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Saturday, September 26, 2020

#Bundibeautyo: we interrupt these 190days of COVID to bring you a Saturday Morning reminder of where we live

 A diffuse predawn grey, we pull out onto the tarmac on our bikes as the birds and bodas awaken. Three buses are queued in Nyahuka for the cross-country trip to Kampala; they will leave in 30-60 minute intervals, sparsely populated. It has been many months since I was on a bicycle. The lockdowns and curfews and general press of work I suppose. Scott has recently resumed riding a couple times a week, but now on a Saturday he proposes we go on a longer loop together. I know I'll slow him down a LOT but the freedom of the road and the richness of the miles, the opportunity for a shared adventure, wins over my hesitation.

We take the smooth paved road almost to the Busunga border. I try to remember what it used to look like when I drove through the river which is now bridged, when I took the immunization team to smaller health centres, when we used the Uganda Community Health Care Association materials and our passion for adult learning and the integration of health and Gospel messages to do village trainings week after week, often with a baby on my back. Today the mosque in Bubandi blares a sermon through the loudspeakers, a few business people are out setting up stalls or sweeping in front of shops. At Bujilele we turn south off onto a narrow murram track that climbs and climbs the Rwenzori base to Bunyangule. Then a steep dip across the ridges, taking off shoes and socks to wade a river that is swollen, fast, the power of the water makes the bike hard to hold onto and push. Another climb to Butama where the UPDF has a post that commands the highest ground, a trading centre where we look down on the clouds that obscured our start. The road north now dips and rises across the roots of the mountain range that taper into the Semliki. It is muddy, rutted, rocky, steep, with adrenaline-inducing slippery descents, and breath-stealing pumping climbs. After a few miles, there is a single-track that veers away from the mountains to Mirambi, through shambas and streams. We pause to heft bikes across stepping stones; my awkwardness inspires a fit young man to grab mine and bring it through, which I take as chivalry until we ride five more seconds and a tree is felled in the spot we were standing. I guess he realised we were oblivious to the danger. We are in turn shocked by the total lack of road maintenance; the extreme rains this year have taken a heavy toll. From Mirambi, more rough roads, then a shockingly smooth sandy stretch that spits us back out onto the tarmac around the airstrip. The final stretch of the loop is now familiar territory to home, Saturday market traffic, neighbours we know. We've only covered 15 miles; it feels a lot longer given the 1300 feet of climbing and descending, the treacherous nature of the tracks.

Bundibugyo is beautiful. Most days, my encounter with this district is marred by sickness and sorrow, by need and suffering, by exhaustion and brokeness. So a Saturday morning tour provides a needed soul correction. The little pockets that pull our hours are important, but not the full picture of this place. We covered a wide swath of villages, gardens, homes, trails that can easily remain hidden from road-only tours. There are stretches where the muted mist of the morning, the thick carpet of leaves under the cocoa with their touches of red, the smell of earth, could almost feel like Fall in Appalachia. Others where the sun broke through to highlight the white bark of the cocoa trees like midget Aspens. There are moments of quiet, only the hum of ever-present unseen thick hordes of insects vibrating, trills of kingfishers or more distant soaring calls of the palm nut vultures. Morning clouds lift and sun begins to catch the brilliant red and blue of football jerseys drying on the edge of a rusty roof, the sprinkled yellow and purple of weedy roadside wildflowers. At most homesteads, a kid or two catches sight of us and runs to the edge of their compound to greet, and we try to greet the dozens of people we pass walking on the roads, cycling through Lubwisi, Lukonjo, Swahili and English. Solemn faces break into smiles, and we leave a wake of excited chatter, sometimes speculation, sometimes the person in the know identifying us. Mostly, there is just clarification, the first one is a man, that one is a woman. She is his wife. I don't know when non-binary thought is going to reach the surface in this place, but I often feel a little twinge of sorrow for the pioneers, it's going to be a steep struggle.  Teenagers linger with basins, on their way to gardens; four girls march in a line each with a viny bundle of beans still in the pod from their harvest. Almost everyone carries either a panga or a hoe. A segili of steaming charcoal sits perched on a tripod, waiting for the chapati stand to open. Mud and wattle traditional homes abound, brick and mortar upgrades are plentiful, and a few modern upscale cement Kampala-grade homes with glass windows can be seen. Brick making pits of mud marked by their little pulpit of a board nailed to an upright pole, the smooth surface for moulding. 

In other words, life. And life abundant. Children, banana trees, talk and laughter; cocoa co-ops and police stations and quiet churches, clothes washing by rivers and perturbed roosters. Bundibugyo is beautiful, and Bundibugyo is throbbing with a pulse of life. 

Paradoxes pervade our days and our weeks. This morning, not one. single. mask. seen. NO ONE. Except for the schools and churches being completely shuttered, there was not much to indicate a district under pandemic restrictions. Yet the day before, the staff meeting was a murmur of consternation, more positive cases, an Ebola-level gowned man spraying chlorine bleach left and right, an insistence that we police to be sure every visitor to the wards is properly masked and distanced. So we and the world continue the surreal stepping between a world that is gorgeous and fragile, between the resilient spirit of survival and the weighty sorrows of loss.

