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Friday, September 30, 2022

Bless the Dying: Ebola, Hurricanes, and 2022

 Ten days ago, Uganda declared an Ebola outbreak in the centre of the the country. Mubende District and the contiguous districts east and west have now reported 50 cases and 24 deaths. Numerical exactness remains elusive early in an epidemic, because it takes a cluster of deaths to even raise suspicions, and by the time a suspect person reaches a regional referral hospital and the alert doctors there consider testing what looks like malaria (fever, vomiting, diarrhea, some bleeding, extreme weakness)  for a hemorrhagic fever virus . . . there is a lot of damage to control.  So those 50 cases are actually 31 positive tests; the other 19 are suspected by history. Those 24 deaths occurred in 6 patients among the 31 test-confirmed cases, but we are also counting 18 deaths among the 19 suspected cases. Meaning that looking back a few weeks, at least 18 people who died in the area were already buried in a cluster of families that all have connection to people now testing positive. Uganda has sprung to action. There are press conferences and informative posters urging caution and isolation and good hygiene. Hospitals around the country are setting up isolation wards and setting aside protective gear. We have a Uganda Viral Research Institute that identified the Sudan strain of the virus in the first sample sent, so we didn't have to wait for distant labs. UVRI is supposed to have a mobile lab in Mubende by today.  Four doctors, a med student, and an anesthetic officer are among the patients who have tested positive now amongst the 414 contacts being observed.

For us, an Ebola epidemic of this size in this country carries a heavy weight of memory. In 2007, Ebola crossed into our population here in Bundibugyo with a brand new viral strain that took time to identify. At that time there were four of us doctors in Bundibugyo, and we had all seen suspect patients. Two were infected; Scott and I were not. Our dearest friend here, Dr. Jonah Kule, died, while Dr. Sessanga recovered. Bundibugyo lost a treasure in Dr. Jonah, and 4 other health care workers (nurses, eye assistant, clinical officer). That is a long and sorrowful story for another day but it does give us a sobering context for 2022. 

Because safety is not our final promise, or goal. Not all prayers for healing are answered.

No one needs to be convinced of that, though we often seem to pretend that it could be true if one were just more holy, more committed, more intelligent, more hard-working.  Right now Florida is being stomped by a category 4 hurricane, a powerful violent storm of wind and wave surge and rain. The Americas have had a disproportionately severe outcome from COVID which is now the 3rd leading cause of death in the USA. Not to mention school shootings and the war in Ukraine and rebel attacks and a million small stories of lost babies and unexpected cancer and dwindling parents or grandparents. Grief stalks each and every one of us. In our hearts, we feel like Uganda has had more than her share of grief, so another Ebola epidemic really seems hard.

As a team we continue through Tish Harrison Warren's Prayer in the Night. And this week we got to the phrase, bless the dying. Very poignant for all of us as Ebola percolates in our country (it's not here in Bundibugyo we just feel the fragility of our medical system and are realistic about human behaviours that could lead to dissemination). The Forrest family just traveled to California to the memorial for Kacie's dad who died. And my cousin died this week too. We share the same name (!) and she's just two years older than me, someone who always seemed admirably stylish and hip as we vacationed together growing up, and someone whom I grew to admire on new levels as an adult (though sadly at a great distance) as she faithfully and loyally held onto her family and overcame addiction . . . only to be saddled with early and metastatic cancer. 

cousin Jennifer far left, last visit with her a year ago

Warren writes richly that "bless the dying" in the early church was steeped in paradox: that God can heal but eventually all of us die, that death is our final enemy but also gain, that we are right to hate death while at the same time we embrace in faith the truth that death is not the end. That death, specifically the horrifically painful and unjust crucifixion of Jesus, was the means of the redemption of all things. That on the other side of death, we await resurrection. And yet none of those truths obviate the human experience of grief. We cry. We pray. We wait. We work.

Sitting in 2022, whether in a rainstorm in the southeastern USA or in the Ebola zone in Uganda, this is our hope. Not that we will be spared all suffering and never fall sick or die, but that our dying would be blessed.  Blessed one day in dying like Jennifer, in her sleep, in her home, her daughter having arrived that day, after a month or more of goodbyes and preparation. Blessed now by informing our living. May our awareness of mortality paradoxically bring us peace to focus on the important: love, truth, beauty, connection, service. May we let go of pretending, and make space for the presence of reality. Of God.  And may we have courage to realise, that is actually what matters and what is promised as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death.

