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Thursday, March 29, 2007

Of humor and poverty

Kabasunguzi Grace continues to be one of my all time favorite patients.  Partly that is due to the treasure and heart principle—over the last year I poured a considerable amount of energy and angst, prayer and money, emails and consults, research and hope into finding her a diagnosis and cure.  I failed, at least mostly.  She is a 12 year old who remains blind and paralyzed, but her wasted frame has filled out into a healthy roundness, her cheeks glow, her ulcers have healed into smooth skin.  Her dedicated mother perseveres.  Yesterday she was on my mind and heart, so today I biked out to see her in her mud home.  I found her lying in bed as usual, in her dark little room with a pocked foam mattress and tattered sheets, a clutter of dishes and scraps of bags on the dirt floor.  Since she’s blind the darkness of the room only bothers me, not her.  Her mother told me yesterday they had managed to get her outside to sit in the sunshine.  The radio stopped talking, they told me, my attempt at aural stimulation in her bleak environment now failing.  I opened the back to demonstrate that there were no batteries inside, which did not seem to diminish their faith in the return of its function.  Sigh.  

One of the surprises and delights about Kabasunguzi is her sense of humor.  Once I was carrying her from the car and she made a joke about how I was not strong, she just didn’t weigh much.  Today when I greeted her in her room I could see from the bowl of matoke on the floor that they had been eating, though I did not see any sauce, just plain lumpy starch.  As soon as I ran out of Lubwisi conversation (which is sadly quick) Kabasunguzi smiled mischievously in the silence and asked her mom loudly, is my doctor eating my food??  We all laughed.

How can this little girl who can not see or walk or sit, who lives with about ten dollars worth of material possessions, who has no schooling or music or books or treats, make jokes?  

I ponder this as I ride home, refreshed strangely by the beaming of her face and the cheerfulness of her heart.  I do not idealize poverty—being poor does not make a person necessarily wise, or strong, or holy.  Poverty is a symptom of our deeply broken world.  In the New Heavens and New Earth there will not be people who struggle to feed their children no matter how charming their spirit may be to the casual observer.  Yet I do see some truth in the concept that we who are rich benefit from interaction with the poor, from coming face to face with a little girl who wants to make me laugh instead of cry over her condition.  I think the Spirit put her in my mind, not because she needed a few shillings for food which I usually press into her hand when I visit.  No, because I needed to remember that joy is not based in circumstances, that being able to walk and see are not prerequisites for making a joke.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Home Alone . . .

Well, I’m never really alone, but our team of 27 has pared down to five—me, Caleb, Julia, Jack and our short term nurse Larissa, with everyone else in various stages of errands and meetings and vacations out of the district.  Within a couple of days they’ll all be trickling back in.  Solitude opens space to sense the ever present Christ; community is the context in which Jesus reveals His resurrected self.  Both are true, and life needs some rhythm of experiencing solitude and community in balance.  I’m thankful for the interdependence we have as a team, and praying that I can embrace the breathing space of this small fraction of a week.  Right now I just find myself edgy with goodbyes, edgy with the death of two kids on my ward this morning while I desperately tried to get them blood transfusions (too late), edgy with the sense of loose ends sending Scott with business and shopping to accomplish,  edgy with responsibility for those left in my care.  So prayers for the “home alone” handful of us would be much appreciated.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

End of the Week Report, with thanks

Monday—NUTRITION--We had a solid two hours of brainstorming and problem solving. The more milk we buy, the more we need . . . Which led us to realize that we have moved too far from our surrogate breast-feeder promotion by making milk so available. Primum non nocere—first do no harm, one of our early lessons in medical school. So we re-worked our protocols to make surrogate breast feeding, which we believe is safer and healthier for the baby in the long-run, more attractive. The other idea which came from this day was a heavier use of ground nut paste (local peanut butter) as a protein supplement. Some recent medical studies have pointed out the crucial connection between stunting and poor child development, and I was able to teach about this, raise awareness, and gather ideas with the health center staff this week too. We would love continued prayers for our wisdom and creativity to stretch resources to meet needs . . . We still need milk money for the transitional period after a mother dies and a relative’s milk is coming in, and for premature babies who can not suck, and for the dozens of kwashiorkor patients. So pray for funds too.

