Monday, July 27, 2009

A Simple But Sweet Prayer

One of the things that I desired when I started the school was for the children to know Jesus, to know that He cares about them and loves them despite their circumstances. For me this is easier to do with older children. They can tell you what is on their mind and issues can be discussed. With a 3-6 year old this is more difficult to me. I never really can tell what is really going through their little minds.
Each day at school, we have a Bible lesson. This is usually in the form of us praying, singing and telling the children a story from a children's Bible that I have. Usually the kids look as if they are only half paying attention.
Also, before our break porridge and lunch, we pray with the children. This is usually just a short simple prayer. Again, usually the children look as though they are half paying attention, only enjoy the prayer because they know food is coming, and are squirming around in their seats.
Well, today the oldest boy asked me if he could pray for us! Of course I said yes. The little boy said a short but sweet prayer thanking God for our food and asking God to give those without food something to eat. This was coming from a little boy who rarely gets a meal outside of school. Frequently, what he gets at school is his only meal of the day. It was a lesson in faith for me to hear a young child pray for others to have food without even asking for himself.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Bathing the Plates

Another translation (or not so translated) story......
Last night, I told Jacque to go and pick up some toys out of the sitting room floor. I said it correctly! Then she asked me what I was going to do while she was picking up toys (meaning I should come and help her).
I was on my way to wash the mountain of plates in the kitchen sink. But, the only problem was I couldn't remember how to say wash the plates. So, I just told her I'm going to bathe the plates. She just shook her head and laughed at me. Then, once again, politely corrected me and told me she doesn't know English that well. I think that was to make me feel better for speaking such atrocious Luganda.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

In Desperate Need of a Teacher

At first I had decided to wait until October when I move in to the new school building or even possibly until next year to hire another teacher. Right now I'm teaching and Hadijah assists me. Recently, though, I've noticed that I'm not having enough time to get everything done that I need to get done. When Jacque has hospital appointments, Hadijah is left alone with the kids. I don't have time to get all the administrative and social work stuff done that I need to get done.
So, I decided that I would go ahead and hire a teacher so that I would have the mornings free to do other things besides teach. Another advantage to this would be that Jacque would start differentiating school from home.
I hired Teacher Sarah. She was to begin last week on Monday. I let her read all about the curriculum that I'm using, explained how we all worked together at the school (everyone does everything), and let her know what times she would be working and how much she was to be paid.
She agreed but promptly began complaining on Monday morning. My kids were not disciplined. They don't sit still. Of course they don't. They're mostly 2-3 years old. Then she told Hadijah that I wasn't paying them enough. I'm paying the same as other schools in the area but possibly because of my American nationality she thinks I should pay more forgetting that the school is ministering to children who can't pay school fees so I don't make any money from the school to pay her or anyone else.
The next day she (Tuesday), Teacher Sarah informed me that her job was to teach. She doesn't take children to the toilet or wipe mucus from their noses. And forget helping to serve lunch or mopping at the end of the day.
On Wednesday I wasn't around but my cook (who would make an exceptional spy) informed me that when taking the children outside Hadijah and Teacher Sarah sat down to converse leaving the children to climb the walls, literally. It happened to be the cooks son doing the climbing as she screamed from the 4th floor balcony of my home for him to get down.
On Thursday, Teacher Sarah asked me when I would be giving raises. Am I nuts, or was that too early to be asking for an increase in salary, especially when you've done very little to show that you are worth the pay.
On Friday, when she arrived at work, I asked Teacher Sarah if she had brought the book I had lent here to be returned. I figured she would at least be responsible with that since I had told her I would be needing it over the weekend. Of course, the book had been forgotten at home. I asked her to go and get it. I gave her enough money to use a boda boda (motorcycle taxi) to go and come back. That should have taken her thirty minutes at the most. Three hours later she returned. I think she decided to walk and keep the money. Upon returning, she told me that she was tired and needed some tea. At that time, children were heading outside for their recess so I went outside with them.
While outside, I was told (by the LC of our village) of a couple of kids that were sleeping on the street nearby. He wanted me to come and talk to them and check out their family situation to see if there was anything I could do to help. (They are now under my sponsorship program living with another family that I work with and will begin boarding school in third term which starts in September).
Back to the point of this post. When I returned, I found the kids back inside but teacher Sarah was asleep on one of the desks. I decided right then that this probably was not going to work. I told her that I didn't think I could afford her services so she should not return on Monday.
Please God let me find a young, energetic teacher that loves and cares about children. Someone who won't be concerned so much about money but will have a heart to be there for these kids.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Beef Not Cow

