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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Enemy Might Put Up a Fight But God Will Surely Win

So, again it's been a while since I've blogged. It's mostly likely due to a crazy past few weeks. And not just because of the Christmas holidays.
You know any time God is doing something magnificent, the enemy surely has to try to block it.
Vision of Destiny is God's project. It's His. It belongs to Him. He's the one that put the desire in my heart. He's the one that makes it happen. He is the one who provides. How He chooses to do each of these things is totally up to Him. It's only up to me to allow myself to be used by Him. The same with other people. And loads of people have come alongside of me to help me on this journey. Each in his/her own way, using his/her own gift has been a blessing to me. For each one of these people I will be forever grateful.

The last few weeks, I've been telling myself something big is about to happen. You see, the enemy was just fighting too hard. It felt like he was fighting me and those around me (and still does at moments). But, he's not really fighting me, he's fighting God. The enemy knows that for each child taken out of despair and given God's truth, that's one less person on his side.

I don't want to go into much of the details as I don't want to give the enemy any glory when he is due none. I'll just share that I was really hurt by some of the actions of people around me, most particularly a parent that has been extended help over and over again.
However, despite the struggle, it has helped us to move into the next phase. Our attorney is preparing to hand in all our paperwork for registering an NGO and we have begun the process of licensing the school. The NGO will take several weeks and the licensing could take several months. But, the good news, the process has begun!

Now, why should the enemy be fighting against VOD? We are growing- and growing tremendously. The nursery school next year will have almost double the number of students. There will be an intern working with us for about three months. A family is flying in a week after the intern and will be with us for at least a year (hopefully a lot longer). Computers have been donated for the nursery school. All the money for back to school next term has been raised (school fees for children not yet sponsored, school supplies and uniforms for children not yet sponsored, etc. ).
And........ a very large donation towards land (which has its own amazing story of how it was provided to the person who gave it!) meaning land will be purchased in the next few weeks! Of course the enemy has to fight.... the school is going to grow again. And with the prospect of a boarding school, how much more of a chance to change the lives of children!

So, while the enemy is trying to put up a fight, he will be defeated. God is in control and I know He loves and cares for each one of the children involved with Vision of Destiny.
Again, a very big thanks to each person that has supported me and/or the school, those of you that have been faithful in praying for us, and a big hug to all those that have visited us this year. All of us here thank you for all the encouragement that you bring to us.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Jackie Classic

I could tell endless stories of the things she says. They probably wouldn't be as funny as if you are talking to her face to face to see her facial expressions, hand gestures, and body languages. I've never met anyone else like her and possibly will never again meet anyone else quite like her.
At school the children are only allowed to speak in English, no Luganda is allowed.
Anyway, yesterday I was working on my computer and she was perched in her usual place next to me. I've got a bit of a stuffy nose and was sniffling. Here in Uganda if you have a cold, it's called flu. Jackie proceeded to inform me that she knew the English word for flu. I'm not quite sure when flu stopped being an English word......
So, out of curiosity I asked her what was the English word for flu. Her answer: mucous.
Priceless.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


This week the K3 class is studying spiders and insects. So, for their art project this afternoon, the kids made spider hats. The body was the headband wrapped around their heads. And the legs were supposed to come down like the 8 legs of a spider. But, you know how little kids do their things. Very creatively. So, their spider legs were stiff, possibly with young age arthritis.......
But, it was all fun. When we asked the kids what they had been studying, it wasn't just spiders, but spiderman. So guess we had a lot of spidermen/women running around today. But, aren't they cute!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010



We're always looking for ways to keep the kids motivated. Most of them come from homes where there is a lot of confusion, making it difficult to stay motivated in school. All of them come from homes where education has not been easily accessible. Therefore, a lot of the parents are illiterate or haven't gone very far in school.
Vision of Destiny really desires for these kids to succeed. We've been rewarding those children that perform well.
This past term we rewarded quite a large number of children. For the older children in high school, anyone that was in position 20 in their class or better was given some pocket money to be used at school. It wasn't much, but for children who normally get nothing, it was a motivator.
For the kids in primary school, we gave out new toothbrushes, toothpaste, and fun colored pencils. You may be asking yourself how are toothbrushes and toothpaste motivating????? Remember, these kids come from extreme poverty. These items are a luxury. For the child that was first in his class, we bought a watch.
For the kids at the nursery school, those that were number 1 in their class were given new school bags. All children that scored 80% or better on the final exams were given fun colored pencils.
The kids were excited to get their rewards and those that were very close to being in the category that received the rewards assured me that next term they would be given.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Brothers By Circumstance

This is Shafik......... And this is Joseph........

Two boys that have been made brothers by circumstance.
In January, Vision of Destiny was registering children on the waiting list and admitting children that have never been to school into the newest Baby (K3) Class. A man came to register his two boys, Shafik and Joseph.
I've heard all kids of stories, both truths and lies. This man came in and his story was that the whole family was HIV+ and these boys were twins that had never been to school. Now, I'm not a complete idiot, so picked up immediately that he was lying. He was truthful on part of his story. The lady that he had brought with him and he himself really are HIV+. They were able to present proof of this.
However it was very clear these boys were not twins. First, they are not the same size. It's clear that one is several months younger than the other. Second, one has a Christian name, the other a Muslim name. Thirdly, in Uganda twins are given specific surnames. In this case, the boys didn't have these names.
They showed us where they were living and it was apparent that the boys really did need help. They were admitted into the school and as we got to know the family and gather more information, the story became more and more clear (although it is really a muddy story).
We found out that the boys were indeed really not twins. They weren't even real brothers. The father had two wives. One the mother of Shafik. The other is the mother of Joseph. All members of the family live in a single room house. This means that the two cowives live under the same roof, in the same room!
Shafik is actually the stepson to the man, but the mom is currently pregnant with her second child, the child to this man. The cowives absolutely HATE each other and no amount of counseling seems to help them in their situation. They torment not only each other but the child of the cowife, meaning that each child is mistreated by his stepmom.
Money is scarce and the meager earnings of the father have to be stretched to cater for his ever growing family, as Joseph's mom has another little girl younger than Joseph and Shafik's mom is currently pregnant. So, although these boys are smiling in the picture and can frequently be seeing playing happily at school, their lives at home are really miserable.
Imagine living in extreme poverty: a single room (that is every room in the house from kitchen to bedroom) shared with multiple family members, possibly one meal a day, no electricity, no running water, toilets which are far from the house, etc. and to top that off living with a stepmom that wishes you dead.
They have hope in that they are part of the sponsorship program. Possibly their adult lives will be different. Maybe they will grow up to be responsible, educated young men, able to get jobs that pay enough to support a family. Maybe what they are learning in the daily Bible lessons will help them to choose to have only one wife and to be commited to a strong family life.
That is the hope that Vision of Destiny has, that each child in the program will grow up to have a different life, a life that is impacted by the love of Christ, with the knowledge to choose something different from their current living situations.
It's alll possible through sponsorship. Joseph is sponsored. Shafik, although in the proram, is still waiting for a sponsor.........

Monday, September 13, 2010

A Brighter Future

Meet Juliet!

