree i know theirs but can i come right out and flat out say here is their faith and why they did it and why they continue? i decided that i don't.  What i could do was speak to the fruits of their faith and speak of my own faith. 
So as i wresteled and struggled with this fear and faith here's what i came up with. The best way to combat the fear that the devil has instilled in this world is through the hope, peace, joy and love of God. And i came to understand that if we stand firm in our faith, through us God will provide those fruits. God will grow healthy fruit in us.

Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

Through jennifer's faith she was called to Uganda. She pursued a medical degree in the hope that she could fill a need in the lives of the sick in Uganda. And as i was able to go and see the work what i realized is that she was sent to bring medical help but what was given by the Grace of God was hope. She told a story of two twins who had recieved their names because their father believed they would live. It was a family that was given hope. I saw the faces of people light up as jennifer would come and bring them whatever aid she could offer and in turn through her God provided a joy to the sick, a hope to the lost. It is through faith that the fear and darkness is being fought and it is only through God that it can truly be defeated.

Beckie was also called and she spoke of being able to take kids once a month to a place called Sisiyi falls. I was blessed to be able to spend a couple nights there on my way home and it is a place of such peace. It is a place where the beauty and glory of our great God abounds. Through beckie these kids are being given the opportunity to escape from the constant fear around them and experience the True Peace and joy that only God can offer.

1 Peter 5:8-10
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.

My challenge to our highschoolers was this. Stand firm in your faith. Know that throughout the world there are those who suffer. Offer your fears up to God and in faith know that he is a God who heals, who provides peace, joy, and love. In your faith dont ignore or hide from the fear but take a stand against with the knowledge that others stand alongside you. With the faith like a child you can move mountians.

Before i spoke that night i heard a song from Jars of Clay (Faith Like a Child- it was my prayer for the evening.

Dear God, surround me as I speak,the bridges that I walk across are weakFrustrations fill the void that I can't solely bearDear God, don't let me fall apart, you've held me close to youI have turned away and searched for answers I can't understand
They say that I can move the mountainsAnd send them crashing into the seaThey say that I can walk on waterIf I would follow and believewith faith like a child
Sometimes, when I feel miles awayand my eyes can't see your faceI wonder if I've grown to lose the recklessnessI walked in light of you
They say that love can heal the brokenThey say that hope can make you seeThey say that faith can find a SaviorIf you would follow and believewith faith like a child.

Thanks Nick for being willing to share your struggles. I love you and continue to pray for you!

Monday, February 21, 2011


I find myself preparing to compete in a Triathlon again....
I think God knew that I needed the focus of training right now. The race is one month away. I'm hoping for the Sprint but attempting the Olympic distance training. Last time they held this race they increased the distances two weeks before so I'd like to be prepared for anything.
What I'd like:
400 m swim
20 km bike
5 km run
Goal: finish under two hours.

But what I expect:
1500 m swim (I'm sure to drown, I think I've been swimming 8 times since moving to Uganda)
40 km bike (if I manage to drag myself out of the water still breathing this three hours on my bike is sure to do me in)
10 km run (if by some fluke I make it this far this 6 miles of running in the noon heat/sun will be the end of me- it is 100 degrees in the sun this time of year.)
Goal: finish.

You can look forward to the story that is sure to be coming about this one....

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Rat Saga- Chapter 3

So another bush rat was killed in our yard- not by me this time. But I'm proud to say I gutted, skinned and cooked it without too much difficulty. I'm a little afraid of myself, but these seem like good skills to be acquiring as I prepare to spend longer periods of time upcountry. I couldn't help but wonder what does one prepare as side dishes when one throws a dinner party with a main course of rat? And who should one invite? All of my initial invitations were rejected- first Val and Heidi (though they are in the wrong part of the country right now so I guess I shouldn't take it personally) and then teammates (see if I ever invite you to dinner again Josh and Mandy!) but we sent Betty home to see if she could find anyone who wanted to have dinner with us. She came back and said Abella's mother and sister were coming. Then Dorcus arrived and Agnes shortly after. So I quickly added two pots of rice to the already prepared beans and the rat that was already on the grill. All eight women admitted they enjoyed dinner, including Abella's mother who says now when she is in the village she will cook the rats she kills instead of giving them away.
( I know that some of you were protesting that this is disgusting. But I would like to point out that these bush rats eat pretty much the same thing as my chickens. And they don't lay eggs every day so they have a little more fat on them which makes for nicer meat. I don't have trash laying around, they aren't surviving on garbage so they don't carry any more disease than any other animal here. They are a good source of protein in a country where protein is at a premium. Besides- don't knock it until you've tried it!)

