Monday, October 21, 2013

Giving, generosity and causing more harm than good.

Last time I was in Lormoruchabi a group of ladies asked repeatedly for skirts and clothes. I know these women by their shirts because they each only really own one thing to wear. Their clothes are tattered rags but they are all they’ve got. They live a hot, tough, 9 hour round trip walk to the nearest place to purchase clothes and even if they went, the need for medicine, food and soap is greater than the need for a new, used skirt. But I live in Soroti where I can get clothes easily and I am enormously wealthy (compared to these ladies).  So I understand why they ask me to bring them things. I could get a bunch of skirts and shirts ( I estimate I could get 20 “outfits” for about 30,000/=, or $15). But there are probably 60 women in the village. All would like new clothes. Honestly most NEED new clothes. On top of that there are roughly 200 kids who also need clothes. I’ve gotten to know Joseph. He is a 9 year old kid who owns an old, tattered, filthy red coat. That is all he has. No pants, no underwear, no shirt. He spends all day in the coat, then at night he zips it up and pulls his legs up in it because he doesn’t have a blanket either. (Or a sheet or a mattress but that isn’t any different from any other kid in this village.)

But back to the ladies. They had given me a nice necklace that they had made, clearly in hopes that I’d bring them some clothes. And I really want to be generous. I’d love to come in like some silly female Santa Claus and give everyone a gift from my giant bag. But I don’t really think that would be right. There is often in the back of my mind, the principles of “When Helping Hurts”. That we are only increasing dependency and in the long run we are harming people when we think we are helping. Over and over in Karamoja I’ve seen the damage done by well intentioned NGOs giving away free stuff. It was described to me this way: Great harm can come from the best of intentions when done without wisdom and discernment. It seems like a paradox but kindness and good intentions can be an insidious path to destruction. The following parable, though obvious and over simplified helped me understand the problem the k-jung are having.

“Say a person hurts their leg. You bring them food while they heal. After time they still don’t wish to get up because it hurts at first. So you continue to be kind and bring them food. Over time their injured leg develops contractures from lack of use and it is even more painful to get up so you continue to bring them food. In the end they are permanently bedridden, unable to walk again because of your kindness.  Goodness brought significant harm. 

The k-jung have become so dependent on others for food, goods and seeds, help, everything, yet their lack only fuels their anger at the outside world. Generosity and very good intentions have encouraged laziness and a feeling of lack of personal worth creating a whole tribe’s indolence. The more help they receive, the more help they expect and think they need, the more they hate. As long as the kindness is so open ended they don’t gain discipline, dignity or self-reliance. Our kindness actually impoverishes their humanity!!

Ugh, all of this struggle over 60 ladies who would like some second hand skirts….

What do it do?

I’m headed to Karamoja in an hour. I expect to be back at the end of the week.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

HIV support groups

In the last few months I've been placed over some groups of HIV positive people. They are groups that were created before I joined CLIDE but have been neglected due to lack of staff. The people have been requesting us to come back and still support them. So, that has fallen to me lately. So, I'm trying to figure out what it looks like to run HIV support groups here.
This is a group of about 35 people who are quite educated about their disease. About half are believers. Their biggest struggle is with discordant couples who still want to have children but obviously don't want to infect their partners or have positive children.
This is a group of about 75, 10 of whom are believers. This group is in an area where there is a lot more discrimination. Their kids get kicked out of school because their mom is positive. They have a hard time getting jobs (more than the average rural Ugandan). They are overall much sicker and more impoverished. Their bigger concerns were with end of life care and how to feed and care for their children.

I had two “trainings” last week with these groups to encourage them. Both times I tried to stress that this was NOT God's punishment for their sin (which is a strongly held belief that drives many away from the church after they get a positive diagnosis). We played games, laughed together and tried to discuss practical solutions to their problems.

The groups reported that it was helpful and overall I felt very positive about our time. There were some hard things though. The Awoja group has an expectation of receiving money from CLIDE. I can't meet this expectation and I know it isn't a long term solution to anything either. Also, while in Awoja a few of the older ladies did a drama to illustrate the importance of end of life care. Only, it wasn't so much a drama as real life. The lady who needed care was very sick. She has wounds all over her body and is so wasted away her bones jut out. She has such bad abdominal pain all the time she can't stand up straight. It was pretty hard to watch the ladies in her group “act” out their skit knowing that no one was acting. She has no pain meds and still has to try to work in order to eat and care for her children. She has only a few more months to live. She doesn't need a support group, she needs hospice.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

OK, I seem to have the blog moderately functional again without weird ghost pictures and strange formatting problems. I have a bunch of stories and stuff to write about but I've taught all day and even though I expected life to slow down I'm still waiting for that to happen....

Friday, October 11, 2013


Having lots of blog problems. I've been told it may be related to unconfessed sin, not sure. But meanwhile the blog is undergoing some work. Hopefully soon I'll have some new posts and a nice new look. But I need to go to town to purchase loads of supplies for the next trip to Karamoja right now so once again the computer work will have to wait.....

In the meantime my friend Rachel blogged about the training last week that I participated in. You can check out her blog at

Monday, October 7, 2013

CLIDE team

There are definite challenges to being part of two very different ministry teams but I appreciate what both of them contribute to my life!

This is my CLIDE team (the one I work with mostly in Karamoja but more and more also in Soroti.) We are from the US, UK and all parts of Uganda. I do believe that when we are together 7 languages are spoken fluently and all desire to serve Jesus.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Water well update

3 of the well drillers in the middle surrounded by community
Just back from Karamoja again.  Unfortunately, the purpose of this trip was to pack the guys up and get them out of there. The UWA (Uganda Wildlife Association) has accused the village of living in protected wildlife land so supposedly they are not allowed to put in boreholes there.  We have maps that show this isn't true but they have to go through the correct governmental channels and in this country that means a lot of time. Meanwhile, the guys have been threatened so we had to pack up. Late at night, in Soroti, as I was doing last minute packing I was really nervous about how the community would take it. They've been waiting and waiting for water. They've lived there a while now with promises that water was coming and over and over they've been disappointed. Now again a big setback. But the day was overall positive. There were negatives expressed (all in a language I don't speak but anger and frustration is pretty easy to interpret) but the village leaders gathered as we were leaving and we prayed together and promised we were coming back as we discussed what they needed to do for the land dispute.  Please keep praying!!

Rachel praying before we go.

Tom (well guy) and Kodet (CLIDE guy) explaining to the community the land dispute.
On the upside the ladies gave me another necklace. :-)

Thursday, October 3, 2013


My fellow missionaries over at Amecet are grieving the loss of a baby that they had really worked hard to save. Little baby William was born Aug 12th and went to be with Jesus only two short months later on October 2nd. He arrived at Amecet after his mother died and the Dutch nurses there worked very hard to give him a good chance at life but it wasn't to be. Will you be praying for them and their hearts as they continue to care for the remaining children?
William's first post here