And Innocent!
And Ronnie!
These three belong to a family that is involved in the Vision of Destiny sponosrship program. Ronnie attends school at the school which I run and Juliet and Innocent attend a school nearby.
Vision of Destiny continuousely has a long waiting list. Their mom added them to the waiting list early this year. When doing interviews to admit the incoming K3 class for 2010, Ronnie was identified to be eligible.
Late last year, their father learned that he was HIV+. Instead of going to a nearby clinic for counseling and treatment, he decided to take his own life and hung himself. He left these three children as well as a wife and baby under a year old. The wife is not well educated and is unemployed. Survival became a challenge for the family. They were often left outside to sleep when landlords would chase them from their home for lack of rent payment. Meals were scarce and far between. Juliet was sent to live with an aunt in hopes of the burden on their mom being lightened a little. None of the children were attending school.
During first term there was space for Ronnie at my school although he wasn't sponsored. The older two, at that time, there was little that I could do.
In March, a visitor came to help around the school for about a month. She was taken by their story and went back and got a sponsor for Ronnie. She also found a sponsor for Innocent and Juliet, making it possible for them to return to school during the second term this year.
We have been encouraging their mom to have herself and all the children tested for HIV. Please pray that she will find the courage to do this and if any are found positive that she will be willing to use the lifesaving medications which are available for free here in Uganda.
You see, in Uganda, school is a privilege and not a right. Many children are left out of school for lack of money. Even though the government has set up a free school system, there are hidden fees which mean that it does little to help families put their children back in school. Although these schools don't charge tuition, there are development fees, lunch fees, uniforms to be bought, school supplies and shoes that are needed. So, many families still can't send their children to school. And for those lucky enough to be able to send their child to school, these schools are often overcrowded (having 100+ children in a classroom with only 1 teacher), lack infrastructure (children study under trees), have teachers that don't come to school every day (meaning children have to go back home), or have school only two hours each day (meaning children leave primary school without being able to even write their name or read a simple sentence).
So, Vision of Destiny steps in to help these families. All children are sent to Christian schools that have a tradition of high performance.

Children like Sozzi Peter are now attending school. His father died in a motorcycle accident a couple of months before he was born, leaving his mom with little ways of supporting or educating their child. Currently, Sozzi Peter and his mom live in a local church. I use the word church very loosely. It's known more for its cultlike practices such as proclaiming the water taken from a well inside the main branch of the church is the blood of Jesus. Members are taught that when they drink this water or bathe with it, they are blessed with special blessings. There are many other such teachings in the church. Although this child is not yet sponsored, he has been attending my school since the beginning of this year where he is being taught the Bible and given two meals each day. Pray with me that the truth that he is being taught at school will one day be a light to he and his mom and they'll be able to break free from a church with false teachings.

Brandon is another child not yet sponsored but still blessed to be attending my school. I met Brandon through his elder sisters. Their father had died when Brandon was a baby of AIDS. Their mom is an alcoholic and the family lives in a bar. The mom drinks away what little money she manages to earn. The eldest sister was left in charge of finding ways to get food. Often I would find her along the streets, very dirty, begging for food. I got to know her a bit and her mom let me take her and the other sister back to school. I put them in a boarding school since they are girls. I figured it was safer than leaving them to roam the streets at all hours of the night. At that time, Brandon was still to young to start school so their mom had to find ways to fend for herself and Brandon. Then this year Brandon was able to begin K3 at my school.
It's been a challenge for him. Since his sisters are not there to look after him, he's often left with neighbors and even one time was left alone (which led to his spending the night at the police station). Please pray that their mom will come to know Christ and learn how to be there for her children.
So many times I look at the need around me and know that I can only do a drop in the ocean. But, at least for the few children that are in the sponsorship program, the future looks a bit brighter (despite the challenges at home).





Friday, September 3, 2010

Another Jackie Story

So, this morning I'm sitting here on my computer with Jackie sitting in the chair next to me. Remember, she's my constant shadow. I wanted to get some work done so asked her if she'd like to look at a book. She chose to look at our Bible for kids. She was looking at the pictures pointing out to me Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, etc. (So much for getting a lot of work done!)
As she's continuing to look she tells me, "God died for our sins, all of them. When we die, we are going to live in his home, heaven, with Him."
She continues to blow my mind. She's only four but seems to have a deeper understanding of the things of God than most children and certainly a large number of adults.
Then she told me that when she gets to heaven she'll get to see Mercy, one of her classmates that died in May.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Echoes From Yesterday

Do you have words or actions that echo in your mind years and years later? I do.
I think we forget how harmful our words are, especially the things we say to children. I frequently have battles in my mind with words that echo from the past, words that tell me I'm stupid, words that tell me I'm worthless, that I'm not good enough, words that remind me of all my failures.
I frequently wonder what I would have been or how my personality would have been if growing up in different circumstances. Would I have been an artist or a doctor? A pilot? If I hadn't been told what I couldn't do, would I have done it? If I had been encouraged academically would I have gone to a different university. Probably so.
But, I wouldn't be where I am or doing what I'm doing, something I'm so grateful for. I wouldn't be surrounded by the amazing people that touch my life every day. I wouldn't be watching so many children finding their way in this crazy world.
These battles come from time to time. Sometimes I give into them and find myself getting down, feeling bad. But, more and more I'm learning to wash my mind with the Word of God, reminding myself of who I am in Him, how He sees me.
I pray that as I work with the children that I work with that my words will encourage and build up, never discourage or tear down. I pray that they look back and even with all the obstacles they face in life will hear my voice (as well as God's) cheering them on, letting them know they can do and be whatever they want to be.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Yet Another One

This is Okello. After he saw my excitement on some of the other students' school reports, he made sure to point out his position to me. He was number 8 in a class of 40 students (same class as Douglas).
I'm really proud of Okello. I met him and his two older brothers a year ago when I moved into my former apartment. There was a house being built just behind it and that's where these guys were sleeping. They weren't true street kids but in a way they were. Their dad has 8 wives and something like 30 children. He sends none of the kids to school. The boys basically do what they can for survival. So, they were sleeping in an unfinished house and would move around the village during the days looking for food or scrap metal to sell for food. The three of them returned to school at the beginning of this year. They've been working hard, especially Okello!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Another One

So, I was looking through the reports from the kids in primary school and realized that I had another student that performed exceptionally well. Douglas was first in his class of 40 students! I'm excited for this little guy. He's around 8 years old and lost his mom about a year ago. He was living in a two room house with his dad, six siblings, and several orphaned cousins. He had never attended school before so began this school year without even knowing how to write his name.
I'm so proud of him!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Oprah and Pauline


You guys may remember reading the letters from Oprah and Pauline a few months ago requesting sponsorship. God provided and both girls were able to be sponsored. Both are attending a Christian boarding school. They have loved it!
Oprah (top photo) is in Secondary 1 and Pauline is in Secondary 2. Both have blown me away with their performance and behavior, proving over and over how badly they wanted to be in school.
Both girls are highly motivated, have clearly set goals for themselves, and teachers have only good words to say about them. I've been told that both discipline themselves to wake up early in the morning to study and make sure they spend an amble amount of time revising their work in the evenings. It has paid off for them.
Second term reports have just come out. Oprah was number 9 in a class of 170+ and Pauline was number 10 out of a class of 170+.
I am really proud of both girls and so appreciative to their sponsors for giving them a chance.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Praise Report