Peace in Uganda

Everything remains peaceful after the elections. Strangely peaceful. Buses aren't running. Local taxis are nearly empty. People are just staying at home. Saturday's run was the quietest I've ever had. Church was nearly empty this morning.
Today the results will be officially announced. We continue to pray for peace. It looks like Museveni has the overwhelming majority but we are hearing story after story of terrible election day practices. There were soldiers (the army is controlled by Museveni) staring and intimidating as people marked their ballots so peoplewere fearful to vote their true choice. Ballot boxes were "stuffed" (meaning that people got stacks of blank ballots, marked their candidate over and over then deposited all in the boxes when they were in line to put the one they received on that day). It seems that practically no one was able to vote in the place that they had been told to go but the persistent went to other voting sites until they found where their name was registered. The phrase "bought their votes" is used freely and openly here. It is well known, and well received, that candidates were giving cash, household items, or everyones favorite, alcohol, in exchange for votes. 
Besigye (the primary opposition)  is quoted as saying that he will call for "street protests if the process is not free and fair." He is also quoted in a news conference Saturday saying "It's already very clear there were widespread malpractices in the electoral process." 
Please keep praying for peace here in Uganda!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

I've been in Karamoja for the past week and I need to thank everyone who was praying. It was a great time! Besides the fact that I love hanging out with Heidi and Dr. Val and I laughed more than I have in the past month (mostly because I’m pretty sure Val was delusional briefly, but I have no proof) overall things went really well and it was a great adventure.
Sunday- We had planned to leave Soroti about 1pm but after loading the truck, then stopping to repair the truck, then driving, the last 3 hours of which without brakes (just down shift- it isn’t that big a deal) we reached Kangole pretty late in the night. 

Yep, looks like it needs repairs...
Monday- First thing in the morning we went on to Moroto and they did some vet work and caught up on office work. I got the challenge of finding “parts” to make the “autoclave” work. Success!

