Monday, September 28, 2009

Kapelabyong Video

I have another video for you all to enjoy of one of our days in Africa! Our friend Dan Smoker, who traveled with us to Uganda put this together and I LOVE it! I love the message of the song and I LOVE the content!! The pictures and video were taken at Kapelabyong which is an unsponsored site that we are hoping to find sponsors for. It was a powerful day that I still need to write more about...but for now I'll let the video speak for itself!

Saturday, September 26, 2009


I'm sure if you read my last post you can tell I have been struggling. Struggling with being back in America while the children I touched in Uganda are living on their own in poverty fending for themselves in a thankless environment. Struggling with why I live here with so much while those kids I held just a few weeks ago live with nothing - hungry and sick. Struggling with what to do with what I saw. Struggling with how to even verbalize what shattered my heart. Struggling with the ease with which I slip back into self focused mode. Struggling with my job and how meaningless it has felt since I've been back. Struggling with what to do with this passion that I know God is stirring in my heart. Struggling with coming to terms with what I feel is my God given dream... ministering to and advocating for the orphans in Africa. Struggling with not knowing what's next. S-T-R-U-G-G-L-I-N-G.

Yesterday I really just gave it all back to God. He knows why I was in Africa and why my heart continues to pound loudly in my chest for these children and their situations. He knows my desires to care for them and see them cared for. He knows my path and my future.

So, tonight I went to church. It was a great message about recognizing that God is King. King of everything - including the kids my heart breaks for, including me. But all through church I just wanted to really connect with God at that deep heart level - to hear from Him. Do you know what I mean? I just needed to be fed by the presence of God. I've sat through many an encouraging church service without really and truly connecting with God in the deepest sense. And at the end of the service tonight I thought maybe I had sat through another one.

But then...

God showed up. I was getting my purse and heading out the door to pick up my daughter from Children's Church when I felt a hand on my arm. I turned around and there was a stranger introducing himself to me saying that he was there from out of town with the guest speaker for the weekend. He said he felt like God had given him a message for me. Um...okay. I was all ears at this point. So my new friend of 30 seconds - Todd, who doesn't know me, has no idea I just got off the plane from Africa a week ago or how I've struggled this week with what God is doing in me, starts to almost cry and says:

"As soon as I saw you walk in the room tonight I felt God tell me you are a person who communicates passion and is on fire with the dream God has given you. I feel like God wants you to know that in the places you go and speak about this passion He will light fires and stir people. God is going to grow this passion in you and accelerate the dream He's given you. I think the key thing God wants you to know tonight is that He's going to accelerate your dream."

And he told me to read Psalm 104 because he thought God might have more to speak to me through it. With that he was gone.

Whoa. Of course I was weeping by the time he got to the "you're a person on fire with the dream God has given you" part. And yes, I realize that was his first sentence. :) I was full on crying. Apparently I was really needing to hear from God. :) I obviously am not sharing this in a "yippee...look what God said about me" kind of way. But to simply say this...

O how He loves us! God loves me enough to send some guy from California to my church tonight to tell me that He knows my heart. God has placed this dream in me. The reason I feel like I'm on fire inside is because I am - and it's a fire God has started in me. HE KNOWS. He is the Initiator of my dream and He will be the Accelerator and Completer of it. It's been His dream from the beginning.

So tonight, I am just in awe of my Savior who loves me so well and so completely. He knew I needed to hear from Him tonight and He came and met me. My hope is renewed and I feel like I've been given strength to stand and look to the future with expectation.

While Todd referenced verse 4 of Psalm 104 which says "He makes winds His messengers and flames of fire His servants" I went on to read the rest of the chapter tonight. Turns out that chapter houses several verses that have been my prayer as I fast and pray on Wednesdays for the hungry people in Africa...

"How many are your works, O Lord! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures...These all look to you to give them their food at the proper time. When you give it to them they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are satisfied with good things."

Wow. How thankful I am that tonight God opened His hand and satisfied me with good things! His love is marvelous and wonderful and I'm in awe that I get to bask in it.