I'm sure you guys get tired of hearing Jackie stories all the time....... but her story is so incredible. Out of death's grip to the child she is now. Every time I look at her I see a miracle. All in only one year. We had her appointment at the hospital on Monday to get her meds refilled and her blood results back from the previous appointment.
One year ago from Monday, Jackie's CD4 was 2 (yes, ONLY 2). A year ago from Monday, Jackie was diagnosed with cancer. Fast forward a year later (although at times it didn't seem to be going by so fast), Jackie is cancer free, has a CD4 count of 1005, and an undetectable viral load!!!!!!!
Only God can do that.
Many people here that have watched her story unfold tell me that I saved Jackie's life. But, God saved Jackie's life. He has a plan for her. And I tell people over and over again that Jackie being in my life has blessed me more than I think it has blessed her. My life is forever changed. I've learned so much from her. My mission changed after her coming into my life. I never had dreamed of being so involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Now one third of my kids are infected. Over half have a parent that has died or is infected. Jackie has opened the door for so many others into Vision of Destiny.
In her four short years on this earth, she has made more of an impact than the majority of us will in a lifetime. I thank God every day for giving her to me and trusting me to care for her life.

Monday, August 9, 2010

They Really Do Get It

Every day at school and every Sunday at church, the kids get to hear about Jesus. I've never really been sure how much they really understand. I still don't think they get it to the level that adults get it (or at least some adults) but they do get it. In their own simplified way, they do understand truth.
Jackie comes home after school and "teaches" me her Bible lesson for the day. Yesterday, she went even further and was talking to the house helper we have at home. A little side note: I finally had to break down and get someone to help me at home. It was proving to be way too much to fight sickness, take care of 3 children, run a school, and actually keep my house clean. So, I hired someone to be helping me at home with cleaning up, doing some of the cooking, and helping me from time to time with the kids. And, it's been a God send.
Anyway, back to the point of this post. The house helper is Muslim. She prays regularly so I'm not sure that Jackie really sees any difference in the two religions. I was sitting in the office on the computer. Jackie and Yosam were outside playing when I heard Jackie begin to tell our helper all kinds of things.
"Do you know Satan is weak?"
"Do you know God is strong?"
"Do you know Jesus walked on water?"
"Do you know that when we pray God hears us?"
"Do you know that when we have a problem or are sick, we can tell God and He can help us?"
I was so filled with joy hearing all these things. In her own kiddish way, Jackie is getting it! She loves God with all her heart.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Eric

This is Eric. He's around 4 years old and in the Baby Class at my school. I'm so thankful that he is in school and more than that, he's sponsored.
You see he lost his dad last night to AIDS. He may grow up never knowing the answer as to why his dad had to die, why he had to grow up without him. But, he has comfort. He hears comfort every day in the Bible lesson at school. He gets comfort every morning and midday when he receives breakfast and lunch. He gets comfort in knowing that he does have a sponsor willing to stand in the gap and make sure that he receives an education, a sponsor willing to extend a father's love.

Answers May Not Be There But Comfort Always Is

The last few weeks have been really hard. I wonder if it is ok for a missionary to admit that. I've really struggled. Disappointment, hurt, feeling down etc. I guess that is all normal. In my last post I wrote, that through it all God is still God. And He is STILL God.
Yesterday, during the sermon at church, the pastor made a statement that struck me and stuck with me. It's kept playing over and over in my head. He said, "We may not always get the answer, but there is always comfort." We can go to God. We can cry out to Him. We can ask questions. We can search the Bible. He hears. He listens. He may not give us the answer. Or He may answer but not the answer we want to hear. But, even without an answer, He still gives comfort.
In the situation I've faced over the last few weeks, there have been many questions. I will never have an answer to them. But, in it, I've been able to pour out my tears to God. He has given me comfort. He won't leave me or forsake me. He's put people in my life that have stood with me and in their own way brought tremendous amounts of comfort.

Monday, July 19, 2010

God Is Still God

Disappointments come in life. I've recently been faced with probably one of the biggest disappointments in my life.
About three weeks ago, I received some devastating news. Totally disappointing news. I was told to wait three weeks for another test and a definite answer. Great! Three weeks of waiting. Three weeks of going back and forth from resignation to the fact things weren't going to go as hoped to accepting it. Loss of hope is shattering so I kept clinging to whatever little hope I could find.
Finally, the three weeks ended and the news hadn't changed. The results were the same. At this point, I cried. Cried because now there seemed to be no more hope. Dreams were lost. I began to question God. Why? How could You let this happen? Weren't You there? Why didn't You fix it?
But, in all, God is still God. He allowed it to happen because He knows what He has planned for me. He was there all the time. He will always be at my side. The why I may never know. I just have to trust that my life is in His hands. His timing is best. He knows what is best for me. He loves me. I am His child.
HE IS STILL GOD AND HE IS STILL IN CONTROL.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Vicky

This is Vicky! Vicky is a really funny character. She's one of the younger kids in the school. She only recently turned 3. Needless to say, she wasn't quite ready to be stuck in a classroom all morning. So, she would walk all over the compound visiting the rest of the staff (cook and guard).
She's gotten better about staying in class and actually is really smart. She's also really funny. She understands everything said in English but will only answer back in Luganda. She also regularly "drops" her shoes into the pit latrine where they can never be recovered from, meaning her mom is constantly looking for ways to cheaply replace her shoes.
Vicky is the youngest of three girls. The other two are equally as smart and funny. None of them are in the least bit shy. Both of Vicky's parents as well as one of her older sisters are HIV+. Thankfully, her mom found out while pregnant with Vicky and prevented transmitting the virus to her.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Just Another Post

I had a goal of blogging at least 10 times per month this year. Needless to say, I've failed miserably. Most of the time I feel like there's just not much to say. My life is pretty boring or at the least, mundane. It's pretty much take care of kids, play with kids, work on school stuff, work on sponsorship stuff. Nothing really interesting or philosophical to report. I read some friends' blogs and am amazed at the stuff they are able to write. Not that it's always what is going on in their lives. But, some extraordinary thought.
Anyway, this is just another post with not a lot to say.
I did get to entertain at my new house for the first time last night. We invited our old neighbors over for dinner. They are a couple (with no children yet) from Tanzania. They love my kiddos and always bless me with some supplies each month- toilet paper, bread, sugar. You know, the necessities. Plus, the wife volunteers just about every day at the school. And every once in a while they will decide to buy the food necessities for the school for an entire month!
So, they came over for dinner and I baked in my brand new oven for the first time. Guess it was a night of firsts. I had no idea how the chicken was going to turn out since I've never actually cooked in an oven where you can't control the temperature. I threw some veggies in a pan, seasoned them, added the seasoned chicken, put in a little water and dumped some barbecue sauce on the chicken and let it bake. People devoured it. Jackie was even scraping her plate for any last drop she could find!
And we had an enjoyable evening just chatting away. The husband never has a shortage of what to say....... so we had quite a few laughs.
So, that was the enjoyable evening in my otherwise uneventful life.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Kaushara

This is Kaushara, one of the friendliest kids int he school. She's always grinning with a smile from ear to ear.
That wasn't always the case. Kaushara started school a bit scared. She's a total orphan and had just lost her second parent to AIDS. She's also HIV+. Now, you would never know that she is an orphan. Her aunt, who is also HIV+, takes very good care for her.
She is in Baby Class at Vision of Destiny International School and enjoys every minute of it.
Thanks to her sponsors for making it possible for her to be there.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Ivan A.