In the afternoon I began the process of meeting with other NGOs and humanitarian groups in the area who are involved or have been involved in medical work in the past. I myself am still trying to piece together what is actually supposed to be happening out there but the essence of what I’ve got is that some people (VHTs) have been minimally trained and are occasionally supplied with meds but really are  not checked on and there are  no health services to speak of. Several of the players have identified the biggest health problems out there but for various reasons nothing is happening. While the brakes on the truck were being repaired I met with UN WHO Doctor/director and the OCHA (UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) area coordinator who explained some of the biggest needs, issues and the training that they have done for villagers in the past. They say  however, that the roads are too difficult to manage (they are known to be very bad and impassable with most vehicles) so they have passed off responsibility to IRC. We walked over to the IRC office and discovered that the Health Manager was busy but could meet with us Tuesday. So headed to the government offices to meet with the District Health Officer (DHO, with the Ugandan Ministry of Health) but was told he was over at the hospital. It is a good thing the city of Moroto is small. Walked over to the hospital looking for him and was directed from outpatient care to the eye clinic and back around without success. The CLIDE staff member I was with tried calling him but we were told the work day was almost over and to come back Tuesday. I did get a chance to meet the SPNO (senior principle nursing officer, aka head nurse) but she doesn't know much about the resettlement camps.  So we called it a day and headed back to the office to rejoin Val and Heidi. We drove back to Kangole to spend the night there. One might think that would be the less eventful part of the day but 10 pm found us standing under a thorn tree full of guinea fowl, looking for a cobra, while listening to the yells from a raid going on. In my journal I wrote “can still here the trills and undulations that are communication from one manyata to another about the raid. Warriors have probably struck more than one. Heidi and I had planned to run at sunrise but Val has said no because the military might be mobilizing to track the attackers at that time so I guess we can sleep in.”
Tuesday morning we drove back to Moroto and began in the morning to try meetings.  Back to the government offices to find the DHO- “not in this morning”. We left our contacts with his secretary. Over to the IRC offices- he is “in the field today.” But we did manage to meet with the program coordinator who didn’t know much about the villages but he could tell us a little about the medicine boxes they distribute. He said they have not distributed in “a while” (6 months) due to logistics problems (decreases in funding) but he did know they wanted to be offering quarterly training to VHTs and meet with them monthly. He didn't however know when that was expected to start. So we hiked out to the UNICEF and World Food Programe offices. Met with their Health and Nutrition Specialist. They explained they have selected and trained VHT’s, possibly different ones than the WHO trained a few years ago and couldn’t give me the list for who has been trained (I have to get that from the DHO who I still can’t seem to track down) but could tell me that malaria, diarrheal diseases and malnutrition are the biggest issues in the area where I’m headed. From there we went out to visit CUAMM (Italian group- also called Doctors with Africa) who have a strong desire for partnership and focuses on health care training of nationals.  We had heard that they were attacked while traveling out there a few months ago, so due to the security situation, they had not gone back and were not planning on it. I wanted to hear the issues they had and see where they had left off. Their office had an ostrich and a swimming pool but no staff to be found so we wandered around a little then decided to come back later. Headed back to the office. Did some vet work with Heidi and Val and then, right around supper time learned that the truck has had three flat tires and the repair place isn't open any more. Val carries two spares but they just weren't enough. So we hung around the office for a while longer then scrounged up a mattress and a few blankets, half a Jerry can of water and a lantern and when to check out the hut that Val occasionally uses when she is stuck in Moroto. It needed some serious sweeping but it had a bathing shelter and was a roof over our heads.  
Heidi waiting while Val makes the hut clear enough to sleep in. 
Wednesday- One last trip to the DHO- “has started his leave for elections won’t be back until Monday next.” And to IRC. “He was in office earlier but I think he will now not be back until after elections.” So we called it a day. More vet work, waited while the tires were repaired, other office odds and ends.  Took a couple of hours to evaluate what CLIDE has accumulated as supplies for the VHTs and was really happy to see some of the basic equipment like thermometers, good scissors, dressing supplies they already have. Then we headed back to Kangole. Chocolate and warm water for bathing waited for us there. So nice….
Thursday- We all traveled out to Matany Hospital (the regional referral hospital and best in the area) to see who we could meet with there and find out what they do in the settlement areas. We didn’t get a chance to meet with the woman who coordinates because she was out at one of the peace villages (amazing!) but we did get to meet with the doctor who thought partnership was a realistic possibility. After meeting with all of these humanitarian groups, this hospital seemed like the place where the most is happening that will really impact villagers. We also discussed the idea that I could do some work at this hospital (the cleanest, best staffed, most organized that I’ve seen in all of Uganda) over the coming months to learn more, build relationships and have a better sense of medical services in the area. Possibly even work towards getting my Ugandan Nurses license? In the evening we just kicked back at Val's place to rest and discover that Val was developing a probable case of Malaria. Seemed like perfect timing for me to head back to Soroti!
Friday- Hopped on the 6 am bus which was actually a 7:15 bus and got back to Soroti around noon. 

So this was a really long blog to simply say it was a good week. We made big strides in laying the ground work for what needs to take place out in Nakayot. Next step: a trek out there!


I love animals and one of the (many!) things I enjoy while hanging out with Dr. Val and Heidi is the “projects” they get involved in. Like bathing and deworming 7 puppies. And surgery. And living in their menagerie.
Practicing animal medicine is surprisingly similar to human medicine. And at the same time so very different. Sterile has an entirely different definition, meds are calculated with slightly less precision and overall their patients complain a whole lot less.

Isn't that cute?!
Surgery- Heidi with Dr Val supervising
Milk on their faces!
Guinea Fowl
"Can you remove that fly from my sterile field?"
How can you not feel all is well with the world!? 


Friday, February 18, 2011

Uganda Votes

Today is the day Ugandans decide who they want in leadership for the next 5 years. As I ride the 5 hours from Kangoli to Soroti I see them “queuing up” at schools, army barracks and government buildings to “confirm their particulars.” Tomorrow will it be Museveni, the dictator for the past 25 years? Or will it be Besigye, leader of the opposition party and retired army colonel and former friend of the president? If Besigye gets the majority vote will Museveni quietly concede power? If Museveni wins out will Besigye not instigate a revolt but claiming the election was rigged?  I guess the people aren’t really deciding.  The elections are going to be skewed because of military presence everywhere in the country intimidating threatening people. But the big questions is, overall will there be peace?
About 6:50 am. Waiting for "poles" to open.

