Monday, January 25, 2010


I read a statistic today that 50% of Uganda's populations dwell in slums. Slums that are dirty, full of crime, where AIDS is rampant, prostitution is normal, and men rarely play their role in the family.
It's a vital ministry. However, slum ministry is just plain hard. It's daunting. It seems endless and thankless. The problems and the heart break often times seem to outweigh the triumphs and the joy. And today has just been one of them days.
One of my kid's uncles greeted me this morning with: "Don't pay school fees for my niece as of yet. I hear she's pregnant." Lovely, I had my day planned out and it didnt' include a pregnancy check up on a 14 year old child...... The day before a grandmother had informed me that she didnt' want her grandchild going back to school. Very unusual so a home visit was on the schedule..... didn't know it was going to turn into a nearly all day affair..... Then the uncle told me to take all the girls living in his home to be checked for being pregnant.
So, let me start with the grandmother. She was just plain evil. I have no other word to describe her. I've never seen someone with so much hatred towards a grandchild. She was insisting that the girl was worthless and shouldn't be in school, telling me not to waste my money. The child was insisting that she wanted to go to school and the grandmother was practicing witchcraft (there goes that lovely accusation again) and just wanted her to miss out on her chance. I was insisting to the grandmother that yes, children misbehave and are badly mannered at times but it was my role to guide them and not give up on them. Still, she was insisting no school. I was insisting that taking the child out of school will make things worse. An idle girl in the slum..... let me see, can we say pregnant within the next year or becoming a drunkard or countless other tragedies??????
Most families that I've come across that accuse their children of being badly behaved beg for them to be taken to boarding schools where they can be out of hte slum, more closely monitored, and better disciplined. And it usually works! However, this grandmother was just CRAZY. Again, I about 90% believe the witchcraft accusations. (maybe I'm getting sucked into this accusation being thrown around).
The girl began threatening to kill herself and said if she had to stay another night in that home she would do just that. Now, I was really concerned, not wanting that hanging over my head. I told the grandmother since we couldn't sort it out, I was going to bring the local officials and let them sort it out. That made her nervous. She quickly changed her story and said that she wasn't the one responsible for decisions concerning the child, but that there was an uncle who was (male dominance). So, I asked to see the uncle. I was told he lives some ways away. We called him and he said he didn't have money to get there so we would have to go to him. Another surprise expense I wasn't expecting. We loaded up the in a hired car (the driver, a translator, the child, grandmother, and an auntie- who the child wanted to move in with). We arrived at the uncle's workplace, where he didn't even want to look at or greet the grandmother. That is her child but seems they have their own grievances.
His response was to not remove the child from school and if I was willing to take her to boarding, I should do so. He also said to let the girl stay with the auntie until school begins. We told him he needed to give us written consent and it needed to be signed and stamped from a local official. He called about two hours later to say the letter was ready and that he wanted to meet with us again to give us more details.......
Now, to the teen pregnancy issue. I headed back and found only 3 of the 5 girls at home so we were off to the clinic. Results: 2 of the 3 are pregnant. One three months and the other four months. My heart just sank. I look at these girls and see babies. The one that is three months told me she didn't want to miss her chance for schooling and had already taken drugs to make the baby abort. My heart sank again. She said she expects it to work before school begins. I'm praying it doesn't.
The other child we advised to not abort, but to have the baby and then get back in school as quickly as possible, meaning I'll have to start looking for a relative to take the baby. She agreed.
I called the school counselor to let her know what was going on and she advised as well to get both girls back in school as quickly as possible and that she would give them extra attention.
Now to break the news to the dad. The one four months pregnant is his niece, the other his daughter. As you can imagine, he was crushed. He said he's a single dad, how can he help a 14 year old girl deliver. His suggestion is to send her to an auntie in the village, the auntie that she was living with until two months ago, when she came to live at his home. Another family meeting is in the schedule for tomorrow. I'm not really for sending her back to the village as there will be little to no medical care, but not real sure of which woman to send her to here in town........
Then it was time to focus on my little kids for the evening. Two children that have captured my heart, but who I know are both really sick. The fact that both are HIV+ often times escapes my mind but from time to time, the reality hits me hard. I don't know for how long they will be here. I may not get to see them grow up. I love them more than I ever thought it was possible for me to love and know that a part of my heart is going to always be with them.........
So, while my heart is continually breaking, I know that I've asked God to break my heart with the things that break His. I know that He has the strength to help me carry this load. I know that He gives the grace and comfort. And I know that in the midst of the sadness, He will provide all the joy I need to keep going. In all the crap that surrounds me (and I also mean that literally), I wouldn't trade places and be anywhere else in the world, or doing anything else than what I'm doing.
Please keep these kids in your prayers. Every statistic imaginable is stacked against them. But, I know in Christ they can overcome. Today's tragedies become tomorrow's triumphs!