Tuesday—HEALTH CARE—the Director of District Health Services disappeared to Kampala and so our hoped-for doctor summit did not materialize (nor did it happen on Friday, the day he suggested rescheduling, because he backed out again). This looked like disappointing answer to prayer. But Jonah came up to our house Tuesday afternoon to gently guide us in his subtle manner, teaching us how to deal with a recalcitrant administration. His attitude is to seek out the core staff with whom we can work well and not worry about the others, to do the good we can under the circumstances and persevere. A timely rain storm kept us talking for an hour and a half about the problems of health care in the district. So an answered prayer after all.

Wednesday—RMS—Thanks for praying for our unity of mind and considerate spirits with each other, it looks like we have the curriculum on order now! We still need at least one more teacher, preferably two. One has applied, which looks like an answer to prayer, since she originally wanted to come for a short internship and we prayed for her to be open to coming for at least a year or two . . .and then she changed her mind. Pray we would trust God to meet the needs of our kids in education and life in general.

Thursday—TEAM—We had a great discussion of a pivotal chapter in the Peacemaker book, and an extended and deep personal sharing time this week. Looking back now I connect the very real tone of the meeting this week with prayers. Thanks.

Friday—CSB—No new crises to report, and the first two rounds of season play for boys’ football (soccer) occurred peacefully this week.

Saturday—TRAVEL—The six women traveling to South Africa arrived well and have enjoyed the bonding of shared experience and beauty of a new place. They are in the midst of their retreat so we are still praying for refreshment which comes from meeting God in new ways. Sudan travel plans for a handful of team mates in late April/early May continue to evolve, we’re getting lots of helpful information these days including some crucial responses to emails, perhaps in response to your specific prayers this week. We trust that the way will become clearer as we move closer.

Sunday—WORSHIP—I end with my favorite answer to prayer. I asked you to pray for God to give gifts to specific individuals to lead in worship. So why should I be surprised? Today at the church that meets on the mission, a man attended whom I’ve seen only once before, he introduced himself as a church member from another congregation in a different sub-county. In the middle of the service he went up to whisper to the leader, who had been cajoling the church to sing with more enthusiasm, to ask if he could lead a song. His smile, his clear voice echoing from the cavernous tin roof, his dancing clap, his echo-response style, all got the entire church on their feet and stimulated the best worship that I’ve seen there in months.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Mother Worries

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.  Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done.  (Phil 4)

This was part of our kids’ memory work this week, as well as being a key passage in the Ken Sande Peacemaker book we are studying.  I’ve been convicted of how much of my conflict, with my kids or with others in our lives, stems from anxiety.  Because I worry about something, I push and insist and pressure . . .which is met by resistance and spirals into conflict.  Some friends know that a month ago we were in a sticky situation with our oldest, over his participation with boy’s soccer (called football here).  For very legitimate reasons he felt unwelcome to try out, and rebelled against our push to get him to try and join in with the team (he’s in the odd position of being a “senior” student grade-wise and taller than most, yet also being younger, so that his 14 year-old strength and speed significantly lag the average team 18-19 year-old skills, plus he suffers from lots of old history with his sense of identity and other-ness and being excluded as a mujungu (foreigner)).   I worried a lot, that he was missing an opportunity for friendship and belonging, for encouragement and accomplishment, for physical development.  As a local “senior” it looked like his last year to be eligible.  It was a battle.  Yes, we asked for prayer, but it was anxious prayer.  

