James 1:27

James 1:27

Monday, June 15, 2015

So far, all on schedule...

So far, everything is on schedule with flights despite the rain.  Chris posted on Facebook that he and Greg were successful leaders because they got everyone back to the USA in one piece.  Thank you all for your continued prayer support!  I understand it to have been a wonderful and productive trip!  My itinerary list them as arriving about 3:50.

Blessings,

Kysia

Saturday, June 13, 2015

The Long Journey Home


Blog post 6/13/15

 

The long journey home...

 Today the team had a free day and it was a good relaxing day enjoying Jinja town. We got to sleep in and take our time getting ready for the day. Our section of the hotel had no power last night. The rest if the hotel did, but not so much for us. Regardless the team all slept well and got some much needed rest. The time in country can be hard with long days, hot weather and emotional and spiritual overload from all you see and experience. The body wears out. But the smiles, laughs and love all make it so worth it. The people and relationships we have developed over the years are such a blessing. We are honored to be here.

A group of us started the day at the Source of the Nile. I have been here before but it is always amazing to stand at the start of one of the most famous rivers in the world. So much history on this river. It is awe inspiring.

 We took a boat ride on the Nile to the mark of the underground spring where Lake Victoria and the spring meet to form the river. 30% of the spring and 70% of the lake make up the flow of the river. We got to see a fishing village, as well as, many different birds and a monitor lizard. Uganda is known as the “Pearl of Africa”. The landscape is stunning. We spent the day remarking, “Remember that time we took a boat ride on the River Nile?”

Then we headed to town, grabbed some lunch and strolled the markets of Jinja. Greg, Edward and I met with Tim, Genessaa and Lamar from Help One Now and talked about projects for the future, etc. It was exciting to see and hear how the vision for the school is playing out. God brought Edward and I together and that relationship is expanding. God continues to bless the ministry. There are some big things in store for the school in the future. I cannot wait to see it and do my part!

 As we were shopping it began to rain, a torrent of water fell from the sky. And then something I never expected to see. Hail. In Africa. Crazy.

We ended the day having pizza at Sergio's as a team with the Newberry's, Lamar and Rachel. Giving out team awards, laughing, debriefing and generally soaking in the last moments here in Uganda with Edward, Julie and Mondi. It was fun and special.

Tomorrow we go to church with Edward at His Mercy church in Buwenda.  Buwenda is about 20-30 minutes outside of Jinja on the opposite side of Mayuge. We leave the main road and drive through the bush till we hit a little sanctuary. I love this church. God built this church through faith and email. It is a dear little place to my heart where I love to worship. So many friends.  When I am there I give thanks for all God does because this church should not be there. It should not have been built like it was. It is a testament to God doing something bigger than we imagined.

After church we will grab some lunch before hitting the road to Kampala and Entebbe. We hopping to go to the zoo in Entebbe. Once we leave the hotel in the morning we will not have access to wifii or communication for a while, so this is the last post till Amsterdam.

As we prepare to leave it feels bittersweet. This place has my heart for sure. Edward and his family are more than just friends. They are a part of my family. I finally get to see Edward's sons, Isaiah and Joshua. I love these boys. Julie tells me that Isaiah calls me his Muzungu! Love that! I love Mama Jessica, Viola, Reagan, Mercy and the pastors in the North. So many relationships. So many people I have learned something from. The children at the school. I leave a piece of my heart here every time. But my heart and life reside in Arkansas. I miss my wife and children. And even Sherlock the beagle. God has called us, as a family, to where we are. He is using us at home to be his hands and feet, as well as, to be a blessing of the work he is doing in Uganda. So I thank Him for allowing me to be a part of His work here and I prepare to come home. My prayer for anyone reading blog is that you would say “yes” to God. And wait for the question. That sounds scary but in 2005 when I did that it changed my world in ways I never knew possible. And you can serve God anywhere. Make no mistake He is working all over the world. He freely invites us all to join Him. Just say “yes” and be ready. If that is in your home town, state, country or across the world. God is ready to use you. And you will be amazed at what God can do.