This is Ivan A. He is in Baby Class at Vision of Destiny International School, the school I started last year. He's one of the fortunate children that is attending.
Ivan is 4 years old so should actually be a class ahead of where he is but due to lack of school fees he never attended school last year.
He has two older brothers and a younger sister. Each has a different father and no father is any where to be seen. I don't think Ivan has ever even met his dad. He lives in a one room house with his mom and siblings. His mom is a drunkard, consistently lies, and isn't very cooperative with the rules at school.
However, Ivan is very cooperative, a bright learner, and full of life.
The first time I met Ivan, he was filthy, skinny, barely talked, and wouldn't smile. Just after one month in school, all that had changed. Ivan comes to school clean. This is a requirement which his mom took some time to be able to comply with. After us taking Ivan home from school, not allowing him to stay for the day for about a week, she finally decided to bring him when he was bathed. Since getting two meals a day from school, plus the one he gets at home, he's put on some weight. He smiles and can be seen playing with other children while running and shouting.
Ivan is one example of how sponsorship works, how it changes a life. It might be a small change, but it's a change. He now has a chance to go to school and maybe do something in the future that he otherwise would never have been able to do.
Please pray for Ivan: that he will know the Lord, love the Lord, study hard in school and become the man that God wants him to be.
Pray for Ivan's mom: that she will come to know and love the Lord, that she will stop drinking, that she will love and care for her children the way God intends for her to
Pray for Ivan's sponsor: that the sponsor (a family) will know they are loved and appreciated, that they will know how much impact they have made on a life, and that everything they have given will be returned to them.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Moved In

So, moving is always a chore. And it has proven to be even more so this time. I've never moved with kids before....... in the middle of sickness (both me and the kids)........ while working a full time job that seems at times to be more like 3 full time jobs (although very rewarding so no complaints).
But, finally, we are moved. Out of our two bedroom apartment into our three bedroom house! The kids are loving it. I am too. No one from the slum knocking on our door all hours of the night begging for rent or school fees. Privacy! Peace! When even my silent child, Mary, started complaining of the knocks on the doors, I knew something had to be done. One solution.... move!
One advantage to the new house is having two bathrooms. I have my own in the master bedroom! I'm loving not sharing a toilet with little kids! It actually stays clean!
And the kids love their shower. It hangs over them so they tell me they like bathing in the rain! They also have a yard to play in, although it's mostly concrete, not much grass. But, still, they have a place to run around and shout. And they do! The whole afternoon after school they spend running around outside, shouting, playing, getting to do what kids do! And I hear we might be getting a blow up swimming pool for them from some friends in the states some time this year........ OH the fun they are going to have!
So, that is one of the reasons I haven't been blogging much lately. Between moving and not feeling well, not really much time or words to be said.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Need and Want

There is a struggle that comes with living overseas. It's carried over from the culture I was born into as well as a struggle that reigns within the country I live in. It's a struggle between two worlds, two realities. Rich vs. poor. Abundance vs. lack. How do I live with the guilt of what I have been blessed with while so many have so little?
American culture says we need a lot. We need everything. We need everything newer. We need everything bigger and flashier. We need everything that is better. Without leaving the borders of the U.S., I probably never would have noticed this. When I speak about this to those that have never stepped into a third world country, I am usually met with a blank stare.
But, the problem is obvious. And it's not just America vs. Uganda. Even within Uganda, it's obvious between the haves and the have nots. It's the same struggle.
Most of the time I'm content with what I have. I might occassionaly crave a food from home or long for a new shirt, jeans, or pair of shoes. But, mostly, I am content. However, once in a while, I struggle with those cultural pressures, the desires (lies) that lead me to believe that my wants are really needs. There's the struggle: how can I feel that way when I look at the environment around me?
I don't really need most of what I own but find myself wanting more. The life I live in Uganda is not a hard life, especially when compared to others. I spent my first several years here living in a one room shack, no electricity, no water. I traded that in for a two bedroom apartment. And am again trading my two bedroom apartment in for a three bedroom house.
It's still stretching at times. Water and power go off, sometimes for weeks at a time. But, I'm not living in a house that leaks. Me and my small family are not crowded into a tiny space. I can afford medicine when we need it. We don't sleep hungry (although I wish we could afford more meat- again, a want not a need). Yes, it gets hot at times. But, we can open up the windows for fresh air and not worry about the smell of sewage creeping in.
So, in writing this, I have found no answers. The struggle will continue. All I can do is pray that I find a healthy balance while living in an unjust world.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Mercy

This is Mercy. Mercy joined the Baby Class at my school in October last year. This year she was in Middle Class. From October to the beginning of this school year, we noticed Mercy losing a lot of weight.
Mercy was an orphan. We learned that her father died of AIDS. During the course of the term, Mercy continued to lose weight. She was weak and rarely talked. Myself, her uncle, and her teacher kept encouraging Mercy's grandmother to have Mercy tested for HIV. She continuously refused. I don't know if she was in denial, not wanting to admit there was a problem, or not wanting to face the stigma. Mercy was never tested.
This term started on Monday. Mercy never appeared for school. Yesterday in the afternoon, some relatives came to the school to inform us that Mercy had been admitted in a clinic and was badly off. This morning I got a call. Mercy died during the night.
Mercy probably suffered needlessly all her life. It may not have been HIV. It could have been something else easily treated. Even if HIV, there are free medications available. My prayer is that people won't let stigma stop them from testing their children.
In a staff meeting this afternoon, we have decided that for a child to remain in the school program, they will have to be tested. How many more are there that are infected that it is not yet known, that are being left untreated?
It was really hard to explain to Mercy's class what happened. Jackie is in her class and this is what Jackie told me when she came home. Mercy died. They are going to put her in the soil. Then she's going to go and stay with Jesus. Jesus is really strong.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Clowns Without Borders/Kisenyi Acrobatic Group


Every school break, I try to have some sort of program running at the school. This holiday it's been just the primary school kids along with 4 high school girls. They've been doing sports, choir, arts and crafts, drama, dance, etc.
I also try to have one fun event for them each holiday. This break we were able to be have a combined group: Clowns Without Borders from Sweden and Kisenyi Acrobatic Group from Rwanda come to perform for the kids and the parents/guardians.
I think it definitely will be the highlight from this holiday program. The kids smiled and laughed the whole time.
We watched them perform skits, dances, tumbling, build pyramids, ride a unicycle, juggle, etc. They did an excellent job!
My kids also decided to share with them some of what they have been practicing this break. They recited a poem and sang a song.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Mother's Day

Mother's Day has usually been a day of dread for me. Reason being is a long story, which I'd rather not go into on this blog. However, yesterday was a much different Mother's Day.
For the first time, I wasn't focused on my lack of relationship with my mother, but on the relationship I have with the 3 wonderful kids that live with me.
I've enjoyed the last year of being a "mom." I've definitely learned a lot. It's had its ups and downs. I've learned to love more than I ever thought imaginable.
Ups: lots of laughing and shouting daily around the house, hugs and kisses and I love yous before bedtime, more laughing, having a child officially become a teenager, living with a sweet teenager, Jackie losing her first teeth, all three learning to speak English, family nights out to eat........
Downs: Jackie's almost dying of AIDS, Jackie being diagnosed with cancer, chemotherapy, Jackie's mom taking her, Yosam adjusting to a new home......