In spite of my less-than-faith-filled pleas, God did answer.  The first week was touch and go.  But then he got into the spirit of practicing, and began to see himself improving, and it became part of his daily routine to return to school for two hours of practice in the late afternoon.  This week we faced it all again when the official team was announced.  Nineteen boys get to wear uniforms and sit on the bench during the games.  About 22 or 23 boys were practicing consistently.  Luke was in the handful not picked to be on the real team.  Though he said he did not mind and did not want to get hurt by playing in the matches against other schools in the district, it did hurt him.  The CSB team has so far played two games which they have won 5-0 and 13-0.  The coaching and practice are paying off.  Luke watched only a part of the first game, choosing to go home instead.  So when the next non-game practice day came around, even though he was free to practice with the team I was pretty sure that he would drop out.  But he and one of the other non-team boys stuck it out and went to practice anyway.  Thank Him for all He has done . . . First for the miraculous change of heart in Luke to even try and play, then for the character and courage to continue participating without the reward of success.  

There are so many things to worry about as a mother here.  Another team kid fell out of a tree he was climbing this past week and escaped serious injury even though the fall was about 10-15 feet off the ground.  Another had croup during the night, that raspy breathing that sounds much worse in a place where there is no emergency room to run to.  Caleb ran under a low-hanging clothes line in the dim evening light chasing the dogs, and got knocked down with a linear red welt across his neck on Thursday.  At least he did not re-fracture his arm, which did not heal as well as we had hoped.  He has significant limitation of his elbow extension and wrist turning, but there is a country-wide shortage of xray film making it hard to investigate the issue.  The physical dangers alone are plenty of worry-fodder, but now I find myself dwelling more on the emotional dangers, the taunting of groups of kids who call ours names as they go down the road, the struggle to make friends, to belong, to be on the team.  With four kids in early adolescence or almost there, these identity issues are only going to intensify.

So the simplicity of this verse challenges my heart.  Replace worry with prayer.  There are only two options:  be anxious about how your are going to manage life, or trust God to do it.  Every time I think I’ve learned that lesson, especially in regard to my kids’ well-being, I find myself challenged again to take them to God.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

A week's worth of prayer requests...

Monday—Nutrition: Since WFP pulled out of Bundibugyo just before Christmas, we’ve been trying to continue to provide milk and some extra calories for motherless and the most severely malnourished babies. Praise God for providing the funds needed for this more limited program in the last three months. However we need new funds and new ideas to continue through 2007. On Monday Karen, Stephanie, Pamela, Scott and I are meeting. We know that God cares for the orphan and the poor. Stephanie recently completed a survey which shows that 45% of children under age 5 here are severely stunted, a sign of chronic malnutrition and a predictor of poor development. Please ask Him to guide us wisely in being the hands He uses to touch these desperate people. Also praise God that 202 chicks (project to increase protein through hens that lay eggs) have survived!

—Health Care: There are now only three Ugandan doctors in Bundibugyo (for 200,000 plus people), and one is the Director of District Health Services who is not clinically active. Even if you count Scott and me, that’s still 1 per 50,000 people (US is 1 per 330 people). We have arranged for all five of us to meet for the morning and lunch on Tuesday, to talk about planning for health, particularly AIDS and nutrition. There is tension in some of these relationships, and everyone is overworked. So pray that it would be a time of encouragement for them, and of drawing together in a common purpose. We have never done this before. Also the solar electricity was installed in the new ward, and beds are being produced by the local workshop. Pray we could open around Easter. And pray for more doctors!!!

—Rwenzori Mission School: JD has scheduled two curriculum planning meetings on Wednesday, for grades K-4 and 5-9. RMS has been a great strength for our team but also an area of attack, since it is a place where all of us must intersect and cooperate, and over the things we consider most precious, our children. Praise God that we have one teacher for next school year, Sarah Reber. Another candidate has shown interest in applying—an answer to prayer!! Please pray for at least one more new full-time teacher, though if God wants to send us two we’ll be happy.

—Team: We have team meetings on Thursdays, and this term we are studying Ken Sande’s The Peacemaker. Pray that our team would be characterized by joy and love for one another, the kind of community that strengthens and supports all our individual ministries.