Warren's chapter ends with this:

We are dying, each and all. Yet the kind of blessing we most need is the kind that comes to the dying--a blessing we live our life avoiding, a blessing found only in darkness.  In the pace of deepest desolation, we meet God himself. 

Sunday, September 25, 2022

The Partnership of Parenting

 Parenting. A rich concept and word that provides the foundation for pretty much everything, encapsulates the generous love of God, forms our earliest and most powerful memories and human bonds, and not surprisingly also becomes the locus of our deep pain and failure. None of us receive or dispense perfect parenting, but we all relate across cultures and languages and time to the goal. At Christ School Bundibugyo, parents are our partners in blessing the youth of this place. They bring us their sons and daughters, nieces and nephews, grandchildren and neighbours, whom they have struggled to keep alive and growing, and entrust our staff and administration and the mission to care for them for four to six formative adolescent and young adult years. They want academic achievement that prepares their student for a sustainable future, and they want character development that solidifies their child's respect for the culture and the country and the earth. We want the same. Academic excellence and spiritual transformation. Together our hope is to enable these kids to become "servant leaders", the operative paradox of CSB. That means people with the capacity to lead and the heart to serve, people who invest in the good of Bundibugyo and the glory of God. People whose metric is not personal fame or wealth or honour or power, but "well done good and faithful servant" effective use of their gifts to bless all. 

The parents depend on us to teach their children. And to provide spiritual truths, visible role models, safe dorms, clean bathing and latrine structures, sport and club opportunities, protection from harm, focus on what matters, social interaction, a healthy rhythm of fun and sleep and work. We depend upon parents to provide school fees that cover about half of the actual costs of running the school (and we depend upon donors for the rest). To keep the partnership strong, to provide accountability and community, we try to have an all-day parent event at least annually. Reports from the Head Teacher, the Director of Spiritual Life, the Director of Development, the Chairman of the PTA and the Chairman of the Board. Songs from a student choir. An introduction and greeting by each of our 25 academic staff and a handful of support staff too. A meal of course, massive pots of steaming hot matoke, rice, beef stew, beans, ground nut sauce, cabbage. Informal conversations and mingling, formal questions and answers. 

Because of COVID shutting down schools for most of the 2020 and the 2021 academic years, we could not return to a "normal" school schedule until late January 2022. So as we began our third term of 2022 in September, we gathered all the parents for the first Parents' Day in three years on Friday. 

The day was as rich as the word parenting with which I began this post. Exhausting, yes, 8-9 hours is a long time to host and listen and translate and interact. The parents' main concern was financial, that they were struggling to be able to pay 50% of their subsidised school fee amount at the beginning of the term, a policy we had enforced in order to afford food for their children and payroll for the staff. We are all squeezed by the government changing term length from 12 to 14 weeks, changing the curriculum which requires new texts and materials, and by the inflation in prices of all food and commodities due to the war in Ukraine and other global trends. We have not increased fees in spite of those factors, so we really don't have margin for non-payment. We listened to their woes; we tried to explain the pressures on the school too.

Staff Introductions

Head Teacher Peter giving report

Scott as chairman Board of Governors speaking to parents. Mike as Director of Spiritual Life and Patrick as Director of Academic Development also gave great talks.

But in spite of all our struggles, the general mood was so hopeful. We reviewed performance on national exams and rejoiced that most of the district's Division One (top) students came from CSB, and almost all the students who qualified for national university scholarships were ours. We heard about class trips, extra effort to catch up from lost time, study camps during break times. Parents have noticed. This year we had 107 students in our S1 class meant for 60, and had to turn another hundred away. The low fees and the solid education translate into value, and our culture here (like most others) delights in a bargain. Our dorms are packed full. But the algebra of more kids, more staff, more meals, more needs, when fees are kept affordable but costs keep rising, becomes complex to solve. We live by faith, yet again.