Friday, January 15, 2010

On a Boda Boda In the Rain

My life has been mad busy the last few weeks. It's always like that the month before school starts. I don't mind though. Actually, I much prefer business to idleness or boredom. So, this week I've been running around doing shopping, making photocopies, cleaning the school, and an assortment of other things. It's been a great week for moving around town as it's been sunny and warm.
So, today, I decided to get a number of things done. I worked with the teachers in the morning at the school preparing classrooms and getting things ready for the children to come back on Monday. Around 11:00, I went with a mom and two children to register for school. We spent a couple of hours there.
Then I headed to meet a friend in town where I was going to eat lunch, make photocopies, and burn some CDs. I jumped on a boda boda, my preference for fast travel around town. About a minute into the ride, without any notice, it began to pour. The sun was shining and it was raining, heavily. There were even small sized hail stones, not so comfortable when riding a motorcycle. It felt like I was being pelted in the face by small needles.
Needless to say, I arrived at my destination soaked. I looked as though I had jumped into Lake Victoria fully clothed, swam for an hour, and then got out. My friend just laughed when she saw me. Of course she owns her own vehicle so she was completely dry. I ended up running into the nearest store and buying a new T-shirt. It wasn't exactly planned in my budget but it's a nice shirt so.......
I was completely soaked but didn't want to buy a new skirt and everything so I just kept on the wet skirt and put on the new T-shirt. I did remove my bra though. That's a great thing about living in Africa. Many people go without, so no big deal! So, ladies if you want to come and visit, it's a comfortable place to live in that regard.
We continued with our daily activities and about 30 minutes later the sun came back out.
Another little note on this story........ I don't like drivers who just look at you sitting on the back of a motorcycle in the rain and laugh at you. I had one lady when we were stalled in traffic just look at me. Later while I was eating lunch, the same lady walked up to me and said she saw me on the boda and felt sorry for me. My thought was, if you felt sorry for me, couldn't you have offered me a ride?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Clan Spirits

I mentioned in my post yesterday that people were talking about Tom being disturbed by clan spirits, that these spirits were the ones making him do odd things, including not want him to study at school. People talked of these spirits being the one to have killed him.
I didn't put much in this. I'm not a very superstitious person and just kind of look at things in black and white, usually. However, after what I saw and heard today, my perception has changed. I know that I definitely need to keep myself covered in prayer, that spiritual warfare is real, and there are battles that are being fought that we can't even imagine, especially over children.
Tom's burial was way out in the bush, the middle of no where. There were many shrines along the way and one on the homestead of the family. It was probably one of the darkest places I've ever stood while in Uganda. Most of the men were drunk. No one seemed to be interested in the service. Any time a song was sung or the name of JESUS was mentioned, you could see most of the people becoming very agitated, hear murmuring, and see movements among the crowd that were not natural. When it came time for the Word to go forth, the family elders physically stopped the pastor from preaching. They wanted none of it.
It really made some things add up to me of what I've seen over the last year. Each incident on its own was meaningless, but put them all together and something strange was going on. Tom was a normal boy just a year and a half ago. Then the nightmares began. When arriving at school, Tom refused to sleep on a bed alone. He would do strange things like instead of putting on a belt, tie banana fibers around his waist. His clothes were ever dirty and it was like he was becoming a mad man. It became evident by the middle of the year that Tom had some mental problems.
There's a lot that I'm trying to process in my mind and I can't adequately explain all that I experienced today. It was definitely rather spooky to me. I've known that I live in a country where witchcraft abounds but usually I choose to ignore it. Today, was a wake up for me to realize how much work remains to be done here, how many strongholds need to still be broken, how much this land is still entrenched in the demonic, and how much we as believers need to understand the spiritual battle that we are fighting. We don't need to be complacent on such issues, but realize they are real.