—CSB: As classes end for the week pray for a cooperative and respectful relationship between students and staff. There have been some discipline cases that have raised tensions on both sides. Pray for the academic village, the Jeffersonian dream of a communal pursuit of knowledge, combined with the Biblical ideal of a pursuit of holiness! The sports teams are one way that healthy community develops: pray for Scotticus, Pamela, Annelise and Larissa (our new nurse!) as they work with cross country, JD and I as we work with girls’ soccer, Kim with girls’ basketball, Amy trying to launch aerobics, and Kevin and Alex (Ugandan teacher) coaching boys’ soccer. At least a third of the student body is included in these sports, so the potential for impact is great.

—Travel: Six women fly out to South Africa Saturday morning to attend the Women of the Harvest retreat, a ministry to women missionaries. Pray for them to meet Jesus there in all His glory and goodness! And you can pray for some dads (especially David Pierce and Bob Chedester) who will be single parents for a few days. Please also pray for Michael as he coordinates some team trips into Sudan for the end of April/early May, leading our team in exploring new fields along with our Field Director Robert Carr. Some of the details still need to fall into place. One web site described Sudan as the size of Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, and a few other small countries combined, with not one inch of decent paved road in the southern half. Travel is complicated, to say the least. Ask God to give our team vision for raising up missionaries for new fields in Africa.

—Worship. Piper says mission exists because worship does not. As you attend your churches on Sunday, take a moment to ask God to gift men and women here as worship leaders for the many churches, people who can sing and dance and drum, who can read Scripture in Lubwisi and Lukonjo, who can draw others into their prayers.
Thanks for walking through the week with us.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Mukiddi Back Home

Our elderly neighbor John Mukiddi has treated us with fatherly concern since our arrival more than 13 years ago. When we were in America in January he fell and broke his right hip. The xray showed quite a bit of loss of bone density there, which may be related to recurrence of a previous cancer. Since he also suffers from hypertension and heart failure, we were very concerned that he would never recover from the fracture. The day after we got back in February we were at the hospital trying to sort out his treatment and assist where we could. Over the last month he has held his own and even improved. Today Scott brought him home! His relatives helped get a spiffy red wheel chair, which Scott dubbed the Land Rover in it’s similarity to our red truck. As soon as he arrived I joined other neighbors in greeting him, a thinner version of his old self, but still able to command a presence and lead the gathered family in prayer. His long-term prognosis is not good, but it is still sweet to have him back home, a stone’s throw from our window, the world back in balance.

A fun moment: when Mukiddi’s brother, our other elderly neighbor Tabaka, came over to join the greeting, I offered my seat to him out of respect, and moved down to a smaller stool. He politely refused and explained that since I was married to one of his sons (Scott) he could not sit on a chair where I had sat, one of those little cultural taboos that govern in-law relationships. It was one of those rare moments of feeling part of the community, sharing in the joy of a homecoming, and being counted as part of the family.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

When it rains . . . .

It pours.  Both literally and figuratively.  The rainy season has begun with a few impressive storms this week, refreshing downpours swept along the mountainsides by grey winds.  But I’m speaking more of the way that time-consuming brokeness of the world problems seem to come in downpours.  Yesterday, for instance.  The clinical officer assigned to the HIV clinic did not show up, leaving Scott with 70-some patients to see alone, that’s after his regular ultrasound clinic.  When he got home from that he found our workers sitting by our broken lawnmower, and the grass still long.  While they were sitting they alertly noticed that there was something odd under the car:  one of the two main bolts that stabilizes the steering system had sheered off.  He spent the afternoon trying to address that issue, and in the midst of that work and a conference call with WHM in the US did not remember to flip switches for our internet system, which was a problem for the whole team, and rather discouraging to use limited power (our batteries are limping a bit now that it’s raining again) for naught.  By that time it was time to inject our sick cow with antibiotics.  Since the man who milks didn’t come it was up to Luke and Scott to wrangle the cow to the ground with a nifty rope system we learned from fellow missionary to Kenya/former vet George Mixon.  When that exhausting procedure was over (and note we can’t drink the milk for a week because of the injections, which significantly affects our normal food supply) he ended the day tinkering with our fridge, which is after lots of work now slightly cooler than room temperature.  I had to throw away molded food.  The last straw was when he opened the kerosene tank to top it off with fuel, a dead mouse was floating in there.  Unfortunately the removal of the mouse did not significantly improve fridge function. Fridges and cars are luxuries, and I feel a bit guilty even noticing their lack of function, but it does drag us down to be constantly assaulted with things that don’t work, especially things that really help our family survive here.  It was a long day.