Later in the morning, a crowd beginning to form at this site. 

Just a few more posters...

Sunday, February 13, 2011

How to prepare bush rat

Yep, we ate it.
Story here:

I can't believe I'm even going to write this but it was good. Better than the chicken here and far better than goat. I would eat it again if offered.

Friday, February 11, 2011

The rat saga continues...

So as if this all wasn't crazy enough (how the story starts : now we are going to be cooking it and eating it. I guess you can't let that much "good" meat go to waste. This is Heidi- vet student and future surgeon at work gutting our not so little friend.
Even the neighborhood kids agree this is the biggest one they've seen

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Future adventures?!

The future has some exciting opportunities! CLIDE  is ready to begin the process of starting a clinic in one of their remote peace villages and they have asked me to be a part of the project.  We are still in the midst of discussion and praying to figure out what that would look like but at this time I'm planning on spending about a week a month working with the locals about 5 hours from Soroti. Here is Dr. Val's most recent communication to me:
 We went to Nakayot over the weekend and had a very good visit.  The communities were organized and interested in the discussions.  They only shouted and fought briefly.   And then it was shouting at each  other anyway, which is normal in Karamojong society.   They showed us the location of the future medical facility, which we hope to begin by the end of the month.  It will just be a semi-permanent structure to begin with.  There are 4 trained VHT’s (Village Health Teachers) and 4 others that we trained in Iriiri.  There is also one TBA there.  We also started construction on the local school, which will also be semi-permanent.  We have funds for “appreciation” for 5 VHTs and 5 teachers for one year, not full salaries though.  We pray that at the end of the year, the government will be able to come in and assist to a larger degree.  We will be going to the DHHS, WHO and UNICEF later this month  to check on potential overseeing clinical officers/doctors and medicines that may be available. We will do the same for the school, with visits to UNICEF and the DEO.  My prayer is for favor with these organisations and for God to open the way for His glory and love to shine through to the peace villagers.
Please pray!


I'm just sitting here, in the house, quietly writing and I hear what I thought was the cats behind me eating some food I put on the floor of the kitchen a while ago. I mutter something about how they they don't usually eat that loudly and turn around to see the biggest rat ever! My first though is "I didn't think they had opossums in Uganda".  I quickly closed the door, chased it into my room, then smashed it with the mop. I had to hit it more than once and I've wrecked my mop.  But it is dead. The cats were both hiding under the bed.  In their defense however the rat really does weigh more than they do.
Right then. Time to get that screen door fixed....
Per the brother's request here are a few more pictures.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

If you can't say anything nice don't say anything at all.

I told myself I wasn't allowed to post again until I was able to be more optimistic and positive so I was worried that it was going to be a while.... I'm mostly joking as I write that but I was reminded several times today of something I'm very appreciative of that I've  neglected appreciating lately.
I have a team that absolutely rocks. I don't really know how to put this as strongly as I feel it. I'm such a long ways away from family but this team has become family. I left a lot of friends behind but I count everyone on this team as a friend. This is a great caring, supporting, loving group and I couldn't ask for more from you guys! God has really blessed me and I appreciate you all! Thanks for putting up with me lately....You really do rock and I'm glad that we are all in this crazy adventure together!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

In which I went out to see the twins and find myself discouraged… again.