Throughout all the ups and downs, I've been able to see many blessings. I've never regretted taking in any one of the three children and know that if I had refused on any of them, it would have been me that missed out. It's been a far greater blessing to me to have each one of them that I could ever be to them.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Life as a Missionary is NOT a Romance

The following rant comes after attending a Women's Bible Study today. I got the privilege of sitting down with two other missionary women. Both have been here a comparable amount of time (going on 9 years) as me. It was awesome to be able to honestly share my soul and know that they really "got it."
Because, you see, missionaries are nothing special. We are normal people. We still get down, depressed, excited, annoyed, angry, pissed off, etc.
I loved being able to share with and be encouraged and encouraging to these two beautiful ladies. It's rare that I get to be that transparent as I always feel like my "work" and myself here as a "missionary" are being judged. Like I have a different standard to live up to than others.

It's always very interesting to work with newbies- new full time missionaries or first time short term missionaries. I'm sure I was once there, although don't really remember it, or maybe I was one of the few who had some early reality checks that prevented me from seeing everything through rose colored glasses.
Yes, I am a missionary. However, this title doesn't define me. Actually, I hate it. I don't consider myself a missionary. I'm just me. This happens to be the career I chose, but it isn't all that I am.
Life is still life. It still has its ups and downs, its hills and valleys. The only difference is the location.
I hear these newbies say all the time things like:
"Oh, it must be so much fun living here."
"I'm going to come back here and save all these children."
"This is the best country in the world. The people are poor but they're happy."
And the list could go on and on. I could also rant on and on in response but here's just the little tip of the iceberg.
In living anywhere, you are living life. No place is always fun. Neither is any place always boring. There's good and bad in everything. Life as a missionary can be lonely at times. It can be heart wrenching at times. At other times, it's very full and very rewarding. But, these things are true of any job a person could have.
Yes, there are new experiences, new things to see, new things to taste, etc. But, those things quickly become normal parts of your life. Some of them will even grow to get on your nerves. Others you will even come to hate. Same as living in the country of your birth.
Then there is that feeling of living in a fish bowl. Everyone is looking at you and in some ways you will feel like you are constantly being judged. Supporters are looking at you to make sure you are really "holy" enough. Churches will wonder if you are really qualified enough. Those living around you will set up apart as the one with all the answers. You will begin to feel like you don't get to really live your life, but that you are just trying to live up to other's expectations or not mess up and become a fool. Or worse yet, get pulled off of the field you love so much because your sin is "bigger" than a non-missionary's sin (because remember, you are supposed to have it all together).
Yet, you are a person just like any other person. You will never be "holy" enough. Sin will always be a part of your life, a dragon waiting to cut you down. You will never be qualified enough. No amount of skill or training you have will prepare you for living life. It might make some things easier, but you're still not going to get it all right.
And you will never be able to fix everything. All the problems around you will still be all the problems around you. The little that you are able to do will be like a speck of sand sitting on the ocean floor, insignificant. It might impact one life, but look around you, poverty and hardships will still be there. You will not be able to solve every problem. You will not be able to solve every child. There will still be children not attending school. Children will still die of preventable diseases. Children will still sleep hungry. Parents will still be drunkards. Families will still lose their homes. So, to say you will come back and save all these children, is setting yourself up for failure and disappointment. It just won't happen.
And yes, people know how to put a smile on their faces, show you hospitality, while you are here. But, don't think for a moment that they are happy in their poverty. Don't think that they find happiness in watching their children slowly starve to death, die of malaria because there's no money for the medicine or the clinic has run out, or not be able to attend school. The longer you live in a poverty stricken area, you will learn that it's not that these people are happy in their circumstances. They've just learned to bear it and learned to not show everyone their problems. But, enter into the heart of the community, and you will begin to hear the stories of sorrow, the heartache. You will find the initial joy you felt slowly turns to grief and pain as these people you love show you their heart, not just the smile on their face.

Remember, being a missionary doesn't define me. It's not who I am. It's the career I have chosen (or some would say that I have been called to- if you have to "holify" it). I am a normal person- with my sin, my mess ups, my attitude, my joys, my sorrows, my cross to bear.........

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Living Life to the Fullest

Yes, I am a somewhat quiet person (until you get to know me, then I can be quite talkative). People seem to think that quiet equates to stupid, reserved in actions, etc. However, I've always been somewhat nomadic and a bit of a risk taker, never wanting to live my life inside of a box. I think I've always been sort of weird, different from others.
I don't want to live life with regrets, what ifs, wondering what would have happened if only..... I've always lived life thinking I won't know unless I try. That doesn't mean I don't count the cost of what if I fail. The experiences of life, the failures and the triumphs, are what makes up the story of our life. Each experience, each failure, each triumph is a lesson learned.
When I left life in the states and started life in Uganda, most people thought I was crazy or had completely lost my mind. I saw it as following what my heart was leading. Most thought it would never work out. I wouldn't know unless I tried it. Each step along the way, people have asked when are you coming back, when are you giving up, how long are you going to do this, what future in it is there for you, etc. But, to me, my life is an amazing story. I'm getting to learn, experience, and see things that most people will never even dream of.
I never want to wake up one day and realize my life is almost over and I never really lived it. I don't want to look back on a life lived in a box, lived in fear, lived in missed opportunities. I don't want to look back on a life of "I wish I would have."
I want to look back on a life lived on "Oh my gosh!" moments. I want to be able to look back on a life that was truly lived, and lived to the fullest.
Will there be regrets? Yes. Will there be mistakes? Yes. Will there be bumps and bruises along the way? Yes. Will there be heartaches? Yes. But, those things will be reminders that I've really LIVED life. Will there be pain along the way? Yes. But, that makes the good times all the more joyful!
Life is about the experiences, taking the opportunities God gives us, the good, the bad, the joy, and the sorrow. It's the memories, the story of our lives. It's about dreaming and setting out to let those dreams come true. It's about letting life be all that it can be!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Home

Where is home? I believe I am home, and the saying "Home is where the heart is" to be very true. I frequently get asked. When are you coming home? How long are you going to be there, as if there is some place strange for me to be? My reply: "I am home. I'll probably come to visit the states in a few years (or when Jackie is grown up and married)."
I really do feel at home. I'm at peace here. Roots have grown deep here and are going deeper by the day. My apartment is here. My kids are here. My life is here. I love Uganda and don't look at it as being a missionary here. I actually hate being referred to as a missionary. I live here. It just happens that this is where I'm serving God.
And it's not that Uganda needs me. I'm blessed to have the privilege to live here. I've been tremendously blessed here. Blessed by the love that has surrounded me (not that there's never any problems or conflicts in relationships), blessed by all that I have learned, and blessed by all that God has shown and taught me here.
I've always been somewhat of a gypsy, never really feeling settled. In fact, in my entire adult life, I've never spent more than a year in a particular residence (until the apartment I'm currently living in- by the time I move out it will be a year and a half). But, living in Uganda is settling me. I don't long to move around, unless out of necessity (distance from work, etc.). There is still a lot that I want to see and do, but Uganda has pulled my heart. No matter where I go or what I do, I believe I will always be drawn back here. I'm loving the sense of stability that I've had over the last couple of years here. And it's getting more and more stable by the day as roots do continue to grow deeper.
I am home.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

I've Got My Room Back!