As we prepared for this meeting, Scott put together a lovely slide show of the new chapel, the new perimeter fence, the renovated staff housing, the new classrooms, the growing staff, all the ways that the school has inexplicably been blessed even during a few of the most challenging years ever. He wanted parents to feel secure in God's love and our commitment . . . and yet to also want to invest their hard-wrought cash. It's hard to hold onto both. Peter, our new head teacher, ended his report with four prayer requests for parents, and that is a good ending here. We do our best, but our best is never going to get us through without prayer.  Please join the parents in praying for  1. The upcoming month of national finishing exams for S4 (UCE, "O Level") and S6 (UACE, "A Level") graduating students , 2. The other four classes to study and behave in ways commensurate with promotion, 3. Financial provision for parents and donors in spite of inflation, and 4. "A good ending of the year". We seem to be on target for that!

Perks of getting old: we were around when this midwife Rose, our colleague, gave birth to this daughter Judith, named for my mom, and now Rose is a key CSB Parent and Judith is a star pupil

Desmond and Scott have carried the CSB vision through many trials and changes for over twenty years.

The outgoing PTA chairman Edison was one of the first people in this area to meet and welcome our team

John our next door neighbour since he was a baby, grew up with our kids, went to CSB in one of their classes, and is now our key mission administrator with his CPA license. He serves as Deputy Chairman when Scott is out of the district. We rely on him a lot! This last photo really shows the fulfilment of the servant leader goal.

PS. Sorry this blog has been silent for over a month . . . we traveled to the USA for a Serge meeting, saw both moms and all our kids, officiated a wedding and visited a few friends, did not repeat the bike accident disaster that I had before this same meeting last year (!) but had decent medical follow ups. We flew back to Uganda just over a week ago and have been back in Bundi for four days. It's been a lot of travel, time zones, people, interactions and we wanted to be present for family and for Serge leaders. But it's good to be back home in Bundibugyo! And if you're seeing Uganda in the news for Ebola, yes, there is a new epidemic but it's over a hundred miles away and so far the country is responding with their usual skill and zeal. We are fine here. 

Saturday, August 06, 2022

What stretches your heart?

 A day or two ago, the Psalm in the lectionary was 119:32. I will run the course of Your commandments, for You shall enlarge my heart. In this year of injury and disability, my "running" the course has been reduced to a walk with occasional slow jogs. Literally, in exercise and energy, and metaphorically in capacity. We've both finished six decades now, and I find it easy to jump to judgement, to constrict my heart in a hold-on sort of way to a more defined and defendable territory. 

But the psalmist was unlikely young or unscathed when this was written either. In fact, a few verses before, his soul clings to the dust and melts from heaviness. His life included the kind of loss, betrayal, danger, suffering that would wilt most of us and certainly discourage a child from following that path. Yet a very similar phrase is used of his son Solomon's gift from God in 1 Kings 4: wisdom and largeness of heart.

This is the rub: what if my heart stretches in joy, but even moreso in grief. It seems reasonable to try to constrict the range of experience rather than keep putting expanders into a weary, thinning, weak heart . . . but that might not be God's best. In fact the scariest verse in the Bible is also in Psalms (106:15): He gave them their request, but sent leanness into their soul. The way of victory, ease, comfort, security, recognition, success might look appealing. But not at the cost of a shrivelled soul.

So the course we are running has been a bit rocky these days. Hearing the woes of friends, or people who just come to see if we can help. Yesterday a young man my kids' age who had really tried to seek medical help for his sick mother (not quite my age) with a complicated story that reminded me of how vulnerable a widow can be in this place without her husband's family's help or her own, and how much responsibility for siblings and parents falls on the shoulders of a young man. Or praying for and listening to a friend whose deep fear of spiritual harm from jealous neighbours has sent her into a spiral, and having her mother remind me that the perception here is that one is more vulnerable to curses than other parts of the continent, leading to a lifetime of unease. Or people we know with illnesses that would be hard to manage even in a resourced place, and feel impossible to improve here. Or a team mate losing her father ten thousand miles away, and agonising through decisions to return for family closure and moving ahead with distant mourning. Or what really deflated our hearts this week, two different unrelated people we trust and depend on caught stealing from the mission leading to hours and hours of meetings, testimony, false stories and searching for truth. Sad, heartbroken betrayal, and sad that others on our team were hurt.