And P.S. - I think tonight happened in great part due to the fact that I have you guys praying for me as I walk this path. Now is certainly no time stop. :) I am SO thankful for you all.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Hold On Tight

So hold on tight since I have no idea where I'm headed with this blog post. Bear with me because I've got a lot on my mind and not much ability to process it all right now. I'm finding that it's been relatively easy for me to share stories about my trip to Uganda by blogging but am coming to realize that I just can't put to words what I FEEL inside - partly because I don't know exactly what I feel. They always say re-entry to life as you know it is hard once you've experienced extreme poverty up close and personally. Whoever "they" is would be right. I'm just wading through whether what I feel is just the usual "welcome back to your crazy excessive life" or something else. I rather suspect something else.

For months and months now God has been moving my heart for the people of Africa. I have lost sleep, I have cried countless tears, my thoughts have been consumed by the need, my heart has been broken until finally I went. Now I'm back and not much has changed in that regard...if anything I am now more aware than ever the reality the people face there. I am restless. I am riled up. I am stirred. I saw what I saw and I can't go back to life the way it was. Nor do I want to.

As I sit here typing I recognize fully that God has gifted each of us differently, has different plans for our lives and my journey will not look like some of yours. BUT...

Scripture is crystal clear about the following:

"If you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday." - Isaiah 58:10

I want my life to be about honoring God and being light to those around me. I want my love for Jesus to be so evident that people would be drawn to know the love of God...I want my light to rise in the darkness. And God says that will happen as I SPEND MYSELF on behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed.

Here's the rub...I'm not SPENDING myself on anything but me. Even my involvement in orphan advocacy is all very comfortable for me. I love it...God has given me a heart for it and that's great. I SPENDING myself on behalf of the hungry and helping to satisfy the needs of the oppressed? No. I'm not.

Maybe that's what this trip to Uganda was about among other things...for God to show me that He isn't just asking for the parts of my life I am ready and willing to give Him. That He wants me to say from the deepest part of my being that I want what He wants for me. Even if it breaks my heart. Even if it causes me pain. Even if it means I give up things in my life I never thought I'd be asked to give up.

Deep, deep down in my soul I just want to spend myself - I want to be poured out. I want to give until there's nothing left to give and God has to come and fill me back up again. I want to strip myself of those things I rely on. I want to depend on Him wholly.

I want to obey His call to truly spend myself on the people who He cares SO deeply about. The truth is that I have NEVER felt so close to God as I did in Uganda. I believe it's because He is ever present with the hungry, the oppressed, the sick, the broken. Seriously...I just felt like I was breathing God in all around me - right there in the middle of circumstances so unimaginable they would make your stomach hurt. When Jesus said that whatever we do to the least of these we do to Him He wasn't kidding. God was there.

The presence of God was so real, so palpable as I was among the poorest of the poor and the orphans and widows. One young man named James wrote me a letter and said "I love Jesus Christ because He died for me on the cross. I am an orphan but the Bible says that God is the father to the fatherless and the mother to the motherless. I trust in Jesus Christ for my needs." Does that cause you to stop and take stock of your own heart like it did me? I wept on the bus when I read it. Here was this young man barefoot, dirty, hungry and alone telling me He trusted Jesus for his needs while I have the audacity to sit in the comfort of my home with food in my refrigerator, clothes on my back and money in the bank and tell God thanks, but I've got it all in control.

I so do NOT want to be in control anymore. I don't want to chase after my own dreams, I don't want to convince myself I'm living the life God has for me - I actually want to BE living the life God has for me - whatever the cost. And so I'm letting go of my grip that holds so tightly to things that are not important. I am saying to God - WHATEVER You want. WHATEVER. Show me how to spend myself on the hungry as you want me to. Show me what that looks like for me.

If there's one thing I know for sure it's that my life is not my own - it has never been although I certainly have lived for years now as if it was. So I say to God - my life belongs to You. I set my ideas of where I am supposed to be and what I am to do aside and ask You to come and show me the path that I should walk. Where You are is where I want to be.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Sweet Grace

Well, this will just be a quick post but is one I had to write! Many of you know Katie Davis and Amazima Ministries but some don't. Katie is a 20 year old girl who went to Uganda when she was 18 to teach kindergarten and ended up staying. She now has 13 BEAUTIFUL girls that she is in the process of adopting. They all have been abandoned or relinquished by their families. Katie is their mama now. Can you imagine?

