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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Congratulations Scotticus!

Good news on our email this morning: Scott Ickes defended his doctoral dissertation at UNC, using data gathered right here in Bundibugyo! This is an amazing feat, and one which only someone of Scotticus' can-do nature could pull off. The BBB arm of BundiNutrition was developed by another 2-ish year missionary, Stephanie Jilcott, who initially wrote up the funding as a post-doc for a Fulbright Scholarship but ended up putting together a program for our mission and working here to implement it. Scott was teaching our kids and coaching track and taking a pause in his own doctoral program in nutrition at the time. By the end of his commitment in Uganda, he had decided to return to UNC and complete his degree. I remember well the late-night discussions on our patio, waiting for bread to bake in our brick oven post-team-pizza, talking about his future and providing a listening ear. But when Scotticus did come up with a dissertation plan based on Bundibugyo . . . I was not a believer, I'll admit that right now. I was very worried that the inevitable frustrations and inexactitude and muck of life here would derail his educational success, and said so. Thankfully, he didn't listen to me . . . and others were more faith-filled. With the help of Baguma Charles, a couple of short term trips, efforts from half our team and especially Nathan, the project continued. A couple of posts ago I quoted Elizabeth Elliot who says that we missionaries should not be afraid to take a critical look at our work, our impact, our successes and failures. I like the fact that thanks to Stephanie and Scott we have done just that with BBB. We learned through his research that our educational messages to caretakers had to be tailored to address diluting methods of cooking the food we gave. And in spite of that, we learned that only about a third of what we distribute is actually fed to the malnourished child. We learned that the caretakers face significant hurdles to come even to the decentralized closer-to-home programs. We learned that the program significantly changes and IMPROVES the quality, variety, and amount of feeding, even after the families are no longer enrolled. We learned in spite of that, the diets of children in Bundibugyo are particularly lacking in protein and calcium. Which gives further impetus to the newest branch of the Matiti project of BundiNutrition, developing local breeds of dairy goats for ALL children to supplement their diets with milk.
A "mission" is so many things, the hands and voice of Jesus to the poor, the seeds of a church, a small factor of justice in a messed-up world, the inadvertent importation of values of a foreign culture. . . .and the incubator of the next generation of leaders, both Ugandan and otherwise. Baguma Charles is also applying to grad school. One of our Kule-Leadership-Fund med students appeared to pitch in at the hospital yesterday, on his Christmas leave, while a second stopped to greet us and a third called on the phone. Nathan is in the middle of a week of med school interviews back in the States, having decided during his work here to become a doctor he began the application process so that God-willing when he finishes in Uganda next summer he'll head back to school. Sarah has applications in for an MPH. A former engineering intern Josh is back in touch this month, nearing the end of his graduate studies and processing the possibility of return. And on an on. It is a privilege to cheer from the sidelines as God uses the unique experience of Bundibugyo to propel these young men and women along their journeys. And to cheer when they reach significant milestones, like Scotticus!

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