As I travel through airports over the next days I will be carrying a mat made from woven thatch. It was a gift from Mama Jessica. She blessed us with one a couple of years ago and I am humbled at her generosity. She also wrote me a letter of thanks for all we have done for her family. I had to walk away from the team for a moment to collect myself. As I was packing up I thought about how I will be carrying a piece of Uganda home. I will be reminded (not that I would ever forget!) of the opportunity to share with people that this is what God has called me to do. Carry a piece of Uganda with me in my heart through the journey of life and share what all He has done. I can do that. And I am grateful. 

 See you soon! Thank you for your continued prayers and support!

Chris

Friday, June 12, 2015

Finish the Race

Blog post 6/12/15



 "However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me-the task of testifying to the good news of God's grace." Acts 20:24


The day started early for Greg, Melissa, Katie, Katherine, ad I as we headed with Edward and Mondi to the top of Bugembe Hill to watch the sun rise. If you hit it right the view is spectacular. Unfortunately it was a little too cloudy and so we got some beautiful clouds with color but not a sunrise. We did get to see the view from the other side if the hill of Jinja town and pray over the country. It was a special time.

The team then headed back to His Mercy School for our last day of ministry.  It is a sad time for us as we know we will not see these kids or the country for at least another year; we did plan to pour into the kids today and enjoy every minute of grace we got to experience.

We arrived and the children were in class, so we took a break under the shade and enjoyed just being there. I looked around the campus again and just was in awe of what God has done. Amazing. It was emotional for me and I just smiled and said a prayer of thanks.
Then we hit the work again. Greg and Sarah started hauling dirt into the new nursery building with wheelbarrows. Katie, Katherine, Matt, Melissa, and I started to finish the painting with Mondi.  Today it was hot. Not much of a breeze and the sun was perfect for no shade where we were painting.  But we got to work.

The kids would call our names outside the window of the classrooms. I am sure the teachers love our disruption. We also had an audience during recess. Talk about pressure!

Lunch was served and we had another traditional meal. Lots of rice, beans, hard boiled eggs, cassava, posho, eggplant, jack fruit, and pineapple. We took our time because we did not want to leave too soon.
But work called us back and as we were going it started to rain. What a welcomed comfort! It cooled things down, but did make painting a little strange! The children were under the awning and in the rooms to escape the rain so we basically had a crowd all around us trying to paint. This is Africa!


But then the work was done, and from the picture I would say not a bad job by the Muzungus!

We spent a little more time with the kids while cleaning up the paint from ourselves. We said our goodbyes and you could tell no one wanted to leave. We tried to get as much time with our sponsored kids and all the others we have fallen in love with!

I got a chance to talk, laugh and share how to pronounce many things in English and then learn to say them in Lusoga. I danced a little and answered way more questions than I can remember!

So many children that I have seen grow up over the years. They make me smile. They fill my heart and soul. I am blessed to know them.

After leaving school we got to be a part of something else fantastic! We went to Katie's sponsored child's family so she could give them a goat; plus we went to Mama Jessica’s and I have her 5 chickens from my family. We also got to witness Katherine giving a goat and a chicken to her sponsored child’s family. The joy and celebration from the families is so wonderful to be a part of. I love being there and witnessing it. It blows me away at the gratitude and excitement a simple gift can bring. A touch of grace and heaven.



The team ended the day with dinner at Edward’s father’s home. Paul is an incredible man who has a farm and has a biogas tank that he fills with cow dung.  The tank pulls methane gas to his house to power the lights and the stove. Unbelievable. We got to sit on the front lawn and enjoy a feast. He prepared a great spread for us. It is an honor to be at his home.

So many wonderful people God has connected us with. Pastor Edward and his family are my family. I have grown to love and care deeply for them. Edward is such a wonderful servant and leader. He has a vision for educating the children with a biblical foundation. I truly believe he is raising up future leaders for the country. I love my brother. I do not want to think about having to say good bye so soon.

Tomorrow is our free day. The team is going to sleep in (we all need it!) and then go to the source of the Nile, as well as, then into Jinja town for a lazy day. Tomorrow we will have our annual pizza award dinner and then church with Edward Sunday morning before starting our long travel home.

Please pray for Sarah as she is not feeling great. Prayer for our last day to be a day of ministry even though it is a free day. Please, pray also for our team to stay well and enjoy the last remaining hours in country.  And lastly, pray for our safe travel home and the protection of our families.