Time for an update on the twins. Last week, while teaching out in Amuria, I received several phone calls from their father telling me that they were out of milk and could I please come. I explained that I wasn’t able to come, that cow’s milk would be OK for this short time and I would be free the following week. I got a phone later from Helen, the one who first told me of the problem, that the babies were sick and wouldn’t stop crying. So on our way home Thursday, I met Helen along the road (it was supposed to be the father waiting for us) and gave her a can of formula to give to them out in the village. Then I went promptly Friday morning. They were seriously dehydrated and lethargic when I arrived. I asked the mom if they drank any the previous night when she received the formula and she told me they were tired so they only took a little.  Soooo…. did some more teaching while encouraging her to feed them every two hours for a couple of days. I asked her why she didn’t supplement with the cow’s milk and was told that the owner of the cow often gets drunk and forgets to milk her or keep the calves away so there is no milk to be had. I told them that while I’m happy to help, they have to try to feed the babies something even if I haven’t given formula.  While we were talking I fed Apeo. She really needed some encouragement and she struggles with the cup but she managed. Ochen did well also. He continues to be half a step ahead of his sister.
Ochen Joseph getting a diaper 
So, today I went back. I haven’t had the car (Beckie has it in Kampala) for a little while so I’ve been riding my bike. It takes me about 45 minutes to ride out there and I meet Helen (my translator), and we walk the last mile or so together. On our way through the village center, Helen saw the father of the twins sitting in the shade. So, we headed over to him. He was drunk, sitting with a group of men around a pot of booze. 
This isn't today so the father isn't in this photo but
 unfortunately this is a pretty common sight around here. 
We told him we were on or way to his house. He laughed, said something I probably didn’t really want translated anyway and we walked on. As we neared the home we could hear the babies screaming. This seemed like a good sound. If there were strong enough to be expressing their displeasure this loudly they must be doing better. We walked within the huts and found the mother collecting fire wood to build a fire. She said the babies were hungry but she didn’t have any boiled water for them yet. (their water comes from a bore hole- it has to be boiled to keep the babies from getting sick) Helen and I scooped them up and tried to pacify them while their mother built the fire and got the water up to a boil. Their mother, Elda, was alone there. Her other kids are in school and we knew where her husband was. Finally, their cups of milk made and cool enough to drink,  Helen and I fed them. Elda sat in the shade with us for a second but her hands were empty so she got back up and went over to a mountain of cassava waiting to be cleaned and peeled so it could be dried. 
Elda trying to work her way through this pile of roots before they all rot.
Cassava is also called Manioc in other parts of the world- it is a woody, root that is a staple of the diet here.
  It has starch and a little vitamin C but not much else.
Elda told us that she had hoped to sell this pile but it was beginning to rot so she wanted to just get it so that she could dry and save it. She’d been working on this pile for two days. Then she told us she probably wouldn’t finish today because she still had to wash the babies clothes and diapers and she had not yet gone to get water. I think Helen volunteered the use of my bike to go get more water from the bore hole (even though Helen translates for me there are still significant parts of the conversation that I don’t get- which is fine. Ignorance really is bliss.) So Elda took off with 3 empty jerry cans and my bike and by now Mary was sound asleep so I decided to try my hand at peeling this cassava. Helen laughed and told me I was going to cut my hand off but finally she showed me how. It is hard work! The root’s covering is tougher than bark and it all has to be scrapped off so that the starchy white inside can dry to be ground into flour. I had done less than a dozen when my hand started to cramp. But Helen seemed to think that helping Elda a little was a nice idea so she pitched in also and between the two of us we had a basin full by the time Elda got back with her 60 kg of water (132 pounds on the back of a bike- which she would have done in 3 trips on her head if not for the bike). So, happy for the excuse to put down the cassava, I pitched in with the wash. The ladies thought this was hilarious also but I do know how to scrub and baby clothes are pretty straight forward. Soap, scrub, rinse, rinse again, toss over a tree branch to dry. By the time the wash was done the babies were ready to eat again but at least this time there was boiled water ready. Though I did notice that the fire wood pile was almost finished so when she needs to boil again she is going to need to chop some more. 
Well, this post has wandered on long enough. I was quite happy working with the ladies and taking care of the babies but it was nearing 1pm and the sun was high in the sky. I had quite a ride home ahead of me yet so once again I promised to come back. Today was a good reminder of how hard these women work.  I really believe Elda wants what's best for her babies but she is fighting an uphill battle. With her husband drinking away all their money there isn't anything left to get milk. She works from sun up to sun down to try to get ahead but with two babies who need to eat every two hours she doesn't have a chance. Everything here takes so much labor and time. I'm really worried about these two little ones. The are still so small that it could be a touch of malaria or just a little bad water that does them in. They are not catching up as fast as I'd like and their mother is too dependent on me to provide what they need. What if I'm in Karamoja next time they run out of formula. Is the father going to let them die because he won't go somewhere to get milk? 
O.K.- Whatever I write tomorrow it will be optimistic, positive and encouraging. Enough of this already.  