Besides just trying to keep up with griefs like the above sample from the last couple of days and zooms and emails and face to face meetings and medical consults and study and planning and correspondence . . . the background of our days has been a challenging run as well. No power, well, that's about half the time so hardly remarkable. When the rain pounds unseasonably ceaselessly, it's harder to keep even minimal lights and computer charging going with solar, or to get clothes dry, so we're always scrambling. But when the clean water system from Ngite goes down, ironically due to heavy rainfall damaging the intake up in the mountains (too much water leading to no water) . . that throws the whole town for a loop, tens of thousands of people scrambling to carry water in jerry cans from streams and rivers like the old days. And our whole team and our neighbours, sorting out the few rain-water tanks that still fill from roofs, how to ration and do without laundry and showers, how to not get sick from dirty water. And what to do with 365 students and dozens of teaching staff and their dependents at a boarding school with nothing to drink, cook with, or wash with. An emergency tanker of water took 24 hours to materialise due to various problems, we nearly shut the school and sent the kids home a week before the term was supposed to be over, but as of the last few hours, water is flowing and students are taking exams. Water, electricity, and did I mention phone/internet service? No problem that our phones get cut off for ten days right, in juggling our Area Director roles and family at distance?  

So today I'm trying to hold onto the prayer that our calling is not to escape all this, but to grow bigger hearts in all this. That's a mystery and a mercy, so please pray that for us to run the course and find our hearts stretched. We can't make it happen. Only God can.

The two photos above were a beautiful creative distant memorial service

These three photos represent the way that broken systems mean Scott is always fixing something. He's very faithful about maintenance and dirty jobs . . which never end.

And some of our heart stretch growth comes from community and puppies. . . . Lindi knows who's having a hard day, and lends her loving presence. 

Friday, July 22, 2022

Remember to welcome strangers...

 We once fled from war, on foot, and were thrown on the mercy of others. So when Scott gets called to District meetings about people who have migrated temporarily into Uganda from Congo, uprooted by a conflict that simmers and flares between the same group that sent us running (the ADF) and the same militaries that helped us return (UPDF and FARDC), he goes and listens and advocates for that same mercy. It's a complicated situation, with local, regional, and international implications. Aid can be a means of good, or a long-term harm, if it is not applied fairly and thoughtfully. We need to respect both the Congolese desperate and their similarly-stressed Ugandan hosts. This week there was a news story of a distantly foreign ADF commander killed only miles from our border . . . but also Red Cross concern that some of the 29,000 "persons of concern" they estimate to be staying in hastily built shelters, with relatives or on church or public land, are suffering from epidemic gastroenteritis. The word "cholera" was queried. Yes, the government wants them to register and move to officially gazetted refugee camps. No, most of them have not been willing to do so. In a long meeting between NGO's and government, he negotiated permission for our World Harvest Uganda team to provide a small "Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH)" package to a thousand families. 

We are not a relief agency, we are a long-term, stay-and-participate-in-life model of mission. ALMOST ALL of our fundraising goes towards projects with arcs of decades, not days. But when there are earthquakes, mudslides, floods, or war, sudden convulsions of harm that throw the community into disarray, we have been SO THANKFUL to have a Bundibugyo Emergency Relief Fund that has blessed thousands of people over the years in occasional, quick-response mercies. And interestingly, the capacity to respond with speed and integrity lies not just in being a small faith-based mission with generous mostly North-American donors, but also in the growing cadre of Christ School Bundibugyo Alumni led by our administrator and accountant John who are getting pretty good at this kind of week-long push. John and his CSB alumni team listened to Scott's plan and made it happen: a budget,  official letters of permission, two days on the border in various communities with Red Cross registering actual Congolese in need, two days in Fort Portal procuring jerry cans, bars of soap, feminine hygiene products, water purifying tablets, transport and organisation. 

And then today, loading all the above into 7 trucks and dispersing to the communities along the border that are most affected. 