She did it! She finally decided that she would move into the kids room! And she's loving it! I am too!
At the beginning of April (after a couple of weeks of discussion), Jackie finally decided that she would move into the "children's room." Now, it no longer the "children's room." It is her room and her bed and she's a big girl because she can sleep alone in her own bed!
And I've got my room back! No more little kids clothes and toys strewn all over the place. I can go to sleep at whatever time I want to. I can watch movies or read a book while in bed before I go to sleep without having to worry if I'm going to wake someone up! It's given me some privacy! I can actually close the door and get a moment or two alone (although they are usually very brief moments before I'm interrupted by a knock on the door).

Lots of other stuff going on in the last month since I've posted. Visitors. Meetings. Staff changes. Parents craft group beginning. End of term I for students. A weekend away.
I really wish I was better and more consistent at blogging....... maybe someday.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A Recent Conversation With Jackie

Ever since Jackie has been home, she has slept in my room in my bed, which she boldly proclaims is our room and our bed. I'm not real sure when it ceased being mine and became ours.
In the other room, there is a twin size bed where Yosam sleeps as well as a triple decker where Mary sleeps, leaving two extra spaces for whoever else might be here. Recently I was thinking how great it would be to have my room back and my bed back so I thought maybe since all the kids get along so well, I could convince Jackie that being a big girl meant moving into the other room.
Our conversation went something like this:
Me: Jackie, why don't you sleep in the big bed with Mary? That would mean you are really a big girl now.
Jackie: That room is for THE CHILDREN. I'll stay in OUR room.
End of conversation. Somehow she isn't a big girl, she's a full grown woman that doesn't want to move into the kids' room.
Needless to stay she is still sleeping in our room and in our bed........

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

An African Adventure...... I Mean Bus Ride

After a recent Facebook post, I decided to look for this old post from way back in 2005 on a blog I had then. The writing is not the greatest or most thought out but it should be good for at least a laugh or two.
At the time I was working with an organization that had branches in various parts of the country as well as neighboring countries so I got to do quite a bit of traveling, although traveling of the cheapest variety.
So here is the old post:
I had to travel all over the country last week and had to go by bus. Not a greyhound where you purchase a ticket and know what time the bus is leaving. Here you just show up at the bus park, board a bus heading to your destination and when it is full it leaves. Well, leaving from Kampala, I found the bus already full. Actually it was already leaving..... meaning its wheels were already moving. It was already full and by full I mean every seat was taken and any other available space had someone standing in it. However, although the bus was moving, the door was still open for anyone who might be able to hop in a moving bus, which I decided to do. I didn't feel like waiting for a couple of hours for the next one to fill.
I managed to jump on but obviously it was standing room only. This is quite a feat with all the potholes (craters) in the middle of the road. Possibly, it was a bit like water skiing?????
After about an hour, people started getting off the bus. I managed to snag a manmade seat (cardboard and cushion over the engine). Yes, the engine was inside the bus! Toasty buns anyone?!
Then, after about three hours we stopped for a potty break. Modern toilets? Nope, find a bush and drop your pants. Men on the side of the road, ladies a little ways off of it. We finally reached the town near where I was heading. Notice I said near. My actual destination was a bit outside of town so I had to get a matatu (a minivan that serves as a taxi). They are supposed to hold 15 people, including the driver and the conductor. We had 20+ people squeezed in there like beans.
Then I get to the farthest place that this taxi went and had to hop on a boda boda (motorcycle taxi). Halfway, I need to visit a place of convenience again........ find another bush.
When I was finished at this particular destination, I decided that possibly it might be better to get a special hire (a car that serves as a taxi), thinking it might be more comfortable/convenient. These are supposed to hold a driver and four passengers. We had ten adults squeezed into this tiny little vehicle. Imagine, hips everywhere!
Then, that night another bus. This time I had to wait two hours for it to leave. At night there are no potty break stops. This one did stop for gas though so we were able to get out and quickly visit the place of convenience. Bladders were very happy. There were no bushes, although with the result, I think most would have preferred a bush. The gas station had rows of pit latrines. They were in no way fresh smelling. In fact the one that I used was especially foul. In fact, really foul. When we got back on the bus, people were noticing a really disgusting smell. Turns out it was coming from the clothes of the people that had used the especially foul latrine. We had gotten back on the bus smelling like a bunch of really nasty baboons. Definitely didn't make for a pleasant night time grab some sleep ride. We all ended up laughing and threatening to remove our clothes and toss them out the window.
Next morning, another bus and more bushes (I think I was thankful for the bush this time).
That night another bus. This time the bus didn't need gas and we were in an area that had a lot of rebel activity at the time. However, my bladder didn't wish to cooperate. The driver was refusing to stop. My bladder was screaming! I was begging the driver. He continued refusing. Finally, I threatened that if he wasn't going to stop, I was going to make my own toilet on the bus. He finally stopped at the next town, which really wasn't a town. It was more like a row of shacks called a town. There was NO TOILET there. Thankfully there was also no electricity. I went to the side of one of the buildings and visited a place of convenience while having a conversation with several guys sitting there. Can you say UNCOMFORTABLE?????
The next morning another bus. Again, it was a two hour wait. The bus finally fills and the driver tells us that the bus isn't going but that there is a bus a little way up the hill that is empty and ready to leave. We looked like a bunch of mad cows running up that hill. There was no line or order to get on the bus. No gentleman to offer to let women/children go first. You had to fight your way on. I don't know how I managed it but I was like #6 to get on. Only a few minor scratches and bruises. At least I got a seat and didn't have to stand up for the next four hours! Finally, I was able to sit back, relax and enjoy my ride back to Kampala.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Don't Leave Them Alone In The Kitchen








You have just seen the result of my kids being left unsupervised in the kitchen for too long!


Sunday, February 21, 2010

I Really Must Be Crazy

So, let me just put this out there for all of blog world to read. I started running a school on $300/month last year. NUTS....... and just to let you know no one can do it. Not even in a third world country. I end up using most of my support money to cover expenses on the school. I'm not bragging, just stating a fact.
Around the time that the school moved out of my house and into an actual building I asked to increase this by $50. Still doesn't cover everything, even though I'm still living in a third world country.
Well, this year, I planned to add 12 children to my school to make the total 24. Well, that 12 ended up being 26............. So, I definitely can't run it on $350/month, not even with adding my support to it.
I again asked for an increase. I figured I could safely raise the amount to $500/month without depleting the account and embarrassing myself. So, today I was working on my monthly budget for March. By the time I finish paying all the teachers and staff, electricity, water, rent, (you know all the really essential things), I figured out that I will have $2 per child per month for food and school supplies. It's going to take more than a miracle for this to happen. Even if I add in my support.......... I keep hearing a teeny tiny little voice in my head saying, "It's never going to work!" But, the crazy side of me, or the part of me that walks in blind faith, is praying that it will work. I'm praying that God will show Himself in a real and tangible way every month by somehow miraculously making sure that every need is met. That I won't fall flat on my ____ and be embarrassed.
Or you could help out and sponsor a child................