Monday, February 7, 2011


I don’t really know why but lately I find that I get discouraged so easily. Maybe discouraged is the wrong word, disheartened might be slightly more accurate. I’m not sure why and I don’t really know how to change it but this post isn’t exactly about that anyway.  I just noticed it again this evening and found myself wondering about more. But here is why I noticed….
Last week Monday school started back up again. (This is not the discouraging part. As a matter of fact remember that old Staples commercial where they are playing the song “It’s the most wonderful time of the year” while the dad of these two kids skips through the store and tosses school supplies in the cart? I completely resonate with that right now. The kids have been out of school since well before Christmas and it was so time for them to go back. But this isn’t the point of this post either. Good grief, focus Kragt!) Betty, one of our most regulars around here, was in Primary 5 last semester. Their new school year starts now, so she should have been moving up to P6 but she completely failed all of her final exams. (Beckie and I have some strong suspicions that she has some serious learning disabilities on top of the fact that she attends one of the worst schools in Soroti and she has been passed up a grade every year despite the fact that she is completely illiterate and her math skills are nearly nonexistent.) Not her fault at all that she failed. She seemed to be trying, but too many things were piled against her. So, she was told that this year she wouldn’t be promoted up a grade. I had decided that I was willing to pay the higher fees to get her into a better school before she missed the opportunity and would never learn to read. So, last week she started in a new school. She was excited and I was optimistic. At the time of "registration"  there was no room for her in P5, the class she was to repeat. Based on her test scores, it was determined that she would do P4. She is technically old enough to be in P7 (though that matters little here) but she is now doing primary 4. 
She came over this evening after school and I offered her milk and cookies. She sat down and told me that she had to work through both of her breaks because she works slowly so she didn’t get lunch today. Considering that she had inhaled the cookies and I’m not sure the milk even touched the cup between the carton and her mouth, I pulled some rice out of the fridge, which she willingly ate plain and cold then a banana. I asked her why she hadn’t gotten to eat. Her response was that they had to make a list of 20 words that started with W before they could go out of the classroom. In her past school, if the student doesn’t know an answer they get caned. She assured me a few days ago that they don’t beat students at this new school.  But this seems almost as bad. If a student doesn’t know the answers, struggling alone all through the lunch break is going to help!?! So I grabbed a pen and slid a paper over to Betty. I told her we would make the list now and she would bring it in tomorrow. She took a deep breath then asked me what she should write. Words that start with W, I said. Ummmm, she paused. Then she asked me how to spell shopkeeper. My turn to pause. Does that have a W? I asked.  Oh dear. She thought it did. So we made the w sound for a while and I gave her a few examples. With help she managed to write a few words but she was tired and having a hard time focusing. I let it drop and we went outside where she filled her jerry can of water, hefted it up on her head and started her walk home. She looked as dejected as I felt. She will probably "work" through lunch again tomorrow. 
Betty is the one in the white shirt. I'm sure she feels a bit like learning to read is as hard as pushing this rock off the side of the mountain. 
These pictures were taken a week or so ago when Beckie and I went for a hike with Betty and Abella one evening around sunset before they went back to school. 