We personally accompanied the team to three sites, one of which was the main border town on the main road between Bundibugyo and Eastern DRC. Our missionary team has often participated in some aspects of the actual distributions too, and today 4 kids and 4 adult moms/teacher/intern also came to the largest site to make the giving personal. The day-of logistics are formidable. Scott and I walked through the shelters people had constructed on the land around a Catholic church, basically bent poles tied with reeds then draped with UNHCR tarps to form tents, three-stone cooking fires in the space between them, laundry hanging on the bushes. Thankfully the language stretches across the border so we could chat, listen, laugh a bit, because resilience is amazing. The chairman of the Congolese camped there was a Charismatic Episcopal priest whom we asked to speak to the milling crowd and to pray, to acknowledge that these items come from God via his people, that they are small tokens of his love. Then people came one by one into a roped-off space to receive their aid. Lots of grateful smiles, and curious chatter, but also inevitably those who were not registered and felt left behind. 

Bundibugyo Emergency Relief. We long for the day when it is no longer necessary. The kindness and competence of our alumni and our team are a taste of that future. In the meantime, we're thankful to be a tiny part of the net that God uses to lift up the poor from the ash heap. And encouraged by the way that response causes evil to backfire. Because such distress as war, flight, poor water, sickness . . . led to the usual barriers being irrelevant. Catholic, Presbyterian, Episcopal, and SDA churches, government headquarters and schools, Ugandans and Americans and Congolese, young and old, all pulled together to resist the inevitability and distress of sorrow, and to witness hope.

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Leadership Inspiration from the trenches: Dr. Amon

 Yesterday evening, we attended the Bundibugyo Hospital and District farewell party for Dr. Amon. Just typing those words brings a fresh wave of grief . . but since the whole event happened a few meters away from, and 15 years after, Dr. Jonah's burial, I have to say that the grief this time is mixed with a heftier dose of gratitude for sure, and hope. In 2007 we, Dr. Jonah's wife and daughters, and a half dozen intrepid health workers prayed and wept as we interred his body under strict Ebola protocols. We were heartbroken, desperate, and nearly alone. In 2022, there were tents, music, cake, an MC, dancing, gifts and speeches. To a casual observer, the events could not have been more disparate.  But they were closely connected. 

Scott, Amon, Esther, and me with Masereka pre-party rolling

First, because of the character of the men. Dr. Amon, like Dr. Jonah, began as a clinical officer in the days when any medical education was nearly unobtainably rare, being younger sons in large hard-working families. Both worked with us at Nyahuka Health Center IV, and caught our attention as dependable, talented, caring workers at the PA level, with humour and courage. Dr. Jonah was the first young man we sponsored to Makerere University for a degree as a medical doctor, but the joy of having him back as a colleague was short-lived when a new strain of Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever broke out(Ebola bundibugyo) The only other Ugandan doc in the district also became infected but recovered, and as you know Scott and I did not become sick, even though we had all four been seeing the same patients together. Ebola Bundibugyo left us down to 3 docs from 4, and in the wake of that tragedy we developed a program to sponsor more health workers, doctors and others, for the district. As that was beginning, a British doc named Dr. Dominic pulled up to the health centre one day on a short trip to Uganda, and wanted to spend funds raised after his med-student girlfriend had died in a car accident to help this country . . .  we immediately thought of Amon as the best possibly legacy. 

So fifteen years later, the news is, HE WAS the fitting legacy choice. Dr. Amon finished medical school and internship and even did an MPH. He returned to Bundibugyo to serve. He navigated the politics of the system with grace. We were in Kenya most of his tenure, but always encouraged by his vision and hard work, the way he stepped into more and more responsibility. When we returned three years ago, a huge part of the attraction was to work with our friend. To stand with him in new patterns of integrity, enabling the opening of the new NICU, connecting with solar projects for oxygen, supporting his new pattern of morning report staff meetings, continuing medical education, data collection, audits of deaths, focus on maternal and child health, nutrition, integration of spiritual growth and encouragement. Bundibugyo Hospital might raise eyebrows from those accustomed to private institutions, but over the last handful of years we have climbed in government district hospital rankings. Together we faced the unknown of COVID, even as many partners left and funds became unsure. For years he's been the "acting" medical superintendent, the highest ranking doctor in our district, but somehow our local government never managed to actually change is title and salary to reflect that responsibility. He was not the sort of person who let that stop him from doing his best.

About two weeks ago, he called us into his office and reluctantly broke the bad news: he had taken a full, actual, medical superintendent job across the country, in Busia on the Kenya border. 