But more than that Katie also has a sponsorship program in her community where she sends around 400 children to school and feeds them. In addition, she feeds the Karamajong people meals weekly. I won't take the time to share her entire story but you can check out her blog where you will instantly get a picture of her heart and love for God.

When I was in Uganda I had the absolute joy of meeting Katie and her girls. When I say her children are precious that really doesn't do it justice. They are the most well behaved, thoughtful, kind, fun, loving children I have ever met. We shared a meal together and they all sat at the table together helping each other, being respectful and kind.

I believe that Katie's reflection of God's love to them has changed the lives of these girls. I think the picture of the inside of her gate at the house best sums up what her family exisits to do:

While I could go on for hours about the impact Katie is having in Uganda I mostly wanted to share my total joy over getting to meet little Grace. Grace came to Katie unable to walk, talk or feed herself. Katie was told that Grace would never walk because she was paralyzed. Katie asked everyone to pray for Grace - that God would touch her legs so she could walk. I have to say that my heart just broke when I read about Grace. I prayed for her for weeks. She was constantly on my mind so I just prayed for her. Back in March I sat down at the computer to check Katie's blog like I do every few days and read the following words:

"Grace can WALK. Not well, just a few steps with bent legs, but she can walk. Two weeks ago Grace came to our family and her grandmother explained to me that she was "lame". At three years old she could not stand, walk, hold her spoon, or complete a sentence. Unbelieving I took her to a doctor who said she had "ascending paralysis" meaning her legs were paralyzed and the rest of her would slowly become that way. Something didn't resonate in my spirit, and being that these doctors have been wrong before, I (with all my medical knowledge, ha) decided not to believe them either. Where was the fun in that anyway? We began stretching little Grace's legs, helping her eat, cuddling her constantly, and covering her in prayer. Grace began pulling herself up on the furniture. She began to take a few steps holding onto my hands. Today she walked about ten steps alone before she had to sit down. Grace can hold her spoon, and although she makes quite the mess, she can feed herself. Grace laughs about 13 out of the 14 hours we are awake each day. And Grace can say a full sentence without stuterring, "I lub lou mommy."

I read those words with tears just streaming down my face. Why am I so surprised when God answers prayer? I was on a high for weeks after that post from Katie. I was thrilled for little Grace to have such an amazing story to tell of how God touched her legs and healed her. And I was completely thrilled to step off the bus in Uganda and be able to see Grace walk to me!

God is so good! I was so blessed to be able to hold sweet Grace in my arms after praying for her for so long. Please keep these precious girls and Katie in your prayers as they face many challenges. I know their desire is to just be light wherever they are and to love God with their lives.

The Children of Ngariam

I blogged early on about my experience with Mary, the woman basically left for dead. That happened at Ngariam, but so did a lot of other things. As I mentioned before, the people of Ngariam have been traumatized over the years. Their stories almost all include one of the following...war, pillaging, rape, abduction or the death of a family member.

I remember the moment we pulled up in our van. Here's what I saw:

There was just abject poverty everywhere. Everything and everyone was dirty. It was what I'd been told I would see but I wasn't ready for it. It was heart breaking. And that was before these faces started to appear...

When we got off the bus the children came out of the woodwork to stare at us. There was a language barrier so I bent down to get on their level and say "yoga"...or "greetings" in their language. Some of them waved back but mostly they stared. I have to think that for many of them it was the first time they may have seen a white person. That has to be scary in and of itself! But theses kids were holding back. I was smiling but they were just staring. I had imagined I'd get off the bus and the children would come running to me with big smiles and we'd hug each other and play and sing. It was a nice thought, but it definitely wasn't happening.

So I began to just hold out my hand and say "yoga". Some children stretched their hand out and we shook hands. Sarah and I got the kids together and started to teach them a song. They would repeat what we said but I wasn't sure any of them understood what we were saying. We asked Rita who was a Ugandan woman traveling with us to translate the words. Then we tried again. They seemed to engage more as we sang "Jesus Loves Me" together. Since they mimicked us so well we started a game out of it. I'd raise my hands above my head and clap my hands and so would they. I'd turn around in a circle and so did they. I'd start dancing and so did they. And then they laughed. I guess the key to a child's heart is to act like one. :)

Once the smiles and the giggling came I felt better, but boy did they take a while to come! The crazy thing was that we probably had close to 100 children around us and there were no adults with them - really. None to be seen. Little kids were carrying their siblings on their backs. It was evident that they were responsible for taking care of them.

