Monday, October 31, 2011

I need something?

Medicine on the ground being sold at the Arapi market. 

I was sitting with some fellow missionary nurses over lunch commiserating about some of the struggles we face.  I was just sharing with them that it isn’t uncommon for a mother to bring me a child asking for medicine but after I assess the child it is pretty clear that they don’t need meds. They have a viral respiratory infection or colic and just need fluids, rest and time. But Ugandan mothers HATE to hear this. They want medicine for their child. They believe they HAVE TO HAVE medicine.  The one instance that I was thinking of in particular the grandmother came to me for advice. I rode my bike to their home and assessed the baby. She was 3 months old and had a little cough but nothing else. No fever, eating fine, lungs clear, etc. I reassured them that the baby was healthy and tried to explain that she was too little for cough medicine so they just needed to give it time and it would clear up.  I learned that a few hours later they took the baby to a local midwife who sold them medicine for malaria. I wanted to scream “You don’t need that crap!” (For so many reasons this kind of thing drives me nuts. This baby didn’t need any medicine and really didn’t need malaria medicine. It is too hard on her little kidneys, and just generates resistance.)  I was talking to the other nurses and they were saying they see the same things in places they work- Egypt, Haiti, Ethopia. People have this idea that they NEED medicine for something.  Then one of the nurses said “don’t we all?”.  She was speaking more metaphorically than medicine and she is right. I know there are times that I’ve gone to God and told Him I’m tired or worn out or frustrated and He tells me to just rest in His presence. That I need to rehydrate and take time. And instead I try to heal the struggle with food (chocolate!! ) or entertainment (I’ll just toss in a movie) or something else. And God is saying “What did I just tell you?! You don’t need that crap!” I am developing resistance to God’s voice and it is hard on my soul to seek to satisfy outside of what God provides for me. He tells me to  come rest in Him but I choose other “medicines.” I’m sorry Lord when I don’t listen to you and try to heal the hurts in my life with things outside of what you say. I know you are the great healer and have only the best in mind for me. Teach me to just take time and rest in your presence. To hydrate in the springs of life and to really understand that I don’t NEED those other things.  Amen.  

Sunday, October 30, 2011

North Carolina

I’m here in lovely North Carolina learning more than I have since first semester of nursing school.  We start class at 8:30am and generally leave the classroom between 9:30 and 10 at night. (Longer if you want extra time with the teachers on a topic.) But I’m not complaining because I’m learning a ton and I’m sure this is going to help as soon as I head back to Uganda. No, I have a much different thing to complain about. I am not ready for winter!!

It sure is beautiful. 
But I haven't been this cold in a long time!!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Rats and traveling

*Several have asked for a bit of clarifying about the rats that were referred to on FB.  Here is the gist of the story....
Uganda has rats. It is just part of life in Soroti and we get used to them. Bec and I own a cat who does a lot to keep us from experiencing them but occasionally, like when they are bigger than her or when she makes a gift of their carcass, then we are reminded of their presence. The day before I left was one of those days. Like most cats, ours loves to play in suitcases and I have had several out while packing. Friday morning I noticed her playing in one but didn't think more of it. I should have. This was only a few hours after I'd seen her hunting and killing a small rat outside the house. Come to find out she didn't eat it but carried it in, played with it then left it in my suitcase. Saturday night I smelled something dead and looked and looked for why my bedroom would be smelling so bad. Finally I remembered seeing her playing in the suitcase and the pieces came together. I really only had to search the bag for a second or two to find it. It stunk! Tossed the rat into the garden, washed out the bag and the clothes but it still stunk. So I turned the fan on to air out the room. Then called it a night as I had to drive more than 7 hours the following day.
There is the little guy. Thank you so much cat for packing that for me. 
I was awake several times in the night, each time thinking how much the room still stunk. I even got up once and adjusted the fan. Woke up in the morning actually nauseated from the smell but it was 5:00 am and I had a ton to do and was too sleepy to really process. As the morning got underway I didn't notice it as much. Then I was taking my sheets off my bed before leaving for 3 months and found a much bigger dead rat in the bed. Wrapped up in the sheets and the mosquito net. Sick!! I yelled the cat's name in absolute disgust. She came running, jumped up on the bed, dragged the rat out then looked at me like "Oh, yeah. Forgot to tell you I left you a little going away present. Here is a dead rat."
Not a great picture but you get the idea. 
So then when a UK border control working dog sniffed out my bag in Heathrow airport in London I had to decide if I was going to explain this or not. I don't know why the dog selected my bag but it seems likely that it had something to do with it smelling rural Uganda. My bag got completely unpacked and I got thoroughly searched. They didn't find anything and eventually let me go on my way.  Maybe it had nothing to do with the rats but I think it may have. 