Friday, February 12, 2010

Deo


I meet a lot of kids. They come knocking on my door. They show up at my school and hang around on the compound there. They tell me their stories, what their life is like. They share with me their hopes and their dreams.

Sometimes it is heart wrenching. I come home and cry, knowing that for the majority of them there is absolutely nothing I can do. My support can only stretch so far. And sponsors are few and far between.

Sometimes, I'm foolish and if I've got some money saved, I'll take a child back to school and pray that by the next term the child will either have a sponsor or money will have miraculously appeared. I've been doing this frequently lately. Hope I won't be kicking myself in the butt soon when second term rolls around.

Deo is one such kid. He appeared at school one day. He had used the shortcut and came through the back way. He was really humble and sat on the veranda until Uncle Charles started a conversation with him. Charles called me over and we spent some time talking with Deo that day. He had quite a story.

I usually test the kids to see how serious they are and it gives me time to follow up and investigate their stories........ So, we told Deo to come back the following week, just to hang out with us. We weren't real sure he would show up.

Why? He's a street kid. Deo lives on the street. He has no home. He has no where that he goes back to each night, no pillow, nothing. His mom died when he was young from the village. He and his dad moved to Kampala. His dad has no real way of supporting them so they ended up in the slum. Deo's dad drinks a lot and soon found a new wife from one of the local bars. Deo told us of how she would treat him. It was pretty horrific. Finally, Deo got fed up and left home. He's been on the street since.

He told us how he is tired of that life. He really wants to go back to school. He wants a chance to be a normal child. Deo has never been to school. He's not real sure how old he is but looks somewhere between 12-14.

Surprisingly, Deo turned back up. He would chat with us, sometimes just sit quietly. I was really feeling like he was serious about going to school. I felt like he's worth taking the chance on. So, we told Deo we'd like to find his dad. He looked skeptical at first but said he wanted to go to school so ok, let's look.

About a week later, we located Deo's dad. He's still living in the slum. The condition is not much better than Deo sleeping outside. He lives by the trench where all the sewerage gets thrown. When it rains that water enters the house. The house looks like it's going to fall down any day.

Deo's dad, on first appearance, looked to be someone I would fear to walk upon at night. Looks can really be deceiving. His dad sat and talked to us for a long time. It's clear that he loves his son, although he may not really know how to show it. He still has the new wife so doesn't think Deo would be able to come home.

Another shocking blow...... Deo's dad revealed to us that Deo's mom died of AIDS. Deo was born with HIV and the dad is as well HIV+. Deo's dad receives ARVs from the national hospital. Deo was also receiving them from the pedicatric AIDS clinic until he ran away from home. He's been off ARVs for an entire year! We already knew that Deo is almost completely blind in one eye, but finding out that he's also positive was somehow crushing to me.

I keep finding myself face to face with children that have been infected innocently. Another way that so much potential is wasted. The majority will die before reaching adulthood. The majority will be too weak to enter the workforce or to remain a productive part of the workforce. It's stopping development on the African continent. How many future engineers, doctors, accountants, presidents, teachers have died way before their time because of a disease which is highly preventable and highly treatable?

But, I'm not a person that gives up easily. I don't easily succumb to these odds and shy away from these children. They have HIV but are not HIV. They still deserve a chance. They deserve hope.

So, after several meetings with Deo's dad, it has been decided that when Jackie goes back to get her refill on meds Monday, Deo will be accompanying us. We'll be meeting with the counselors and doctors there to get him started again on a new treatment plan. After a couple of weeks, hopefully he will be stabilized on meds (or at least a plan in place), and I'll be taking him to school. I've already contacted the Christian boarding school where my kids that board attend, and someone there is willing to monitor him taking his meds. I'll be responsible for taking him to the hospital until we feel he is ready to take on that responsibility alone. And, the person at the school, let me know to talk to the pastor about a possible opening in their home or at the very least, for Deo to remain at school during holidays to prevent him being on the street when school is not in session.

I'm excited about the possibilities for Deo. I'm excited that although he's almost grown up that he's going to get a chance to attend school. I'm excited that he's willing to face this disease head on. I'm excited that he has hope. I'm excited that he's willing to fight!

Please pray with me that I'll soon find Deo a sponsor. He's a loving kid that deserves to know someone is there cheering him on, someone that cares for him and is praying for him.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Thoughts

The words to this song ("Faithful" by Brooks Fraser) sort of fit where I am at in my thoughts at the moment, some things I've been wrestling with........

When I can't feel you, I have learned to reach out just the same
When I can't hear you, I know you still hear every word I pray
And I want you more than I want to live another day
And as I wait for you maybe I'm made more faithful

All the folly of the past, though I know it is undone
I still feel the guilty one, still trying to make it right
So I whisper soft your name, let it roll around my tongue,
knowing you're the only one who knows me
You know me

Show me how I should live this
Show me where I should walk
I count this world as loss to me
You are all I want
You are all I want

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Youngest Victims

I love math and statistics. I know most people do not so I don't normally post a bunch of statistics. But, today I want to, mostly to show the need. Maybe someone else will be a numbers person and hear the cry of the countless innocent victims, mostly being left unheard.

I found these on the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric Aids Foundation website. Most of them come from the UNAIDS AIDS Epidemic Update (2009).

(www.pedaids.org/AboutPediatricAIDS/Statistics/Global.aspx)

Nearly 1,200 children under 15 years of age are infected with HIV every day, most as a result of mother-to-child transmission of the virus. Without treatment, 50% of newborns infected with HIV will die before their second birthdays.

An estimated 430,000 children were newly infected with HIV in 2008, approximately 16% of the total new infections. 390,000 of these children were in sub-Saharan Africa, more than 90% of all new child infections worldwide.

An estimated 280,000 children died in 2008 of AIDS-related illnesses.

I could continue. The numbers are staggering and the disparity between sub-Saharan Africa and the developed world are staggering. It's not fair and it makes me angry.

Children living with HIV became personal to me several years ago when Nakato came to live with me. I had no idea she was infected. By the time I knew, it was too late. They say ignorance is bliss. In that case, ignorance was death.

At that time I was hurt. I chose to harden myself to it and not really deal with it. Then Jackie walked into my life. She touched a special place in my heart. I can't really adequately express in words how much she has changed my life, my heart, my world.

I look at her and daily see a living, breathing miracle. She shouldn't be here. Daily I am reminded to not take any minute that God gives me with her for granted.

I had a sober reminder of that a couple of nights ago. One of the kids in my school died rather suddenly (after being sick only 4 days) to AIDS related complications.