This decision was not totally out of the blue, even though my accident made us miss so much this year. We had been aware of political pressure to push him out of the way, to make space for a third clinical-officer-turned-medical-doctor post-Ebola, this one sponsored by the government. Understandably the government-sponsored doc is more of a political insider, and in spite of trying to get everyone to look at the big picture that our District of several hundred thousand needs all the medical help it can get, we as outsiders as well have to accept the decisions made. There was some shaking up of administration, Dr. Amon saw the writing on the wall, and felt the humble course of action was to take a "promotion" elsewhere.

Scott with a Gospel-true message of friendship and grateful admiration

Official functions tend to be rather scripted, long, and tedious. We had braced for that yesterday. But in spite of our grief, it was a joyous occasion.  Scott was put in the official program as "FRIEND", which was a delightful contrast to the long list of position-of-power titles of various speakers. He talked about leadership as SERVICE not POWER (Mt 20:28), which Dr. Amon certainly embodied, like Jesus. Even the boda-boda drivers who swarm the hospital drive for fares organised themselves to come in and give him a gift, as did market ladies, nurses, department heads, guards, cleaners. The community trusted him, because he was available and honest, never self-promoting. His wife Esther, who as a nurse is still posted here in Bundibugyo, danced beside him as various groups cheered and carried in their wrapped boxes and bars of soap and wash basins and even a local specialty, the Bwamba chair. She's left here alone to manage the five children, and I held her 4-month-old for an hour or more. Splitting this family feels tragic to me, but they press on with good faith. One of the last short speeches came from a nurse who was acting as MC, and reminded us of Joseph and his brothers in Genesis . . . Joseph says later in life that he was sent ahead to Egypt to prepare and preserve life. Aidah said in faith that we will see Dr. Amon preserving life in his new position. That actually struck me as a Spirit-inspired analogy. What Joseph's brothers meant for personal preservation, to remove him from their lives . . . ended up being for good for the entire community. 

The boda drivers presenting their chicken 

A young man from the lab with a guitar sang beautifully from the blessing in Numbers 6:24-26. We are struggling to have faith as we mourn this departure, yet we do ask God to bless Dr. Amon and his family, and to bless Bundibugyo Hospital and all of us. 

Hold on with us, for the next chapter in the story. This one did not have the ending we hoped for. But as I was reminded yesterday, All Shall be Well in the end. If all is not well, it's not the end. Amen.

World Harvest Uganda Medical team . . . nurse Kacie and we smiling bravely through loss

The Blessing song from the Lab Staff

PS: The previous post has some similar themes of leadership, continuity, loss, and faith .. . if you missed it look back here. Scott also added some Rwenzori hike photos. . . 

Sunday, July 17, 2022

Cry, Cling, Context: Making it through the mud to glimpse the majesty

 Yesterday Scott was talking to a colleague about our Rwenzori hikes, parenthetically to a doctor wrapping up 15 years' service in Tanzania. We are friends because in 1997 he was a college intern with us the summer we fled on foot from the ADF. (He carried Luke, age 4, a bit on that fateful day. . .  Now Dr. Luke is in his fifth and final year of orthopaedic surgery residency, Dr. Rob is a faculty member at Cornell who has shaped health care in Mwanza, TZ, the ADF are still creating havoc along our border but mostly on the run from more intentional military protection, and we are still here looking at the Rwenzori mist-shrouded peaks.) Scott told him about a post-hike T-shirt that he made that said: MUD AND MAJESTY. Because that about sums up the hike, and life. We slog through the bogs of this muddy world, mired in a thousand reminders of all that is unjust, wrong, broken, evil, painful, with very little filter to allow us to shelter ourselves from that reality. And yet, majesty. There are the moments on the snow-covered peak at sunrise, when the glory of goodness is undeniable. 

--------------------------- The MUD is obvious

It's the ratio of mud to majesty that sometimes seems unsurvivable. On a Sunday, looking back over the week since we last posted, we are remembering power outages and insect infestations. Our nutrition team overwhelmed by the hungry children left by their parents from DRC on this side of the border while they try to keep gardens going on their own side. Following up coughs, brain malformations, rashes, dangerous hypertension, mental health strains, uncontrolled diabetes, and more (this week alone) in people who manage to reach us for help in spite of our pause in regular hospital hours. Walking with our teams around the area, denied work permits, expired passes, hard decisions by partners to cancel things we feel passionate about, requests to fund things we sometimes don't believe are of great benefit, doing the research to distinguish between those two options. Wrestling through plans with our leadership for team expansions, personnel shifts. Advocating, praying. Following the news that warns against COVID complacency in Africa, and new studies that show the impact of vaccine misinformation and pandemic- related funding shifts which "threaten the lives of millions of children" (WHO).  Two days of very cross-cultural important but draining meetings, one with the district political and health leaders to deliberate response to the estimated 29,000 Congolese who have fled into Bundibugyo but prefer to stay blended into villages rather than in the designated refugee camp, and one with the Christ School board. 