We asked our team to pray, a day like that seems to be a sign of more spiritual battles in the heavenly realms . . . And I’m glad to report that we see some progress.  God can use these practical life details to encourage us just as powerfully as the enemy can use them to drag us down.  The patients were cared for, the cow is better, Scott fixed the lawnmower, and was able to ride his motorcycle up to Bundibugyo and find a functional replacement bolt.  He was getting Michael’s help to craft two new bushings (rubber pads) for that when Michael said, wait, let’s check in my car, I heard something rolling around on the back floor and it may be what you need.  Sure enough  there were two bushings of exactly the right size. I don’t know how they came to be there but that small gift was a real encouragement to us.

So pray for the pouring down of the Spirit.  And pray for faith, that we would accept the difficult days in this life and look through them to see the power and goodness of God.  

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

About a boy

Samson. An 8-year old boy with a contagious smile despite his thorny circumstances. Infected with HIV by his now dead mother. Abandoned by his father. Now cared for by his grandmother. Attending P2 (second grade) while taking a nauseating three-drug antiretroviral cocktail twice a day.

Though he became HIV+ long before our Kwejuna Project began, Pamela met him on a site visit to one of our farthest outlying sites where the Medical Assistant in charge highlighted his neediness to her. She invited him to our food distribution yesterday.

As a pre-adolescent boy, he stood out from the standard profile of pregnant women and infants who populated our Community Center yesterday. So, when I saw him I was curious and took him aside to hear his story.

He demonstrates the complexity of the situation of those infected with HIV. Much more than just a medical problem, it triggers a cascade of social fallout. Stigma, abandonment, poverty, hunger. All these factors exacerbate the fact that the HIV virus has spliced itself permanently into his own DNA. He’s holding his own against the virus (for the moment) evidenced by a high CD4 Count. The beans, corn-soya flour, and oil he received from us yesterday may strengthen him as he battles the infection, but it is a battle he cannot physically win.

His smile, though, for me was a brief triumph.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Larissa Arrives!

Larissa Funk, a nurse from Iowa by way of Chicago, arrived today. She spent some time living with a family who are friends of ours, part of a church and ministry to the Chicago inner city neighborhood of Lawndale where we used to worship and work. After seeing our prayer card on their fridge for months God led her to call and see if she could come work for a couple of months—just at the right time to provide a housemate for Pamela who is missing Pat, and to help us set up good nursing protocols in the new Pedatric/Maternity Ward. In record time she raised support and this morning she touched down in blazing sunshine onto the grass airstrip, stepping out into the chaos of a Monday in Bundibugyo. We whisked her right off to the community center where 115 HIV positive women were receiving family food supplements (beans, corn-soy flour, and cooking oil). She is the first experienced nurse we’ve had on the team in many years, so we look forward to seeing what impact her presence will have. Just this morning I found out one of my malnourished patients died over the weekend, probably largely because most care is done by the family and this boy’s grandmother was just not capable of stepping in for his dead parents. What difference would competent nursing have made in his survival? I hope to see. As with any new and short term person, she and we could use prayer for appropriate focus. And prayer that Larissa would grow in her trust in the LORD as much as be used by Him for the Kingdom!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Surgeon and Barber

In the middle ages these two jobs went together . . . And we sort of live in the middle ages. So as Caleb reached his six week mark with his cast today, we decided it was time to remove it. Those American fiberglass casts are STRONG. No problem though for a circular blade on an angle grinder, powered by our generator, then finished off with snips from gardening sheers. Caleb has been extremely patient and good natured throughout the month and a half of his hot and itchy cast. But it was a shock to him to see his pale and wasted thin arm, still at an unpleasant angle. Pray for his bones to strengthen, straighten, and completely heal. Meanwhile Scotticus was rewarded for helping in the cast removal by getting a free dry-hot-season hair cut, the same military buzz that all our boys have resorted to this month. So the surgeon and barber were at work . . . Always one of the challenges but also the satisfactions of remote living, the impromptu do-it-yourself nature of life.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Of Chicks and Politics