Ok, so I'm really trying to learn Luganda but living in a country that has more than 40 languages spoken (none of which are anything close to English) makes it a bit difficult. Just when I think I'm getting good at it (notice I said good and not fluent), it seems everything escapes from my head and I'm left speaking like a two year old.
Mary's English is getting much better but she still enjoys laughing at me trying to have a conversation with her in Luganda. Jacque just stubbornly refuses to speak in English to me. She'll try it with everyone else but it's as if she wants me to speak Luganda by force!
So, yesterday morning my friend Annet (who is another current roommate in my house) and I were trying to plan supper. Usually she cooks either the food (meaning rice, matooke, potatoes, etc.) from her shop and I cook the sauce from home or vice versa. We had decided that we all wanted matooke but the sauce was up for debate. I thought maybe beef since it's been a while since we've had meat.
Later that afternoon I was trying to ask Jacque if she likes beef. The word for beef completely escaped my memory. I kept thinking of every word similar to it but beef just wouldn't come. Finally, I just asked her if she liked cow. The words for cow and beef are totally different and have a completely different meaning. Beef is beef, you know the stuff you eat. Cow is the whole animal, horns and all.
After asking her is she wanted cow to eat, my lovely little girl just looked at my like I had grown another head, started laughing and told me politely that she doesn't eat cow but beef she likes.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A Crazy Busy Week

The last week has been crazy busy! Monday, July 6, I spent the whole day in the hospital with Jacque. This seems it's going to be a frequent occurrence for me. That day was for her check-up and to finally get clearance for her to begin the actual ARVs. Clearance finally given. I'm really impressed with the hospital that she goes to. It's on the "campus" of the national hospital but a joint program with Baylor Medical College. They give all medical assistance free. Plus the doctors, nurses, counselors, and staff are all really patient and friendly (not the norm for Uganda).
Later that same afternoon I got a call from Mary's mom (the 12 year old that is living with me). She was calling to tell me that she was really sick, needed help and didn't know where to go. I told her to try to get to my house and she could stay there. She made it but barely able to walk and it didn't help that my apartment is on the 4th floor. And she was not lying when she said she was really sick. Her whole body was covered in a rash. She was throwing up constantly and had a really high temperature.
The next morning she was admitted into the national hospital (the adult section not connected to Baylor so not nearly as friendly) where she was told her liver was not functioning and the ARVs that she had started taking a couple of weeks before were causing a reaction. Not a good thing. The next day she was out of the hospital but in no better condition. Back to my house to wage war on getting up the stairs. She remained in the bed for the rest of the week.
Jacque began complaining about her foot hurting her so on Friday back to the hospital with her. Seems it is some sort of parasite. Medication given making her medicine load each day: 2 tabs in the morning along with two different liquid meds, at mid-day two liquid meds and two tabs plus vitamin, at 5 in the afternoon, on liquid med, at 7 in the evening 2 tabs, and right before bed two liquid meds.
On top of that I was advised to be the one to give Mary's mom her meds to prevent any overdose due to distress (and hers is far more than Jacque's). I feel like a pharmacist........
Saturday morning: Mary's mom worsens. Back to the hospital. Spend the day there. No improvement but still sent back home.
Sunday: still have a house full of sick people but have children in boarding schools that need to be visited. Took Jacque to the church along with Mary. Mary's mom left at home (willingly and she slept the whole time).
Today: hospital visit with Mary's mom. We're waiting for the results and for them to let us know how to proceed. Afternoon: clinic visit with Jacque. Foot still not better and meds for foot over. Injection given. Two more to be given over the next two days.
So, just a little busy. I never dreamed I would have to many patients or so much patience! Keep praying.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Praise in the Storm