One of the ways Jackie blew up my world was to ignite a passion in my to work with HIV infected/affected families. The majority of the children that I have added to my school this year are affected by HIV in some way. They've lost a parent to the disease. Their parents are living with the disease. And quite a number are themselves infected.
This has brought several "stupid" comments from a number of people around me.
"Why are you wasting you time on those kids. They're just going to die."
In Uganda, children are often stigmatized, or worse yet, left alone to die, if they have any condition that would make them a "less productive" member of the family. It's not just HIV, but sickle cell, physical deformities, blindness, deafness, etc. Families don't want to "waste" their money educating a child that will not be able to give them something back.
But, these children were infected innocently. They didn't choose it. They didn't choose to live a lifestyle that would expose them to the virus. It was passed to them unasked for. Sometimes by mothers unknowingly infected by unfaithful husbands. Sometimes by negligent mothers. Sometimes a mother afraid of the stigma of going for treatment.
In my mind, I've learned to treat HIV as any other disease. Yes, Jackie takes lots of meds and I worry when she gets something even as simple as a cough. But, if she had been a child diagnosed with diabetes or asthma, other chronic treatable diseases (which can also kill), would I have ran from the responsibility. No, I would have just dealt with it, given the meds and moved on with life as normal. So, in this case that is what I've chosen to do as well.
We're all going to die. Not one of us is promised to be here tomorrow. Yes, I know some of these children will die. I know that God will give me the strength to endure and handle it. I also know that some of them will live a long and productive life. They deserve to have a normal childhood, just like any other child.








Sunday, February 7, 2010

Resilience

I had a conversation with my downstairs neighbor this afternoon. We've had a few conversations over the year that we've both lived here, mostly guessing as to whose apartment will be the first finished, all the dust and noise the carpenters made, etc. Nothing too deep. I had no idea that she really noticed me or what I'm doing much at all. Guess it's hard not to notice the gangs of children moving up and down the stairs and in and out of my apartment, though, especially during school breaks.

Anyway, today myself and the night watchman were moving mattresses, bags, cases, etc. out of my apartment the short walk over to the school. Her first comment was "You're one strong lady." I thought she was just saying something about the fact that I was the one that was moving the things physically myself. Her point was different.

She went on to ask me how I kept doing what I was doing, mostly without the help of a big organization backing me. She asked me what kept me going, what kept me from giving up.

She kept saying that I was so resilient. That's not really a word that I would normally throw out to describe myself. I would use something like shy, quiet, nothing special, etc.

And honestly, I don't know what (besides God) that keeps me going. Life here is hard. The need is enormous. The hurting around me is devastating and there is a limit to what I can do. I've watched children, friends, co-workers die. I've seen things that can't be put into words. But, I love it here. I don't want to be anywhere else.

I've been told before that I was a fighter. It seems life has never been simple or easy for me. I've always seem to have a stumbling block in my way. It seems things have always been harder for me than those around me. I remember my high school principal telling me on numerous occasions that I am a fighter and that she admired my never giving up.

I wish I could see more of this in myself. Most of the time, I'm comparing myself to others (not something I'm proud of doing) and thinking that I'll never measure up. I look at the missionaries around me that are doing really big things, and see that what I'm doing is like only a drop in a bucket.

I've slowly started to realize that although the things I do may seem small and insignificant, possibly to one individual they are meaningful and making a difference. I know that was the case in my life. Every mountain that I had to climb, there was someone climbing it with me. My high school principal and her daughter, one of my teachers, never let me give up. Maybe that is what drives me. Hoping that for a handful of these kids it will make a difference. Hoping that they will find a way out of the chaos they live in. Hoping that they will have a better future than what has been behind them.

But, the thing that keeps me here, and keeps me going, the most: I feel that I am right where God wants me to be, doing exactly what God wants me to be doing. And His grace is sufficient for every situation, every mountain to climb, every tear that falls, every failure, every heart break, and every downfall.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Chance

I don't know why I'm always drawn to help teenagers, girls most especially. Possibly because I see the danger that they face here and want to help protect them. It's becoming more difficult as I have way more kids needing help than I have people lining up to sponsor.
A few days ago, two girls knocked on my door. I'm trying to stop people from coming to my home looking for sponsors so I sent them over to the school. I told them it would be a while as I had an appointment somewhere else first. A couple of hours later when I reached the school, I found them waiting patiently. They told me their story and I told them to come back with a letter of recommendation from the headmaster of the school as well as a letter explaining themselves to me. I can't take these girls back to school at the moment due to not having enough sponsors. I've already got 20+ that I've accepted into my program that I have no sponsor for. Possibly when you read what they wrote, God will lay it on your heart and you would desire to sponsor one or both of them.
Here is what they wrote:
My name is Pauline. I am aged 16 years. I was born in a family of four children, one sister and two brothers. My father and mother are still alive. my father had his own house and there was a man who came saying the land on which the house was built was his. My father was taken to court and he was arrested. When he was in prison, my mother took me to a church and I started studying. When my father came back, we started renting a room. Unfortunately, he could not manage to pay rent so we were chased away from the room. My mother went to stay with her friend with my youngest brother. These friends used to sell alcohol and my mother used to drink. My sister and other brother were helped by a Muslim man at the mosque. I had a friend who took me to the old man who I now stay with. I don't know where my father went.
I got sponsorship from the church up to when I finished primary level. When I went back to see whether they can help me join my secondary level, they told me that they only help children in primary, not secondary. I lost hope because I was left hanging with no one to help. I didn't know where my father was. My mother a drunkard. My mom fell so sick and she was taken to the village with my youngest brother.
The old man I stay with has no money, even feeding us is a problem. So, he told me to go back and try again. I went back and they told me that I had no sponsor but since I have no one they will fundraise for my fees. I was sent to school. Sometimes they could pay late or half of the money or simply forget so the school demanded the fees and I was chased from school.
I call for any assistance. Please help me achieve my goal. I would like to become a doctor and treat sick people and children. Please, I don't want to become a failure. I don't want to move around the village and end up in marriage. I don't want to become a housegirl. I promise to study and be among the best. I promise never to discourage you. I will make sure that your money is put in proper use. I will never do any stupid thing to annoy you. Give me hope that one day I can become a useful person. Help me become like other children I admire and dry my tears. I will keep my promise as said above. I will make sure that one day I will help children like me. Let me hope that my application will be considered.
Your friend,
Pauline

My name is Winnfred. I am 15 years old. I am writing this letter to ask you to help me in my education. We are 10 children in my family. I am the 8th. My father died of AIDS when I was 4 years old. By then we were staying in the village.
My mother had no job so she decided to come to town with three children who were young, me and two little sisters. When we came, she had no food, job, or house for us to stay in. One woman helped us by letting us stay with her but she didn't give us food so we could feed on leftovers from hostels. One day people gave my mother some money and we went to the market. We bought tomatoes and we could sell them to get some money.
I think after something like two months, my mom rented a house and brought my sisters and my brother from the village because no one could help them there. One day a friend came and told my mother that there is a church which is helping children in education. My mother took us there and we were given a chance to study.
We started studying. When I was in primary 4, my mother died. It was my worst day in my life because I had nobody in this world who would look after me and my sisters plus my brother. One day one of my mother's friends decided to help me by staying with me. So we started separating. Two sisters of mine were married so my two young sisters were taken by one and the other one took others.
Last year 2009, I finished my primary school and I was among the best candidates in Uganda that did well. I was in Division II.
So this year, I am to join secondary but I have no fees because the church which has been helping me has stopped. They said that what they have done for me is enough. But, I want to continue with my studies so that I finish and I become a lawyer to help my sisters and street children.
That is the reason why I am asking for your help. I wish you sweet dreams and wonderful days only. My God bless you and your family and friends.
Your friend,
Winnfred

Please let me know if anyone would like to sponsor one or both of these girls or any other child. Of course before admitting them officially into the program, a thorough investigation has to be done to verify their stories. But, somehow I believe them. I've admired their persistence and determination in continuing to pursue a chance of being sponsored.