Monday, January 11, 2010

R.I.P. Tom. May 1992- Jan. 2010

I don't even know where to start on this blog. So many thoughts running through my mind. So many questions. Guess that's pretty normal for anyone working with kids though.
Tom is a guy I met a couple of years ago. On first appearance, he seems to be a humble guy, a good kid. And for the most part he was. Outside of the usual teen issues.
But, Tom seemed to have some sort of mental problem. He was always polite to me but usually seemed to not really have it all together. He was usually giving his grandmother a hard time and recently disappeared for a couple of weeks.
He reappeared about a week ago. I did home visits last week on Wed. and spent a considerable amount of time talking with him and his grandmother about the way forward for Tom. Would he be returning to boarding? A day school? But, most importantly, where did he stand in his faith? His behavior showed us one thing while what he said showed us something different. At the end of the conversation there were more questions than answers. But, by the time a child reaches 17, there's only so much one can say. The rest is turned over to God in prayer.
While there talking to Tom and his grandmother, Tom complained about headache and stomach pain. Both of these are signs of malaria. His cousin-brother is a student in one of the technical schools in the national hospital and was able to get him treatment. However, last night, Tom worsened. His cousin-brother left with Tom to go to the hospital. Along the way, Tom collapsed and was dead before reaching the hospital.
It's put so many things in my mind. Again, wasted potential. Then imagine spending your whole life in a dirty slum, only to die before reaching your 18th birthday. Never to know anything different. Never to have any hope of anything better. It makes me ask myself so many things.
Was I talking to him and directing him enough? Was I praying for him enough? Am I praying for all my kids enough? Was I loving him enough? Was I showing him Christ's love enough? Was I really teaching him any valuable life lessons? Did he really know Christ? Where was he standing in his faith?
I've said this many times. In Uganda, witchcraft and superstitious beliefs are embedded in the culture, even among very devote Christians. One thing that I've heard repeatedly over the last few weeks is that Tom was being disturbed by clan spirits. It was said that these spirits were the ones making him do odd things, including not wanting him to study at school. Today, I was told that it was these spirits that killed him.
I'm not real sure what I think at the moment. It's definitely possible. But, it's equally as possible that it was simply just malaria. Or maybe it was just God's time for him.
Whatever the case, please be praying for all of us here as we head to Tom's burial tomorrow. Burying a child, no matter how old, is never an easy thing. Pray for peace for his family, especially his grandmother. She's already lost 5 of her 8 children (4 to AIDS, 1 to war) and a number of her grandchildren. In a perfect world, the old wouldn't have to bury the young. Pray for safety as we all travel. We'll be going to a village a couple of hours away. Pray for hearts to be touched in the midst of tragedy.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Friday, January 8, 2010

Yosam's Home

I thought Yosam would be moving in on Jan. 12. He came home a bit early which was ok by me! His mom was in a serious accident a little before Christmas. She was not only hurt physically but her mental state declined. She refused medical treatment but wasn't coherent, nor would she eat or drink. Her relatives were contacted but all refused to come to help her or to pick her up to take her to the village. After much debate, the villagemates of where she was living, put together their money and took her home. A neighbor took in Yosam for a few days until he could be brought to me.
During that time, we went to the home again to see if there was anything which Yosam would need or could use. We ended up taking only one shirt! His blanket had been thrown up on so many times and left that there were too many maggots living in it to even try to clean it. I decided to just buy him everything new.
So, on Friday afternoon, Yosam came home. We weren't sure how he was going to take the move. He's a somewhat shy kid. But, he's done wonderfully! He cried only a couple of minutes at bedtime Friday night. The rest of the time, he's fit right in to the craziness in my household.
Today, the big girls asked him if he was ready to go back home to Mukono. He just looked at them like they each had three heads and simply told them that he now lives here in Kampala, in his own bed, with his own blanket. He's even bonded well with me and if I leave for a bit runs and clobbers me with hugs to greet me!
I was worried that he and Jackie might not work out well together. Mostly, I was worried that Jackie would be jealous or Yosam wouldn't get enough attention. But, Jackie has loved having a playmate her own age. Actually, I think she thinks that she's his mom...... she drags him around and bosses him around enough! He's such a sweet guy. He just follows her along. She's sweet to him too though. She makes sure she gives him some of her food and helps him clean up after himself, including going to the toilet with him and making sure he washes his hands........
Yosam is definitely behind where he should be in a lot of ways though I'm sure with Jackie looking after him, he's going to quickly catch up. He's not been in school and has been the only child at home with a sick mom. I don't think he's been talked to much, played outside physically much, or had much training in a lot of other things like how to hold a fork, etc.
I'll be going to the hospital with him sometime this next week to get him started on ARVs. Please pray that it will all go smoothly.