It was all a reminder of how security is a little different in the developed world. As I cleared airport customs in Uganda I didn't have to take my computer out of its case or even walk through a working metal detector. I figure I passed 9 security/customs checks and they became increasingly difficult. Chicago's were by far the hardest and the meanest and I'm an american citizen! I can't even imagine what it is like for foreigners.

Well, I've made it. It was several long days of travel (some funny stories there but I'll come back to that) and I'm having trouble turning my internal clock around but I'm really happy to be here. Ben and Cree brought their son up from PA so along with my parents, all my siblings made it to the airport. Even Levi and Shannon and their new son.   It was a really nice surprise. The whole family had dinner together- I had told myself that my family is busy, living in different states now, I would be content to wait until Christmas to have us all together.  But then we were the whole group again plus two babies. It was so nice to be welcomed back.   My nephew Izaac wasn't so sure about me but quickly warmed up. It was hard to send Ben and Christina back to their home last night but I'll get to spend some more time with them in PA in a few weeks.

I think I'm having a bit of reverse culture shock. I keep telling myself that I was away for less than two years but it still feels surreal to be here and strange thoughts pop into my head. I need to process yet but I'm sure you will get to read more about it in the coming days.

In two days I'll pack back up and head to a medical training in NC but then I'll be back and am looking forward to spending time with many of you!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Last night in Soroti

There I was, my last night in Soroti for a few weeks. I thought I'd be feeling sentimental or something. Instead I just felt mental and I found myself counting down the minutes. Power was out all day so when it came on that evening I was pleasantly surprised. I was making myself a milk shake for dinner after a very full day of getting a huge list of stuff done and feeling pretty pleased with the world. Then the power cut out again. I found the lantern in the dark and discovered that it didn't have any kerosene in it. So filled it and trimmed it and got it lit. Back to the blender to find that now all I had was some rapidly warming milk in a puddle of coco and sugar. Yuck. But that wasn't enough to wreck my evening. Heck, what was I thinking any way?! Milkshake in Soroti? Not likely. I could just wait until I got back to the states. It was then that the cat took off after the lizard that jumped out of the compost bucket that I was pouring my milk soup out into. The dog freaked out thinking that the cat was getting some food and she wanted her fair share so she jumped up on the chair to see what had the cat so excited. Well, the cat took off, knocking the bottle of kerosine off the table and all over the dog. While I tried to simultaneously blow out the candles, turn off the lantern and get the blasted dog off the chair the bottle of paraffin rolled across the floor spilling the remainder of its contents from one end of the room to the other. In the now very dark room I managed to get the rather worked up, stupid dog outside but not before she made three laps around the room tracking kerosine everywhere. Both the lizard and the cat had disappeared before I managed to find my one working flashlight. A few minutes later found me unsuccessfully mopping the floor. I tried adding omo (laundry soap) to the mop water but still felt like I was just smearing the paraffin around and it just made the mop harder to wring out. Besides I was getting a monster headache from the fumes and trying to hold the flashlight between my shoulder and cheek (have you ever tried to mop by flashlight?!) I eventually gave up and retreated from the overwhelming mess, outside to the gazebo with my book to let the house air out. The mosquitoes were eating me alive but I didn't want to try to find my bug spray in the dark so I decided to suck it up. I'd only been reading a few minutes when the flashlight batteries quit. So I just sat in the dark calculating how many minutes until I fly and wondering what I'd do with all that extra sanity I was going to have.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