Teaching in Amuria

Where to even begin? I know I’m going to try to describe this past week and some of it will just be lost in the re-telling. But I’m trying anyway.
Josh ( has seen a need for HIV teaching with the pastors and church leaders that he interacts with. There is so much false teaching and misconceptions surrounding HIV here. This fuels discrimination and stigma. But 30% of the population of Uganda is HIV positive! (Statistics vary from source to source but it is nearly one in three people infected.)  That was what we spent almost the whole first day talking about. What is stigma? Discrimination? How does the fight against stigma make a difference?  All of this brought up many discussion points.  (This group LOVED to discuss and ask questions!) Why are people afraid to go get tested for HIV? There is a widely held belief that HIV is a divine punishment for sin. I can’t honestly say how many hours we spent discussing blaming and victimization. Then there was question time. Here are just a few of the questions that were asked:  A woman who has never tested positive for HIV but has “killed” 5 men. Is she a carrier?  Where did HIV originate? How about a man's sexual hunger? What about circumcision, does it really keep you from becoming positive? What if one gets HIV in marriage, then what?
Oh, dear. I’m in over my head!
Tuesday was a new day with the topic that I was most looking forward to. The biology! What is the immune system and how does it work?   What is HIV, why is it different from other diseases and why do we as a church even need to talk about it? This all seems pretty straight forward to us but for all this to make sense we needed to start pretty basic- germs, bacteria, immune response and work our way up. We did a skit to represent how the health immune system works and how an immune system compromised by HIV can’t do its job. We discussed how quickly it spreads when a few people are sleeping with a few other people. This day had it's own set of astounding questions. 
Wednesday was prevention.  We discussed so many false beliefs like getting HIV from sweat and how condoms are not actually “safe sex”.  We had to keep going back to the (only) 3 ways HIV is spread. (If you want to know what these are just drop me an e-mail and I’ll send you the notes :-)  We also spent most of the afternoon talking about how to live with HIV. I only knew of one member in the group who was positive but am sure there were more, whether or not they knew their own status. In a room of 50 people, statistics say at least 15 of them were positive. We spent a long time talking about ARVs (the meds used to treat HIV) and there were MANY questions on this leading me to believe that some were already taking meds and others were anticipating being on them.
That left Thursday and end of life care. I’ve seen firsthand the neglect that takes place in the days and months before death. When a person can no longer care for themselves they are left to die, often not succumbing to the disease but dying from dehydration and neglect. We talked about going to visit, encouraging families, and discussions that can take place.  How do we encourage people and restore hope? One of the most common answeres was tell people that it is God’s plan. Yikes! I’m not sure I would find that reassuring at the end of my life! So we discussed. And came up with other, possibly more encouraging, things to share with people. 
Honestly by the end of the week I was tired. More tired than I’ve been in a long time. But as I look back on all the good discussions that took place (and forget the bad answers to questions posed) I’m encouraged.  I’m glad I had this opportunity and am already reworking my notes, studying up for all of those questions I didn’t anticipate and figuring out when I’ll do it again.  
One of the neatest parts of the training that is offered is that at the end of each day the participants have to write an action plan. These plans ranged from holding a youth conference to educate on stigma, to visiting people in their homes near the end of life.  In a few months I’ll go back and these folks will all report on how their action plans worked out and what challenges they faced.  I have no idea what their reports back will be but I’m looking forward to hearing of the work that God does in their lives and in their communities. 

Saturday, February 5, 2011

That blog post that I promised is coming... but I'm putting it off a bit longer. Josh wrote this article about our time and it does a really good job describing what we were doing.

 The first week of February found Jennifer Kragt, a teammate of ours, and I gathered with 44 church leaders in Amuria. They didn‘t seem to mind the 100 degree heat or the dust being blown through the church building by the wind. I have been meeting with these pastors for three years but felt unable to equip them in the area of HIV / AIDS training. Thankfully, God raised up Jennifer for that task. 
 Who were the church leaders who gathered for this training? Elizabeth was a young mother who is also the women’s leader in her church. She also happens to be HIV positive. John is assistant pastor in his church. Twenty of his church members live with HIV. Charles pastors a small village church where only two of the 25 members are known to have HIV; however, nine of his nieces and nephews were orphaned when two of Charles’ brothers died of AIDS. Martha, prayer coordinator, has watched her sister battle HIV. (Names changes for privacy’ sake.)
 HIV touches every person in Uganda. Some statistics indicate more than 30% of the population is HIV positive. Yet Bible-based training related to HIV is extremely rare. That is why I was excited that Jennifer, a nurse by profession, was willing to teach this course. In four days she taught about fighting stigma and discrimination related to HIV; the truth about how HIV can spread and how to prevent its spread; how to remain healthy after contracting HIV; and caring for people near the end of their life.
 After learning about each of the four topics, the church leaders divided into small groups to make action plans. Please pray for these 44 church leaders in the next three months as they carry out their plans to fight stigma, train youth about preventing HIV through abstinence, help people live positively, and care for the dying. 

Friday, February 4, 2011

For those of you who knew me back in my IIU days and would give me a hard time about riding my bike to work every day, I though you would find this funny. This is the back of the church where we were teaching this week. Many of the attendees rode every day. Josh and I did too.  I’m happy to report that my ride is the one in the middle. 

I'm sorry that it has been a while since the last post. I want to tell you all about this past week and I promise I will but as usual I need to do some processing first....