The CSB board of 12 includes representatives of our founding body, World Harvest Mission Uganda/Serge International, plus local political and cultural leaders, PTA and Alumni representatives, and two Teaching Staff members.  Even that was a long boggy slog (literally the Board of Governors is the BOG .. . ) through the new Uganda curriculum's impact on school evaluations, text books, end of year exams and promotions, staff training, capacity. Of the amount of money spent to run the school for a year, and maintain and expand infrastructure, the parental tuition covers well below half, an intentional design to keep the school affordable to the majority small-scale subsistence agricultural population. . . meaning we have to raise funds outside the district. But in a year where the global economy is wobbling, and the local teachers and government workers in other sectors have been striking to demand higher salaries . . . the pressure mounts. How to prepare students well, respect teachers well, feed everyone, stay safe and healthy, and not implode, is not easy. This was a 9 hour meeting.

So when we got to the final item of the day, the final hour of the week, we were tired. In 2019, a large part of the reason we came back to Bundibugyo from Kenya was the rising insecurity of CSB under the leadership of a power-focused self-promoting head teacher (principal), and the final straw was the week in June that year when he incited students to riot against staff. Working through his exit, with this board, took grace and energy. The deputy head teacher at the time, Peter Bwambale, stepped in as "acting". We all just tried to pick up the pieces and make it through the rest of 2019, thinking that in 2020 we would institute another national advertisement and recruitment for head teacher. Then only two months into the new school year, COVID caused a nation-wide shut down, and except for a few weeks of exam preparation for the graduating classes, that lasted almost two years. In January 2022 we finally re-opened for our first normal year, and now in the middle of second term our first board meeting and opportunity to make leadership decisions. And like a Rwenzori climb, at the end we seemed to step out of the bogs and onto the glaciers and be surrounded by light. Because the board unanimously supported that we make Peter the official head teacher. Everyone had solidly good things to say about his humble, consensus-building approach, his faithfulness through hard times, his trust established with the community. We preach servant leadership; it makes sense to hire one. A moment of majesty, to call this man into the board (and today in front of all the students) and give him the good news.

-------------------------  The MAJESTY takes work to notice

When you're climbing the mountain range, the density of the foliage, the folds of the craggy valleys, the misty rain of the equatorial jungle, make the goal impossible to see most of the way. And we find that true of life. Majesty breaks through, but only in short bursts. Our team is reading Prayer in the Night, by Tish Harrison Warren. I'm sure we'll talk about it again, but chapter 3 this week pulled us back into the Psalms as much more than poetry, they are God's gentle guide to us to life in a world wracked by grief. The Psalms of lament lead us to three key ways to cope with the sorrowful realities of the world. First, we cry out to God, honestly naming all that is wrong. It is beneficial to consciously NOT pretend all is well, because it is NOT. Collective cries, joining to call out the injustice and pain, must be the beginning. But the psalms do not leave us there. We also cling to truth. The authors remind God of his promises, of his character, of mercy, of power. And then remind us of the context. Our story is a small part of a much bigger story of redemption. We are part of the renewal of all things. The end is distant, the sunrise on the peak is not visible in the night, but it is coming. As we cry out and cling to what we've been told and shown, we find our place on that long arc of all things being made right and good.

Pray for our team, and our Area, this week. To cry over the broken edges that hurt us and those we love and serve, to cling by faith to the promises of God to have mercy and love, and to remind each other of the context of the big picture of redemption. We all need that.

The girls' football team played a friendly match Friday evening

More majesty 

and the majesty of friendships, the wives of two young men who grew up with our kids, visiting to check on me

And some historical pix of the Rwenzori Mud&Majesty Trek of 2008