Thank you for your support and following our adventures. We have had an incredible trip. The stories you will hear from your friend/family member will break your heart and make you smile. You will meet beautiful people via pictures and descriptions. Give them some space as they return. There is always a lot to process. And they will need some time and space; when they are ready to talk… oh the stories. Get ready.

And please remember... The red dirt will eventually wash off them and even your tub! It just takes some time!

God bless you and talk to you soon!
Chris

Thursday, June 11, 2015

"Let the little children come to me..."


Blog post 6/11/15

"Let the little children come to me..." Mark 10
 
Today was a fun day. No question. No doubt. It was simply fun and full of grace. There are those times you have worked hard and emptied yourself and it is a good thing. Medical clinics are like that. They can be frustrating and challenging at times, as well as emotionally and spiritually draining to see the hurt and need. Your heart cannot help but hurt as well. But the smiles, "thank yous", hugs and laughter bring grace and love to all involved. It is a good thing.

Then there are days like today that help you recharge and energize for the last few days of ministry. It is good for the soul. And it is fun!

We have two new members for our remaining time in Uganda. Lamar and Rachel are joining us at the school. Lamar is with Help One Now that runs our sponsorships program in Uganda and Rachel is an intern with HELP. Rachel will be staying with the Newberrys and working at the school. It is awesome to have them join us!

We started out by sleeping in! Edward did not pick us up till 10 am due to the full days of clinics. The extra rest was welcomed and needed by the team.

 We headed out to Iganga which is a town about 30 km from Mayuge, paying a visit to a school run by Amos. The local chairman of the sub county. Yes, that local chairman. He runs a primary school for orphans and vulnerable children (St. Amos Education Center.... Interesting name) and we got a tour and hear a short presentation by the children. I love hearing the songs of greetings that schools do for us. The kids were all smiles. The shook our hands as they greeted us. We got to meet the teachers and pray for them, the children and the school. While I had my frustrations with the chairman in the clinics, I did love seeing the kids and praying for him and the school.
Boarding Rooms

 

 We then headed to His Mercy and spent the rest of the day with the children. When we arrived Edward took us on a walking tour of the full 9 acre campus. We got to see the soccer field, farm, and the land where an expanded boarding house will go. I am so amazed at all God has done. When we first saw the school it was small. The rooms were wood with a thatched roofed. Today it has full classrooms with teacher’s quarters and a kitchen.  Also are a water well, soccer field, farm, playground, nursery and library. Wow. It is simply incredible. God has done amazing things. All I can do is stand in awe and give thanks to have been a part of it.

 

The children were singing and dancing for us when we arrived. We got to simply sit and enjoy. Kids would come sit by us and rub our arms (does the white come off? Why is there hair on your arm?). They’d ask us about our families and about America. Then giggle as they had us say things in Lusoga.  It was a great time. Just pouring into the kids, being with them, enjoying their company and laughing with them. Simply holding hands as we walk around the campus. No agenda. Just love. Wonderful!

We had lunch and then covered the teachers in prayer. We then split up and a group went to play games with the kids (Melissa, Sarah, and Rachel). Another group went to move dirt to fill in the foundation of the nursery building (Greg and Lamar). And a group of us painted one of the classroom buildings (Katie, Matt, Katherine, and I). I loved that Viola and Katie's sponsored child stepped in and helped us sand the building!

 

Overall it was a much needed day. A day full of love, grace, laughter and smiles. These children are beautiful, incredible, funny and smart. We hold them close to our hearts for sure.

Tomorrow a small group of us will drive to Bugembe Hill and watch e sunrise over Jinja at 5:30am. Then we will clean up and head back to the school for another day with the kids... Everyone is excited to get back! We will deliver gifts to sponsor families of goats and chickens then end the day with dinner at Edward's father’s home.

Our hearts are full and tomorrow will, once again, be fun. I know God is smiling at the laughter taking place.

 A few team members are starting to feel a little on the sickly side. Sickness happens sometimes towards the end of the trips. We are tired and worn out. Please keep praying for us.

Plead pray for Tim Newberry, too. He is in the hospital in Kampala with malaria. 

Good night all. God's blessings.

 

Chris




Wednesday, June 10, 2015

"Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these..."