Picture a PhD from UNC, fresh from academic rigor, schedules, deadlines, research, intellectual challenge and stimulation, now as a mother hen hovering over her baby chicks. Yes, Stephanie’s day-old chicks arrived on Thursday night. Two hundred of them! Our Kwejuna right-hand-man Donato traveled to Kampala to bring them back in crates, on a bus. After extremely hot (90 plus IN my house) dusty weather, a thunderstorm broke that evening. His truck was delayed as the cold air front blew in. Stephanie waited anxiously to receive the chicks into their newly constructed dwelling, a mud-walled building that had been prepared over the last few weeks for this purpose, with a barbed wire fence protective perimeter and coffee hull flooring and watering containers. As the hours passed we feared they would all be dead from the cold air or the rough jostle of the road. Several team members stood nearby for moral support, while Stephanie and her Ugandan chick helpers unloaded the crates late that night. All 200 had survived! It was our pizza night so Scott gathered all the hot coals from our oven and took them down in a wheel barrow to add to the clay pots set up in the shed, for warmth. The young man who we hired to be their primary caretaker slept with them for their first night, adding his body heat to the clay pots as the chicks huddled. I saw them the next morning, fluffy yellow chirping cheerful signs of life.

It is Spring in America, and probably commercially already chicks are appearing as symbols of Easter and life. We pray that these chicks will also be signs of the Resurrection. Signs of life to children who are malnourished, as their eggs provide protein. One did die yesterday, so we would appreciate prayers that a large percentage would survive and thrive and lay eggs. Maybe as you see Easter Chicks on decorations, you’ll be reminded that real children are depending on real chicks to become egg-laying chickens in a real place in this world right now.

>From chicks to politics . . . Most missionaries don’t dream of nurturing goats or poultry, nor do they anticipate political struggle. But we found out that the man who has faithfully worked with the Kwejuna project in a distant corner of the district was punished by an unwanted transfer to another area. It seems that when the Kwejuna project provided a motorcycle to assist him in gathering data and coordinating care between several health centers that are 10-15 miles apart (work he had been doing on bicycle or foot) jealousies were aroused. And it didn’t help that this nurse is also a pastor and has spoken publicly against corruption in the district. Scott and Pamela found themselves yesterday pleading for his reinstatement . . . On politely deaf ears it seemed, though we heard later that the decision to transfer him may be reversed. All those Psalms that cry out to God to change the hearts of rulers feel very real at the moment. What could a movement of prayer for justice do in Bundibugyo? Food for the poor, and integrity in the process? Stay tuned!

Monday, March 05, 2007

Resurrection number 1001, 1002, 1003, . . . .

My friend Maria Garriott wrote a book entitled “A Thousand Resurrections”, about her life raising a family and planting a church in a violent, poor, inner-city neighborhood. The title sticks with me, and reminds me to look for those signs of the power of the resurrecting God at work in the muck of this world.

So I offer three more resurrections, and one transcendent moment, in the spirit of her book (which I highly recommend):

1001: Last week I admitted a nine-year-old boy named Bwambale. His father carried him into the ward, burning with fever, comatose, dehydrated, close to shock. That day the entire hospital was so packed we could barely squeeze him onto the floor. I ended up doing a lumbar puncture (spinal tap) while we tried to balance his longish thin body on a small table in a closet-type room where medicines are stored, because the usual procedure room was being used to isolate triplets with gastroenteritis, and I thought it would not be technically feasible to get the specimen bottle under the needle if he was on the floor! Since we celebrated Jack’s 9th Birthday this week, a 9-year-old boy hit my heart hard. Also his parents seemed really destitute and bewildered, having brought him from a remote mountainside village more than ten miles away, with only the clothes on their backs. But in spite of my concern I had no idea of his diagnosis. His spinal fluid was crystal clear, his malaria smear was negative. I gave him all my best medicines (literally all) and a blood transfusion. By the second day his coma progressed to the point where his posture and reflexes led me to believe he might die, or at least have permanent brain damage. I asked our whole team to pray for him, and my kids took up the cause. I went to see him on Saturday even though it is not my regular day to do rounds, and felt slightly encouraged that he seemed to have a moaning response to his father’s voice, though none to mine still. I was afraid to find out the news this morning (Monday) when I walked onto the ward. There he was, looking like any normal child. He walked up and asked me for bread! (Which seems to be a normal post-resurrection need, remember Jairus’ daughter). I am so thankful. I still don’t know what was wrong with him but I believe God healed him anyway.