I started to realize the weight of what most of these children dealt with on a daily basis. The kids who were 7 or older were essentially parents. They didn't go anywhere without their younger siblings. Many of them were responsible for collecting the water for each day for the family. There was no play for them. They had to help their families survive. Their mom (if they had one) was likely off collecting wood for a fire or looking for food. This area in Uganda is undergoing a severe drought and people have died in Ngariam from starvation. There simply is nothing to eat. The signs of malnutrition were painfully obvious. As I took in all these things and the surroundings I realized that what they needed was to know that someone loved them. Someone cared about them.

So I just started to let go. I started to hold hands with the children, I started to play, I started to be silly, I started to laugh. I wanted them to feel joy. And it wasn't just me. As I looked around I started to see that we were making progress with the kids.

After about two hours had passed we were looking at faces like this:

Do you see the change? By the end of our time in Ngariam we had danced, laughed, hugged, sang, played ball, chased each other, given high fives, flown kids in the air and held hands. We had loved. And let me tell you it went both ways. While I was trying to dish out love by the bucketfuls it was coming right back to me from these children. Though they didn't have one earthly thing to give, they had love and it poured out from them. These children were beautiful. I saw God in them. I saw that they had strength through the struggle of their every day life to laugh and be joyful. If I had to live even an hour of their daily life I would surely break down and cry.

I realized that amazingly they were responding to the love I was trying to give. They wanted it. Later on the bus ride home I was talking to Rita and she was telling me that even if the children had parents, it was very likely that they were not being nurtured in any way. In Ngariam life is about survival. The adults are too busy carrying the burdens of each day to have time to love and nuture the children. And so they go without touch, without words of comfort, without encouragement, without words of love each and every day. Can you imagine your own kids going without these things? It's mind numbing to me. What that must do to a little one! They were hungry for love and I am so glad that God cared enough about them to bring my team all the way from the States that day to give it to them in heaping bucketfuls.

And it all made me much more is God wanting to pour out that kind of love on His children? On me? I know I got off that bus wanting to just bring joy to those kids. How many times is God stepping of the bus while I stare at Him with a blank stare - unresponsive to the things He wants to do in me? Maybe some days I am scared of what that might look like. Maybe I am hesitant to press into His love further because I'm not sure where it will take me. I pray God gives me a heart like the children at Ngariam...a heart that is open to receive all that He has for me with joy and abandon. Because I could see these children were filled up that day. God had met them through the words, hands and actions of the people on my team. The love we were able to give the kids that day was a generous love...a love that I pray stays with them for a long time. It was a love I need to trust more and more with my life.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Home again

Well, after two weeks in Uganda I find myself back home with my family. Snuggling my girls this morning was maybe the closest thing to heaven I've ever experienced. As I held them tightly this morning I made a commitment to never use the words "I am so blessed" lightly again. Because I AM so blessed - beyond belief actually. I couldn't help but think of the child headed households I encountered in Uganda. No one wakes up in the morning to give that oldest child a hug or a kiss...much less any kind of support. And there I sat with my children wrapped securely in my arms, in my comfortable home with food in my refrigerator while today I know that children in Uganda will be on a mission of survival...finding food, getting water, staying safe. Yes, I AM blessed.

I'm reminded of the scripture that says "To whom much is given, much is required". I know I take that scripture much more seriously today than I did even two weeks ago. I have been given SO much...not just materially, but spiritually, physically and emotionally.

So, I have gone and seen firsthand over the past few weeks the suffering and need of the people in Uganda (as well as many beautiful things which you'll hear more about later). I know that MUCH is expected of me and I embrace that responsibility fully. What that looks like exactly for me I don't know. I trust that God will continue to speak to my heart and lead me down the paths He has for me in that regard.

I have so much more to share, friends. Today is a day for my family though so perhaps you can expect to see a new post tomorrow about more of my experiences in Uganda. I unfortunately lost my journal on the plane yesterday which had all of my notes in it for posts I wanted to write. It's okay though, as most of what I really need to say is forever seared on my heart and will never be forgotten.