Sunday, January 3, 2010


Many times I ask myself: Why am I here? Why am I fighting a battle that I'm never going to win? I'm only one person, can I ever really change anything here? And many other random, discouraging thoughts that pop into my mind from time to time.
I guess these are normal thoughts for any missionary that is faced daily with poverty day in and day out, that doesn't seem to be able to be changed.
It's hit me several times over the last week or so, especially when I'm watching Jackie. She's so bright. She deserves to have unlimited opportunities. But, the reality is, her opportunities are pretty limited.
She keeps asking me to teach her to swim. There's not really a cheap way to do this besides filling her little plastic basin with water and letting her play. Not highly effective. She should be getting to enjoy ballet classes, piano lessons, the best schools. She's a child that if born in another time and place really could have gone far in life. She could be anything, do anything!
But, because she was born into poverty, in a developing country, to an HIV+ mother, her chances are very slim. Sure, I can help to get her the best medical help available. I can take her to school. I can teach her everything I know. But, I can't give her things and all those lessons.
But, wait a minute, are those things really all that important. Popular psychology would say yes. Develop a person to be all they can be. Achieve every goal, etc. But, isn't what is really important is that she knows, loves and honors God? That who she becomes gives glory to Him?
Hopefully, with the little that I am able to give her, that she will know God, she will love God, she will honor God, and everything that she is/does will glorify Him.
I know she is learning who He is. I catch her singing songs like Father Abraham, Jesus Loves Me, The B-I-B-L-E throughout the day, along with grown up songs like Amazing Grace, I Surrender All, and Morning Glory (that's one that a friend of mine here wrote and the big kids performed at the Christmas party). She's like the pastor in the house demanding that everyone close eyes and pray before eating. She's usually the one to lead us but from time to time will tell one of the other kids to pray. And nightly, she never forgets that she and I pray together as I put her in the bed at night.
So, while I still say life is not fair, wish I could take away the HIV+, and give her more opportunities, I know that she does have hope. Her situation isn't as hopeless as it was 6 months ago. She's learning Truth, which is much more priceless than any of the lessons I could ever provide her with. It's something that will give her a greater possibility than any piano lesson or ballet class ever could. It's something that gives her far greater hope than any amount of money could ever buy.
Pray with me that I'll remember this when I look at any of my kids and feel dispair for not being able to do more for them. I don't want them to waste the potential that they have, especially the potential of knowing who they are in Christ.

Saturday, January 2, 2010


Uganda is hailed as being a country with many Christians, and a rapidly growing number at that. What is not said is that it is a country where Christianity is "a mile wide but only an inch deep."
Many people say they are Christians. They were born into a Christian family, given a Christian name, possibly even baptized in the church. But, for many, it all stops there. Many will say they are Christian because of the above said reasons but will live a life contrary to being a Christian.
One of these ways in the amount of witchcraft that is practiced here- by Christians, Muslims and those that say they belong to nothing. It's widely practiced. Some will pray saying they have faith and then head to the shrine. Some will say they are poor but spend everything seeking answers from the witch doctor.
Any time someone falls sick or there is some sort of tragedy in the family, the immediate cause is stated: "I've been bewitched."
I've got this going on at the moment among my staff. Most of them don't get along. This is largely due to division among tribal lines here. But, being that I live in the city where all tribes are living side by side and not in a village where it is one tribe as a majority, it's difficult to choose from only one tribe to employ. However, it makes for some very interesting staff meetings.
At the moment, three of the staff live at the school. Three different tribes living side by side. I've been telling them they'll have to learn to get along. For the most part, it's been ok, minus one of the staff. For the past couple of weeks since the holiday program ended, she's been gone most of the time. She only comes once in a while, bathes, and then leaves again.
Well, today, the other staff reported to me that when she comes to bathe that she uses local medicines from the witch doctor and then pours the water in strange places. The staff that was reporting this to me had her son nearly die a couple of days ago. This staff was asking me if I was afraid she would start bewitching me too.......
So, the accusations fly! I'm not sure if they are true or not. Could be or it could just be hatred and it's an easy accusation to make. Whatever the case, I know my God is bigger than any bewitching and I choose to stand and put my faith in Him. Whatever may come, witch doctor, local bewitching medicines, I know I am protected.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Another Year!

2010! I can't believe it. It feels like just yesterday people were scared about all the craziness that could possibly happen at the turn of a century, 2000! Well, nothing happened. The world didn't stop and we've passed another decade......
Every year people ask what kind of resolutions will be made for the next year. I don't really make them as I think I should be resolved to make changes regardless of the time of the year. I do like to look back over the past year and reflect on what were some of the blessings and joys, accomplishments, some of the struggles, disappointments, and things I should have done differently. 2009 was no different. There have been many of all of the above.
Let me just share a few of each:
Blessings: sharing my life and learning from so many precious children, watching their lives tangibly change, wonderful friends and working under a wonderful missions organizaion
Joys: Jackie beating cancer, praying and worshipping with the kids, visits from people from the states (this was the first year that has actually happened in 8 years)
Accomplishments: getting the school started, raising the funding for back to school first term 2010 (although this had nothing to do with me, it was all God!), goal to reach 50 children in the sponsorship program before the end of 2009 (ended with 66)
Struggles: getting the school started, living with teenagers (all of them girls......), keeping my mind focused and not dwelling on the past
Disappointments: the end of a very dear friendship (I'm still praying that it will be reconciled), death of several friends and children, having to let some staff go (due to their not working up to standard)
Things I should have done differently: time management, time management, time management and many more which I won't share here

So, overall, 2009 was a wonderful year! I don't regret having passed through it, learned a lot in the course of the year, and am looking forward to see what 2010 holds!