1002&3: Last Wednesday, as I sat seeing patients in the AIDS clinic, a nurse brought a plea from Jonah that I come to the operating room where he was doing a C-section, because he expected the baby to need major resuscitation. Since our nurse-anesthetist was involved in a motorcycle accident last week, he had been reluctant to do any surgery. But this lady had had two previous C-sections, and in both cases the baby died. Now she was presenting in labor needing a third operation, with no baby yet to show for all her suffering, and the midwives could not hear a heart-beat on this baby either. If there was any chance to save it he had to act right away, not send her to Bundibugyo town. So he went to work in the operating theatre with improvised anesthesia, and by the time I was called the procedure was well underway. I walked into the room to see the baby lying limp and grey on the counter. The midwife and I began to rub and suction and give breaths with a bag and mask, and the baby began to gasp. But then we heard Jonah exclaim “There’s another one!” and to everyone’s surprise he pulled another purple lifeless looking little baby feet-first out of the bloody hole in the unconscious mother’s abdomen. Baby 1 was starting to breathe so we shifted our efforts to baby 2, who responded quickly. Soon both were crying and protesting. The mother still looked a bit frightening, trembling under a mask of ether as blood dripped around the floor. But as of today all are alive and well, two pink and pretty little baby girls and one weak but grateful mom.

And lastly, a transcendent moment. As I mentioned above, Jack turned 9 on Saturday. The whole team and his local friend Ivan came over for tacos and a multi-layered drum-shaped cake. There were balloons and games and presents, but the real event of the evening was a dance party. Some line dancing, some free-for-all. Imagine a room full of missionaries gyrating in our candle-lit front room to SuperChick’s “Rock Bottom . . .if you’ve been there put your hands in the air and let someone know that the Most High cares . . “ It was fun, but HOT. After about five songs there was a general consensus that we move the party out into the yard. I had bought glow-stick bracelets (great for out-door equatorial nights!) and the whole team put them on, we moved the speakers out with an extension cord, and danced in the yard, which was really only marginally cooler. Just as we were about to call it a night someone said “there’s a family in your kitubbi” and went for a flashlight to find out what medical emergency was going to break up our birthday party. But no, it was our neighbor, Mukiddi’s equally old and infirm brother Tabaka, with a half-dozen younger girls from his compound. He hobbled up with his walking stick and said “Twasie kubiina”--we’ve come to dance. They live just behind our house and could no doubt hear and see all once we moved outside. So like good African neighbors, they came to join in. It was one of those rare moments when I felt like we were connecting as human beings, doing what was natural, not making a cross-cultural holy effort, just enjoying normal life together. The girls were delighted with the bracelets, we danced to the Shrek soundtrack, the younger kids ran all over the yard streaming colors, the moon shone hazily through oppressively warm and low clouds, and we had a taste of the marriage supper of the Lamb.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Mission-wide Day of Prayer: March 6, 2007

Our entire mission is observing a day of prayer and fasting on March 6, 2007. A list of prayer requests for our team is available from our "Download-able Prayer Letters" page accessible from "Our Links" on the sidebar. Thanks for praying!

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Happy Birthday, Jack!

Jack Thomas, (aka, The Jackelope) marks nine years today....the last single digit birthday in our family!!

Check out that priceless smile...that's the mark of a boy who has just received his very own spring-loaded 3-inch Gerber JACK KNIFE.

Whoa, careful now! I guess you know how to pray....