I can say that the last two weeks have been the most powerful so far in my life. I am left with much to process, embrace and share and I'm thankful for those of you who choose to walk this path with me. It's meant to be walked together - that I am sure of. Love to each of you who have prayed me through the past few weeks - to say those prayers were felt would be a gross understatement. I can't wait to tell you more about what I saw and what God did.

"Your righteousness reaches to the skies, O God, You who have done GREAT things. Who, O God, is like you?" - Psalm 71:19

Monday, September 14, 2009


So, today I'm letting Ben take over my blog and share his thoughts from church yesterday. I have so much to blog about but have had little time and in a way I feel like I still need to process it all. Anyway, here are Ben's thoughts:

Today we visited the village of Kapelabyong and participated in their worship service. This village was started as an Internally Displaced Persons camp (IDP camp) as the people fled from the brutal attacks from Joseph Koney and his “Lord’s Resistance Army”. The tactics of the LRA include capturing children age 12-16 and forcing them to commit acts of brutality while plying them the narcotics. Though Koney has been forced out of the region, the community continues to suffer from drought, poverty and attacks from the Karamojong. The Karamojong are a nomadic tribe that has frequent raids into the surrounding communities to steal cattle. These physical attacks by both the Karamojong and the LRA usually involve rape and the spread of HIV/AIDS.

Despite hunger and violence, the people of this village worshiped and praised God with a fervor and passion unlike any I had ever seen. As we pulled into the village the children surrounded the bus. Quickly we were escorted into a large hut. Crouching to enter the hut, I peered into the dark hot room at a myriad of faces. As my eyes adjusted to the room we were seated on a dirt stage in front of 125 people who had come to worship. The children’s choir sang with a purity of voice that I have not heard before and after a amazing message by Vince Giordano the members of the church came forward for prayer.

I have prayed for people many times and this was in no way a new thing for me, or at least I thought. I began to touch the shoulders and heads of children and widows and my tears began to flow. As they came forward I used the only Ateso word I knew, “yoga” which means “greetings”. I have never before prayed for so many people, or people in such dire circumstances. But it was the language barrier that most profoundly impacted me. As they pressed forward many times there were visible illnesses and injuries that needed prayer but most often it was just a person with their own private burdens and fears that they could not communicate to me. As I prayed, the impressions that God would put in my mind were completely foreign to me. I interceded on their behalf and after 45 minutes of constant prayers for over 35 different people, I was spent. My legs felt like jell-o and my heart was broken. I stepped back from the front of the stage.

It was then that Pastor Sam, the pastor of this congregation of hurting people pulled me aside. He directed me to a woman who appeared to be in her 60’s. I now know that is unlikely that she is that old; it is the wear of a very difficult life that prematurely aged her. As Pastor Sam translated for us, she began to tell the story of her two sons that cannot attend school because of lack of funds and her third son who has died. Her sons have gone four days without food and due to the drought it is unlikely that there will be much of a harvest. Without access to education her fear is that the boys will have no future to speak of. Her son that had died had been captured by the LRA and forced to be a boy solider. In the LRA, the children that cannot keep up as they trek through the bush are killed. The leaders don’t kill them, they have the stronger boy soldiers do it. This causes fear in the remaining boys and continues the dehumanization of the new murderers. I wish that it was a single bullet to the head, but sadly the leaders do not want to “waste” a bullet on them so they are latterly hacked apart by the other children. This is the type of inhumanity that has so often left me looking for God, lost and confused.

After years of forced soldiering on behalf of the LRA, her son received the same brutal death that he had likely inflicted on others. As her story ends, she looks at me with expectant eyes and says “will you pray for me?” I think they call this an “OH GOD moment”. How can I bring anything to this woman that can be of any help? I do not have the $1800 it will take to give her sons the future her other son was deprived of, and what possibly can I say to her that can be of any meaningful comfort. In that moment, God must show up because only He can intervene into her pain. We prayed. Pastor Sam translated. Our shared tears needed no translation though. I do not know if she experienced the presence of God in the same rich and satisfying way that I did, but I will have to trust him.