Blog post 6/10/15

 “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” -Matthew 25:40



It was a good day. Today we finished the medical clinics for this trip. I shared yesterday the frustrations from the local leaders.  While frustrating, I recognize they are trying to care for their people. In this culture it is considered rude to not help if you have the means to help another. The local chairman has the means, so he is trying to help. It creates other roadblocks and is not fair, but we manage through it and still God provides the way to care for everyone.

 Edward and I came up with a plan to hand out the cards to see the doctor and it worked for the most part. We still started off rocky, but managed to get the patients lined up and started seeing the doctors.

 
I did have handle the local chairman and teachers asking for cards to hand out, but our system worked. I was the only one who had cards and only Edward and Mondi could sign up names. I was able to say the cards were finished after we handed out 375. We ended up seeing over 400 today not including wound care. So for the two day clinic we saw over 800 people. Wow!

 

Dr. Robina
The team was fantastic again. We talked about the story of the loaves and fishes and how God did that for us with the Doctors and medicines. We had a smooth operation in place and the doctors we work with are incredible people. Christ allowed us to be His hands and feet. It is humbling to be here and serving. The people are very grateful for us coming and getting to see the doctor. Even when I had to say we had no more cards and they could not see a doctor (the hardest thing I have ever had to do) they still say thank you. People waited for two days to see a doctor. To be able to make them laugh, shake their hand, show them love and that they matter is still hard to process when we can’t give them all they need.

 

I was able to walk an elderly lady from the pharmacy today to the entrance of the school so she could get home. She was bent at the waist and walked in the shape of an “L”. Probably 70-80 years old. I held her hand and we walked the length of the campus as Mondi interpreted for me. I asked about her home and how far away was it. I spoke some Lusoga and made her laugh. I called her grandmother and made her laugh some more. I was honored to help her today. She was a beautiful soul.
 
These are the types of things we be to do. They seem small, like the concept of just being present, but the impact and value to people's lives is huge.

 

Katie at wound care.
Katie was our wound care champ again today. She is so great with the kids. Taking care of wounds and dressing them. She is always smiling! Today she helped clean the wounds of a lady who had a kerosene lantern explode on her two days ago. Face was badly burned. One of the worst wounds we have ever seen. Katie was kind and loving while working tenderly to dress her wounds with grace. 

Matt ad Katherine are always with the kids, as well. When they aren’t helping in any capacity in the clinic. Katherine is basically a full dentist in Uganda. She pulled 20 teeth on her own today. They both got pulled on stage with Edward to dance with the children. They had a sash tied around their waist and followed the kids lead. The screams and laughter! It was a beautiful sight! They both are amazing young people.

Melissa and Sarah ruled the pharmacy; steady and strong, always filling another script. They both do an amazing job. After two days they are planning on going to Walgreens back home and help them fill scripts!

 Greg was the bouncer at the door to the doctors. He worked with Josh, a law student and son of Dr. Moses. They kept the order of the cards in numerical order. Making sure everyone got seen in order. Greg has been in awe of Africa since we arrived. He is a rock star with a group of young boys at the school. Every time he comes out of the door way, there they are. Attached to him. He engages everyone, laughs and asks how he can help. I love serving with him. He has been a steady presence for me. Grateful for his friendship.

 
Dr. Moses
Dr. Moses... He is a wonderful man. I love working with him, he works hard caring for his people. He is a huge man with a large laugh and humble prayer. What a Great man.

 

Tomorrow we head back to the school to spend the day with the children in various activities. The entire team is excited. It will be more relaxed with time directly engaging with the kids. Going to be fantastic! Oh, and I talked to a group of the girls I’ve known from over the years. They had me get in stage and dance with them. I was pretty good. We plan to dance tomorrow again. They are planning to bring the entire team up to dance, as well! The team is going to love it!

 

Viola, Mercy and Reagan
I got to see Viola, Reagan, and Mercy today again. We spent a lot of time just walking and talking throughout the day. Such sweet children. I love their smile, gentle spirit and shyness. Mama Jessica brought me a gift of hard boiled eggs. The team ate them on the bus. What an incredible gift. This is a big deal in their culture; I have a hard time accepting, but I do to honor the family. I love them so much. Her generosity was humbling. I Love this little family in Uganda! Next to Edward and Julie and the boys they are the ones I cannot wait to see each trip!