My last few posts have been pretty crumby and on top of that, as long as things go well, this may be my last post for a bit. I’m feeling overwhelmed with the amount of stuff that I want to do in the next few days. On top of that we are a big team again. I love it but that means we have things like team meetings that take a bit more time. And I want to spend time with these guys before I don’t see them again for another 3 months. So Friday and Saturday will be all the things that fall highest on my priority list, packing the car and getting ready to be gone for three months. Then Sunday I’ll drive to Jinga to pick up Beckie and then continue the rest of the way to Entebee. Then Monday morning I’ll board a plane! I have 14 hours layover in London then a few more hours in Chicago but eventually I’ll reach Grand Rapids. Honestly, I’m spending a really short time there before turning around and attending a medical training in NC. But I’ll be staying in Grand Rapids for most of November and December. I’m really looking forward to catching up with family and friends! See you guys soon!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Quite a bit to do...

I think it has finally hit me that I only have about 4 days left in Soroti before I head back to the states for the next few months. I have so much left to do.  Besides the two half packed containers of stuff that people have given me to bring and a carry on that I've throw some things at as I remember odds and ends I want to bring back to MI, I have a mountain of stuff in my room that needs to be put back in its place. I should finish August and Septembers ministry expense reports and I have several people I want to visit, most of them kids that I want to check on one last time and a that meeting with Dr. Moses of CLIDE. There are a few presentations I need to work on, travel reservations to make, Christmas presents to wrap for Betty and Abella, last minute shopping to do…it all seems strange. I’ll be getting on a plane in just a few days. 

(Side note: Beckie and I had no problems getting our visas yesterday and we also got to spend an hour at the pool in Mbale. Thank you Lord!!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Visas again...

Just sent out the newsletter.... I wish I knew how to put the PDF document here. But I don't. Sorry. E-mail me if you wanted to receive it and didn't. (

One quick prayer request too. Beckie and I are minutes away from heading somewhere, Lira, Mbale, Mulaba, wherever,  to renew our passports.  I only need 10 days but Bec need quite a bit  more time. Please pray that my chocolate chip cookies (that are NOT  a bribe!) will show the appropriate appreciation and we can get the stamps that we need.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

You can eat that?

I love it when the kids bring me something new to try.....

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


Harvesting rice is fricking hard work! I found myself learning this lesson in a swamp just outside of Soroti around 7:15 this morning. For starters rice grows in mud. Deep mud. Mud that tries to swallow your legs like a stoned high school kid to a bag of Doritos.  This is a completely unrelated analogy but I blame it on the heat stroke I may currently be suffering from. The heat stroke is because rice stalks are a little like skinny green razors that have the ability to hone in on any exposed skin. You have to wear boots, pants and a long sleeved shirt to protect yourself from the sharp stalks. But you are standing in sun that is beating down on you like... sorry, no more random analogies.  And if you are in Uganda, which we are, you really should add a wrap over your pants to be more like a skirt, which is more ladylike. Though being calf deep in mud could be called a little unlady like in some parts of the world- but not here. That wrap makes the whole thing you are wearing up hotter. And if you are a weak white girl you have to add leather gloves too in order to protect your hands. Then you also should wrap your head. Not because you are with a bunch of muslim women, but because you have to pick up your full bucket of rice out of the mud and carry it on your head when it gets full and needs to be emptied and who wants all of that mud in their hair?!
That is a lot of rice. 
This is what ripe rice looks like. 
Beckie and Nuru harvesting rice. 
This is the foot and a half of muck that you stand in while harvesting. 
But, it was a nice day and the sun actually wasn't as relentless as it could have been and I didn't see any water snakes.  And being reminded once again of how hard these women work for just a little income is always good. One more note on the day: one of the women that we were working with was nine months pregnant with her due date 6 days away. She cut at least double what I did and carried her rice on her head.  One of the other ladies brought along her 2 month old daughter and did some of her work with the baby tied on. As if this work wasn't hard and hot enough as it is.