I am glad to tell you that the day also had a few stunning moments of hope. After we left Kapelabyong we visited the home of Joseph Eloto. Joseph works for Chidren’s HopeChest and is the on-the-ground contact to the communities that we have been visiting. Joseph has a large family and many extended family members who live with him. After a wonderful meal cooked by Anne, Joseph’s wife, we met John. John is Ann’s nephew. 4 years ago he had been captured by the LRA. He spent just under 2 years with the LRA before he escaped. Eventually he ended up living with Joseph in an amazing family and is currently getting an education in mechanical engineering.
One of the people on our team asked John “Do you know Jesus?” His initial reply was short, “yes indeed”. He later said that it is only the power of Jesus that can help people who have suffered and caused suffering like he has. As I sat in the room with this boy of 19 who is likely a mass murder, I was acutely aware of God’s redeeming power. With that hope in my heart, I think again of the woman who desperately wanted prayer. The power of a God who created the sky and took time to know my name is not to be doubted or trifled with.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Ngariam Video Clip

Just a quick post to say here's our video from today at Ngariam. Enjoy!


Since I can't upload pictures to the internet, I thought I'd put a link to a few different folks' pictures who are on our team. They came from multiple sources so enjoy! I'm sure the Ngariam pictures will be up later tonight.


Today we went to a village called Ngariam. Ngariam is made up of people who have been traumatized by a nomadic tribe of people called the Karamajong. The Karamajong over the past 50 years have burned their huts and fields, raped their women, abducted some of their children, stolen their cattle and killed anyone who got in their way. To add to that, this area is in the middle of a food crisis. (For those of you who participated in our fund drive for Feed the Forgotten…this is one of the sites where we were able to send food back in June, although there were people who died one day before the food was delivered).

This was the first UNSPONSORED site we visited on this trip and the difference was astounding. These children showed visible signs of malnutrition – yellow eyes, discolored skin and hair, distended bellies. They were literally in dirty rags and they were a kind of dirty you have likely never seen. There was absolutely no sign of hygiene. They had open sores on their bodies that were oozing with infection. They had to walk FAR to find water (although they had a water pump nearby that had been broken for months…we were able to give them $80 to fix the part so that the 5,000 people in the camp could have water again - $80!!). To say that sponsorship makes a difference is a gross understatement.

Children were shaking our hands while kneeling on the ground. It felt so strange to have someone literally bowing to me. They were shy at first…some ran away from us crying. I’m sure for some of them it was the first time they’d ever seen a white person, so I can only imagine what must have been going through their mind. There was a major language barrier since no one knew English. We had several people with us who translated and I have to say that as cheesy as it might sound I found that love truly transcends any barrier. I was able to give smiles, hugs, back rubs and sing with the kids. We taught the kids to sing “Jesus Loves Me”…Sarah and I led the song and hand motions while they repeated the words. Rita then translated to the children what they were singing. That was SO important to me. More than anything on this trip I have just wanted to communicate and show these children that their Father in Heaven loves THEM…He knows their names. While I might have encouraged them momentarily ultimately they need to know that there is a God in heaven who cares for them and walks with them always. I want them desperately to know the truth of that. People come and go and will disappoint them, but as Lamentations says “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to end”.

So, I left them praying for that truth to be planted deeply in their heart. But now that I have seen their situation I am responsible for more than that. These people are in DIRE circumstances and situations. The fact that there were children running around with gaping wounds in their head with no means to care for it just devastated me. I pictured my little girls running around in pain and with festering sores and infection while I stood by helpless to do anything. I cannot imagine that being the norm like it is in Ngariam.

So, as I was taking all of this in, one of our team leaders asked my friend Sarah and I if we would be willing to go help an older woman they encountered. Of course we went. I had no idea what we were walking into. This woman’s name was Mary Ida and she was elderly. We were told that as some of our team members had been walking through the village they encountered this woman lying literally face down in the dirt. They actually thought she was dead until they saw her head move. There were other village women walking by her yelling at her to pull her dress down because parts of her body were exposed. This woman was not able to move and was receiving no compassion from the people around her. Since the guys didn’t know if it would be appropriate to help her they went and got Sarah and I.