What a Great day. Many people were cared for, treated and loved. The team was giving and selfless going the extra mile. We are blessed for sure just by being here and serving. 

Please, keep the prayers coming. We have all been well and healthy for the most part. We have two days of ministry left and then a free day. Sunday after worship we begin the long travel home.

 

God's blessings. And good night from Jinja.

Chris

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

If you hold a medical clinic, they will come.


Waiting room at the clinic.
 

Blog post 6/9/15

If you hold a medical clinic, they will come.

Today was the first day of ministry during our time in Jinja. We went to His Mercy School for Orphans and Vulnerable Children in the district of Mayuge in the village of Kikubo. I love this place!
What started as a dream and vision from the Lord to Pastor Edward many years ago is a reality today and it continues to grow and develop. The school has around 250 children from Primary 1 to Primary 7 (basically elementary through middle school). It has classrooms, a farm to feed the children, a kitchen, teachers sleeping quarters, a bordering house for a small group of kids, soccer field, clean water pump, chickens, library, a secure gate around the campus, and a playground. It is incredible!

The school has had the highest grade in the district of any school for the P7 Leaving Exam the last two years. Uganda has a national exam you have to pass to progress from Primary to Secondary (high school) and the highest grade for this exam in the entire Mayuge district has been from His Mercy. This is huge for this little school! I am so proud of the teachers and all the children!

I can still remember the first time we visited this school with dirt floors, thatched roofs and so small. Now God has done good work and the village is providing a strong education for the children!
Pharmacy
Today was  not school it was a medical clinic. And when you have a medical clinic in Africa- people will come! Thankfully, the gate at the school, Edward and the staff helped make sure we cared for the children and their families.

We arrived hearing shouts from the children with waves from many familiar smiling faces! Our arrival is always an event! I love to drive up and see children with their mamas I know from the past! Tons of smiles and laughs! And of course dancing and singing! The children began singing and dancing a welcome song and to entertain people waiting.

The team had their various roles and went right to work. We knew the flow of the clinic from last year and went about setting things up. Greg and I ran the security and triage. Melissa ran the pharmacy with Sarah. Katie was chief wound care physician. Matt helped the eye doctor and Katherine was in the dental clinic. Each team member was unbelievable. Giving of themselves and always ready to do more. I love this team! So proud to serve with them.

Dr Moses was our lead doctor.  He is such a great man. He was our driver on the first trip in 2007 (during our time in Gulu) while still in medical school. Now he is a doctor in Jinja.  An amazing man of faith with a beautiful heart for Christ. As soon as I saw him, he greeted me with our customary greeting "Munu, give me a sweet!" followed by a huge hug. (Great story to share sometime.)

We got the clinic set up and ready to go, when a common distraction happened that still threw us off. The local leaders with some teachers grabbed the cards we use to get names, age, issue, etc. for each patient. (These cards are necessary to see the doctor.)  They began passing them out to everyone. Order got lost. A clinic is chaos anyway, but this was over the top. It was a little rough trying to get things back organized, but I stopped, prayed and took charge. We ended up with things running smoothly. Tomorrow we have a new plan to get cards handed out. Edward is on board to help us. I’ve recruited, Mondi, my awesome brother to help. Mondi and I did this last year. We agreed that between Mondi, Chris, and God- we’ve got this!

As the clinic progressed, we went to work caring and loving on people, hoping to help with physical pain and ailments. It went well. We did have some tough cases. Always hard. One was a young girl with a broken arm from a month ago. We paid for her to go to the hospital and schedule a surgery with Dr. Moses. Another hard case was an elderly man who was in pain but we didn’t have the medicine to help him. He will have to wait for a later time with Dr. Moses to get what he needs. Breaks my heart when we cannot help, but we are limited in what we can do. Our clinic is a basic.   We can help with pain management, wounds, and basic dental work. To see some of the illnesses and issues people have lived with for years crushes me. I want them to experience relief. They are a strong people. Much stronger than I am.