Monday, October 3, 2011


faintly remember in nursing school talking about measles for a few minutes during infectious diseases in pediatrics and again when we studied the immunization schedule.  That is about the extent of my education in this "eradicated disease". (In the states, even though some families decide not to vaccinate based on misguided trends, through community or herd immunity kids are well protected and we practically never see a case.) Here however, it is a different story. Immunization is done poorly and inconsistently consequently it is seen fairly often. So I’ve been trying to educate myself and be more prepared for the next fine, flat, red, full body rash I encounter.   Here, it is possible that up to 15% of cases die and even more result in complications like pneumonia, blindness and impaired mental development. This year our neighbors in the DRC (Congo) had a large scale epidemic and many died. 

Sunday, October 2, 2011

God moment

Maybe some of you heard my 25 seconds at Remembrance Church this morning via skype. I was asked to share a God moment and I have to just give credit to God for how He works. Here is a little background. It seems like no matter how often I tell village churches that I’m not a pastor, that I don’t preach, that I am not prepared, that they still ask me to share a message every week. They wait until about an hour in (during the first third of the service) then call the “mazungo” (white foreigner) up front and ask for a sermon. They say “You just bring us a word.” And it seems like every week God has to remind me again how no matter inadequate and unprepared I am that He is able. All I have to do is be available.  Then He amazes me with what He speaks through me. This morning was the same. I had told Pastor Emedo yesterday that I wasn’t preparing to speak and wasn’t going to. But then this morning, just moments before the sermon is to start, he introduces a guest speaker. I looked around trying to figure out who it was. “Oh, it’s me.” I even got a little angry and from my seat in the congregation said “no.” But he said, “You come. They need to hear a word.” So instead of arguing more and making a scene I just got up. And then God gave me everything. Tell them how I am their bridegroom. Tell them how much I love them. Tell them that it doesn’t matter that they have prostituted themselves with other things. Tell them that I will redeem them.  I shared from Hosea and talked about how redemption saves us from the punishement that we deserve. Then we had a time of confession that was Holy Spirit driven. It was all completely a God thing. I had gone with a bad attitude and was unprepared, but God somehow used the little that I had to offer.  After the service, two different women told me of how they had never heard of God as their bridegroom before. Even the pastor asked me to show him those verses. And I need to thank God that even though I've had no bible training, that 27 years of growing up in a faithful, God focused church has given me more quality education than the majority of pastors here. I'll try harder to be a more willing servant in the future. Thank you Lord for using me. 

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Bike ride

The Ride for Refuge 2011 Soroti Edition was a tremendous success!
The whole crew that rode at our half way point. 
The Team Beyond team!
Bikes are a commodity so many shared one. 

Necessary repairs at the roundabout in Kamuda.
Resting in the shade after the ride. 
The day was really fun and made more impactful by riding half of it with these youth who are really  considered vulnerable. These are the ones that we are riding for!  Tim, Steve, Beckie, Jim and I started early from Soroti and rode about 16 kilometers into Kamuda where we were joined by the rest of our team and 20+  youth from the area who are impacted IT's ministry. Then we did another 16 kilometers with them to the lake and back.  Then the last 16 kilometers home. It was hot in the sun the last two legs of the trip and my two legs are about shot tonight but it was great. Thanks to all of you who participated in Grand Rapids or another of the 30 locations!!! Your ride was worth it!