Living in the U.S. we often hear about AIDS. We're educated about it while in school but for the majority of people, we rarely come in contact with someone suffering from the disease. In Africa, this is not the case. I have yet to meet anyone who hasn't had their lives changed by the disease, whether it be that they are themselves infected, have infected family members or are looking after AIDS orphans.
It was something that I had to quickly learn how to deal with if I was going to live here. I've had to learn how to watch people suffer with it, how to handle death (which is still not easy), and how to best help the orphans that are left behind.
It is still not easy for me to deal with but I think it's hardest for the children. I've talked a bit about Jacque and want to tell you more. She has completely changed my life, as well as have the many other children that I'm constantly surrounded by. When I met Jacque she was in a horrible condition. She is an orphan and was living with an aunt and uncle who have six of their own children. None of their biological children were attending school because of lack of finances to pay school fees. In addition to all of these people living in the house was another aunt and uncle, their children and several other orphans. The family was living in two rooms, barely eating and the home was in the swampy part of the slum. Not a healthy condition for a child living with HIV.
When we first took Jacque to the hospital, I went with a friend and her 16 year old cousin. No adult living in the home bothered to go. She was very sick and many tests were done. She was given medication to get rid of the many infections in her body. She was to see the doctor several more times over the next few weeks. Sometimes the 16 year old cousin would take her to the hospital and drop her off there. Other times she wouldn't bring her at all. No adult ever went.
ARVs are given free at this particular hospital to children but there has to be a responsible adult for them to be given. Since no adult ever went, Jacque was not given the ARVs.
Jacque was brought to my school regularly for a couple of weeks. Then suddenly she stopped coming. When I went to inquire as to why, the family told me they didn't want to be bothered with her. It was too far to walk and after all she is going to die.
My thoughts on that: if someone is going to let you bring your child to school for free, don't complain about the distance. And, isn't everyone at some point going to die. The adults may actually die first. No one knows how many days we have here on earth.
I offered to send a boda-boda (motorcycle taxi) to pick Jacque up in the mornings and another parent offered to bring her home in the afternoons. This seemed to work for the family although things were still not going well for Jacque at home. I went with the boda-boda a few times to pick her up and on the second day, they had her things packed and told me to just keep her. I told them I couldn't just take her like that but if they would get a letter from a local official then I would stay with her. In less than a week, they had the letter and Jacque was moved into my house. She arrived at my house weighing only 22 pounds and with a large bag full of medicine (none of which was yet the ARVs). She had medicine to be put in her bath water. Two creams to be rubbed on her twice a day. And three different antibiotics to be given at varying times throughout the day.
I went to the next hospital appointment (4 days after she moved in with me) and forced her aunt to go to the hospital with me. Forced being that I showed up at her house with Jacque early in the morning (4 days after Jacque moved in with me) and told her that she had to come. We got to the hospital and quickly were able to talk to a counselor. The hospital records were all changed with me now listed as Jacque's legal guardian. I was told to come back the following week and ARVs would be started.
So, this past Monday, I spent the day in the hospital successfully. The ARVs are able to be started. I was given the meds for the first two weeks and Jacque started taking them this morning. Also, she was weighed and in the last week has gained 2 pounds!
The purpose of the ARVs is to keep the virus "sleeping." The ARVs have to be given strictly every 12 hours without missing a dose or being late. Otherwise, the virus "wakes up."
So, I'm learning to be more responsible. Since I'm now the legal guardian and the one to give the meds, I don't want to be the one to "wake" the virus up by missing a dose or giving one late.
She's been a joy to have in my life. After Nakato died, I said I would never do this again. God does things in mysterious ways and He knew exactly which little girl to put in my path to knock that idea out of my mind. After Nakato I didn't think I would ever let my heart be so completely abandoned to another child. That's been dashed to pieces.
Just in the little time she's lived with me, I've watched her personality changed. She's gone from being a subdued, quiet little girl who sat lonely in one place to a child full of life. She talks nonstop, runs around the house and keeps me laughing. She's been my constant shadow (will have to break that soon though). And everywhere we go people absolutely love her, even at the internet cafe where she walks around telling everyone to keep quiet. (It's the little English she knows) and is now her nickname there.
Please pray with me that she will continue gaining strength and health and remain healthy for a long time.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Catch Up

Many have emailed me to wonder what is going on since I've not posted anything in almost a month. Life has been busy and when I rarely make it to the internet cafe, I've just got a few minutes to send a few emails (that is when the internet is actually working). What's been going on:
A group (Teen Serve) was here from July 12-29 to help with ministry here. We spent most of that time moving from school to school doing VBS with children. While hosting a group of 25 people, I didn't get much time to get online. We had fun though. There were lots of laughs and it was nice to see some faces from home.
Another addition to my ever growing family: Jacque. This is the young girl I told you about from the medical mission. She started attending my school when the term began but things weren't going so well for her at home. The family asked me to take her permanently. We got letters signed from local officials and she moved in about two weeks ago. My life has completely changed. It had already changed when Mary moved in, but with a 5 year old that looks as though she's 2 (she weighs only 22 pounds), there have been even more changes. I'm having to be responsible for someone's life. Her medicine has to be given strictly on time. Not to mention, bed times, meals, she can't be left alone in the house, extra clothes to wash, and the separation anxiety. I've only left her twice since she's come and neither time did it go over too well with her.
So that should catch you up a bit on what is happening in my life on this side of the world. Hopefully I'll be able to do a better job of keeping this thing updated.