As Sarah and I approached her my heart just broke. There she was lying in the dirt – literally a pile of skin and bones. Her bones were protruding from her skin. Part of her toes were gone. She had gaping holes where her toes met her foot. Her legs and hands were swollen. Her hands had wounds and sores on them. She laid there blinking at us. Our travel partner, Rita, asked the women around her what her story was. Apparently she suffers from jiggers which are worms that make their way into her feet. They have left her with infection which has made it almost impossible for her to walk because of the pain. Her hands suffer from something similar. Her husband is dead as all are all her children. Her son’s widow tries to care for her as she can but has no resources to give her what she really needs. She said Mary was traumatized by all the loss in her life and the fact she is alone.

The first thing we did was pray for her… we asked for God to be present with her and to bring her comfort and peace. We then asked if we could move her into her hut so we could care for her. Apparently her hut was in disarray so they led us to another hut that literally had nothing in it. It had a thatched roof and a dirt floor. Two women from the village picked her up and carried her into the hut for us. We only had one pair of gloves so Sarah said that she would be the one to actually tend to her wounds. We only had a first aid kit with us so we laid Mary on the floor while she groaned in pain. We had a bottle of water which we gave her to drink. I’ve never seen someone gulp water down like that – she was SO thirsty. We had a bowl with water to lift her feet into. Sarah gently washed her feet which were bleeding and covered in flies…the whole time Mary was crying out in pain. It was probably the most heart wrenching thing I have ever been a part of in my life. Sarah kept saying, “I know, Mary…I’m sorry it hurts…I’m just trying to help…God help Mary”. After Sarah washed her feet we treated them with anti-bacterial ointment and wrapped them in gauze to protect them as best we could. It was just a bandaid on a much larger problem but it was all we could do. We did the same for her hand which had open, festering sores.

I wanted to cry through the whole thing. I wanted to turn and run. But I knew that Jesus would be right there where we were doing what we were doing. He was using us to wash her feet, to hold her hand, to bandage her wounds, to whisper words of comfort, to say her name, to pray for her. I felt God’s presence in that little mud hut – it was palpable.

And you know what? When we finished Mary looked up at us and actually smiled then laughed. She laughed. Here was this lady that literally could have been left for dead in the dirt with the African sun beating down on her LAUGHING! The way that she looked up at us when we were finished is something I will NEVER, EVER forget. I think I saw Jesus looking back at me.

One of the things I wanted most of all from this trip was to glimpse God in a new way. I glimpsed Him today in Mary. We probably spent 30 minutes with Mary today and they may have been some of the most important minutes of my life. As badly as my heart hurt for Mary I know God’s heart hurt for her so much more than mine. He felt her pain and loved her so much He sent us to her on this day to love her, to touch her, to BE Jesus to her.

I really can’t put words to what I feel in my heart right now…it’s simply overwhelming – overwhelming that God allowed me to be a part of Mary’s life today…overwhelming that there is such suffering in the world while this would be unthinkable in America. But I’ll save that as well as what I saw with the children in Ngariam for another post. For now, I just want to be in this moment.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Uganda Video

Hi guys! Ok, so I'm somewhat bummed that internet isn't letting me upload pictures, but I do have a video link from our day at Rapha for you to enjoy! As we are able to upload more videos I will get you more links! Sorry I have no time to blog more now, but we are headed to two unsponsored sites to scope out the situations of the children. It's going to be a hard day, so prayers are appreciated. My friend Lindsey's church is going to be sponsoring one of the sites we'll visit today, so our trip to Ngariam will be somewhat easier knowing that help is on the way for those precious kids. Lindsey...we will love on your kiddos today and take lots of pictures for you!! :)

Thanks for your ongoing prayers! I promise to blog tonight with more information about what I'm long as the internet works that is. :)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Uganda Day 2

Oh my. Where to start?? I’m in Africa! It’s Day 2 of my trip and I am happily overwhelmed. I just sat with my arm out the bus window clicking away with my camera and video camera. I just wanted to BREATHE in everything I saw…here are some of the things my eyes inhaled along the way:

The fumes from all the motorcycles and buses were overwhelming but they didn’t keep me from hanging out the window all afternoon. :) There were people riding on motorcycles three at a time. There were people baking bricks in the sunshine on their rooftops. I can’t tell you the number of children I passed on the road who were alone carrying water in dirty cans. There were people doing back breaking work in the sugar cane fields in the heat of the day. There were bananas EVERYWHERE…on women’s heads, in baskets on the side of the road, hanging from trees. Children everywhere waved at us while shouting “Mzungu, Mzungu! How are you , Mzungu?”. Mzungu means “lost white person”…I guess that about sums it up. :) There were people laying in the shade by the side of the road under Mango trees. There were mothers sitting outside their houses bent over the washboard doing laundry while their children hauled them water to use. There were older women sitting on their front porch with their sewing machines. There were mothers playing outside with their children and fanning them with leaves to cool them down.