All went well until... the local chairman of the village brought up some people and wanted them to see the doctor without a card. All cards had already been distributed for the day. This happens each year; I try not to get frustrated, but God has to help me through it. The local leaders want to get friends and family through right when they bring them. They want to cut in line. It is a misuse of power that makes me mad. I want the local leader to be a servant. I want the local leader to think of all the people they are in charge of and not just their special circle of friends. I want the local leader to see the injustice of cutting in front of those who have been waiting all day. But that isn't reality and does not happen.  We ourselves have to step into the role of politician and negotiate. Of course, we want to help them and their families. We are appreciative of their support of the clinic in their area. But we try to manage the flow.  Working them in cut 10 people in line. I always know it is coming, but it always frustrates me. The clinic is something this area does not have access to on a regular basis. It is important to people. But my heart is to help as many as we can and not just the privileged group. I never knew I would get into politics. Crazy to think that God led me to it.  Edward and I are getting better at it!
Katie with students
Needless to say, we managed through the first day treating over 300 people! We have cards for another 300 people who will be seen tomorrow. Our plan to start things off better tomorrow is already in motion.  The team is all on board. I love the teamwork! Our doctors and helpers are fantastic, as well.  Dr. Moses has put together a team of interpreters and medical staff that is top notch. Great people with big hearts. Tomorrow will be a great day!  Especially with you praying for us!

On a side note.. I got to see Viola, Reagan, Mercy and Mama Jessica! Sweet family I love so much. Our extended adopted family! Viola and Reagan followed me around the clinic. I loved it! Mama Jessica hugged me, laughed telling everyone around she was Mama and I was her American son! I cannot wait to spend more time with them tomorrow!

That was day one of the medical clinic. The team is back at the hotel, showered, fed, and ready for bed.

Oh yeah! Another first happened today. An awesome thing! Never had this on a prior trip.  Seems Matt and Katherine are planning on spending a long time together. Matt proposed to Katherine at the school! The team loved being a part of the surprise. I will let Matt and Katherine tell you the details, but it was a joyous occasion and one I am honored to have been a part of!


Please pray for our friends Tim Newberry. He lives in Jinja with his family. They work with Help One Now (helponenow.org), the organization that works with the sponsorship program for His Mercy School. They are a huge help to us! Tim is battling malaria. I hate that he is not feeling well. Prayers are appreciated.

I need sleep. Good night and talk to you all tomorrow!
God bless
Chris

Monday, June 8, 2015

Sunburned and Scared in the Pearl of Africa


 


Greg and Chris Enjoying Some Coffee

Blog Post 6/8/15
 
Sunburned and Scared in the Pearl of Africa

Well today was interesting.... We started by leaving the hotel at 5:15am. It was dark and we were tired. We made this decision because we planned to take a detour and drive through the Murchison Falls Wildlife Park. It was totally worth it!

 We asked Edward if we could stop for coffee somewhere and finally ended up around 7:00am in Nwoya at the Ree Coffee CafĂ©, a market stop where we hopped out and drank a coffee. It was cool hanging out and talking to kids going to school while enjoying some Ugandan coffee.

I do want to say that while we were stopped there may or may not have been an incident, which I can neither confirm nor deny, in which Greg took a wrong turn in the toilet and came upon someone bathing. Oh my! Just need to ask him about it to verify.
 



The drive through the park was incredible. We saw deer, hogs, ibex and water buffalo. Then we came upon a herd of elephants. Right next to us! We also got to see some giraffe up close and personal! Very majestic to see them up close. Wow!

We had to wait for the ferry so we hung out by the Nile and low and behold up comes a hippo not far from us in the water! And a family of them were just off the point! Then a herd of elephants came out of the jungle and down to water not far away. Talk about an incredible experience!

  
 


Matt and Katherine
 
While the ferry was pulling up a baboon came from the forest and ended up jumping on the roof of a van looking for food!

We finally crossed the Nile and drove to Jinja.  Twelve hours of travel on the bus!

The team is fed and showered. Medical supplies are packed ready for tomorrow. We head to His Mercy School in Mayuge for a medical clinic. I cannot wait to get there and see Viola, Regan and Mama Jessica and all the children! I love the school so much!

The team is bone tired and ready for sleep. Keep those prayers coming as we want to finish strong!

Thank you all for your support!
We love and miss you!
Chris