And that was just on the way to Jinja. We went to visit a sponsored carepoint called Rapha Community School today. This particular care point has 44 sponsored children although there are 267 children there. My experience with these children today was simply UNBELIEVABLE. They hung on me…they held my hands…they told me their names over and over again. They sang for us, they quoted scripture, they told us how thankful they were for our sponsorship (even though it’s Brandi’s church that is sponsoring them – not me). But probably the most impactful moment was this young girl who has nothing by the world’s standards (one outfit, not much food, no parents) standing up in front of us and quoting the following scripture:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” – Matthew 6:25

I wept the whole time she read that scripture. How beautiful to hear those words come out of her mouth and how thought provoking for my own heart . What are the ridiculous things that I think and worry about on a given day? Not having that cute outfit from the store? Not having things turn out the way I want them? Getting frustrated with the driver in front of me? And there stood this young girl with a huge smile on her face in the midst of poverty and the loss of her family speaking from her heart about why she shouldn’t worry when she can pray. It was powerful.

Then to top it all off I got to spend the evening with Katie Davis and her 13 girls. Oh my goodness – those girls have captured my heart. Margaret at the end of the night said “Aunt Amy…can you stay here?”. Ok. I’m hooked. If you don’t know Katie’s story, check her blog out here – she is an amazing 20 year old who lives in Uganda with 13 girls. Her story is powerful, her children are precious and I was amazed by her sweet family tonight.

I’m sorry there’s no video or pictures tonight…maybe tomorrow night. Internet connection is VERY slow here so I can't upload anything now - bummer because I have some awesome stuff to show you! But don’t worry, they will come. Thanks for all your prayers…I am feeling them and can’t wait to see what God has in store for the rest of the week.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

A Longing Fulfilled

Proverbs 13:19 - "A longing fulfilled is sweet to the soul".

I remember the first time I climbed the high dive to jump off. I'm not sure how old I was but I remember the moment clearly. I had wanted to jump off the high dive forever, but just couldn't muster the courage. I climbed slowly, with determination and a great deal of trepidation. After navigating each step with care I found myself at the top - I had reached the place where I would walk out to the edge of the board and jump off.

Strangely, all these years later I find myself in that same place. Today I am standing on the edge of the diving board, looking down into the water ready to jump for the first time. But this time I'm jumping onto an airplane which will carry me to Africa. I feel even more determined, excited and scared today than I did all those years ago. In a way, I'm reeling. I cannot believe this moment is longing is about to be fulfilled and I am beside myself with anticipation. I'm SO ready to jump. Do you remember that feeling of absolute release, terror and bliss when you sprang into the air? I knew what I was diving into all those years I find myself having no idea what I'm about to experience. I want to hit the waters of Africa and be jolted, awed, overwhelmed, but most importantly - just be in each moment (thanks, mom for that advice today).

So, today I'm taking my three bounces on the board, Tuesday I'll be leaping into the air and Wednesday I will make my landing into the unknown of Africa. My mind is racing, my heart is open to receive all that God has for me there and my arms are ready to envelop those sweet little children I've been spending every waking minute thinking of. I am ready for my heart to be broken, pieced back together and filled to overflowing by my time in Uganda. I am ready to encounter God in ways I never imagined. I am ready to be changed from the inside out. I am ready to see this longing fulfilled.

I know that God's plans for this trip are far greater than my own and I am eagerly expecting for Him to show up and blow me away with His goodness. I serve a God who is MIGHTY, a God who SEES, a God of LOVE. I just can't wait to encounter Him in each face that I look into and each hand that I hold. I can't wait to be where I am meant to be this week. God is so good.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Why Africa? Why now?

Want to know why I'm leaving for Africa in 7 days? This about says it all. More thoughts to come...stay tuned.

Do Something Now from Children's HopeChest on Vimeo.