Monday, September 21, 2020

A Monday-drenched tale of a few kids on one ward at the end of the road

 First, the post below will be better than this. It has big thoughts. Today is not a big-thoughts day, it is a Monday drenched in rain and death. 

We should have had a clue when the morning report mentioned 171 patients in our 100-bed hospital. 76 on Paeds alone. It was one of those days when you have to literally move bodies out of the way to get to the patients, when you have to step on one person's mattress on the floor to get to the next. I knew the sickest baby from Friday had died over the weekend, a convulsing 1-month-old whose LP looked clear, but whose pneumonia was severe. I went straight to the other tiny-tiny, a 3 month old who would qualify as a low-birth-weight newborn, literally a starving baby. She had actually put on a sliver of weight and brightened up. From there I went to the three tables in the front by the window into the nursing-station room. These tables have a wipe-able surface and poles to hang IV's, so they are the preferred location for those needing blood transfusions, oxygen, IV fluid drips. The closest thing we have to intensive care. The first three kids I saw there were ALL UNCONSCIOUS. Two were actively convulsing with positive malaria tests and the third was pretty limp. The next two were not much better, a very anaemic child with sickle cell (and malaria) and a malarial child with a bad pneumonia. All were between the ages of 1 and 5 years.  5/6 had positive malaria tests, though 3 of those also had other significant problems. Over the next half hour or so Dr. Isaiah also joined, and three different nurses bustled. They got Kilifi-protocol septic shock isotonic dextrose-containing fluids, they got doses of the very effective artesunate and of our strongest antibiotic, I did an LP on the lone child who did NOT have malaria and while the pressure was high the fluid was crystal clear, the seizing children got correct doses of valium, the one with the worst lungs qualified for the single oxygen tank. All things considered, we attacked the situation to our maximum capacity then turned our attention to the crazy ward.

Chicken pox that should have been isolated but was not. More malaria. More sickle cell. A child with an ankle injury and a hundred little nicks in the skin for rubbing in traditional herbs. A preteen with unexplained liver failure. Another with probably leukemia. A 1-month-old who just showed up with what seems to be an omphalocele, a congenital anomaly that one does not generally just ignore for a month. Hungry kids. Irritable kids. Wheezing and coughing kids. Vomiting kids. Pale kids. A call to the lab, the blood bank is empty. At one point I got a call from Scott--he was taking a mom with cord prolapse (NOT COMPATIBLE SITH SURVIVAL of the baby if the umbilical cord comes out before that baby's head is delivered) for an emergency C-section and wondered if I could run over to the operating theatre in case Kacie needed extra hands to help resuscitate.  He said, ten minutes. I came in 12, then couldn't find a gown. No worries, Scott as surgeon didn't have one either, just scrubs and an apron, and he was still prepping (after providing the drugs, the gloves, and the sutures to get the case rolling . . . ). As he finished laying down the sterile drapes and said a prayer, he told the anaesthetist, I'm starting, and she said OK. We all noticed the mom seemed quite alert. Scott pinched her skin and she jumped. We all looked at the anaesthetist who said, the power is off so there's no monitor and my pulse ox battery is dead so I couldn't give the ketamine. I honestly don't know what she meant by her "OK". I found my pocket pulse ox in my bag, confirmed the mom had normal vital signs, and she pushed the drugs. A few minutes later Scott pulled out a blue little girl, who did not move. But she had a decent pulse, and Kacie knows what she's doing, and by five minutes she was pinkish and whimpering some cries. The baby I mean. Kacie was teaching a younger nurse-midwife how to "help babies breathe" as she went on. It was a great save, and the kind of moment that keeps us all going.

HOWEVER, when I walked back to take up the chart of the next child I had left on the ward, I could vaguely hear what sounded like an adult woman softly crying. I tried to get back up to the front (by tried, I mean, had to gently move and cajole people out of the way to squeeze between those tables) where one nurse was intently staring at a pulse ox on the hand of a baby who did not seem to be moving. I said, is this child alive? He said, yes, but when I checked for a pulse, there was none. I grabbed our grimy bag-valve-mask and started CPR. I It was good CPR too, with chest rises on breaths and compressions on heart-pumps. I asked for epi and he disappeared to look, and came back empty handed. None. We continued for a few minutes but the little boy's pupils didn't ever react and I knew he was gone long before I had returned from the operating theatre. When I said so, the mom literally fell into my arms. I was holding her up, people were wailing, it was chaos in a crowd, when the nurse said, the other one on this table doesn't look good either. I tried to comfort the mother, said a few words about Jesus, and then handed her over to a relative as we squeezed full-body-contact past each other so I could reach the second of the three unconscious kids. This one was quite febrile, so the dad kept touching the skin and feeling reassured. The nurse was again trying to read a pulse ox, but again when I checked, there was no pulse. Once again we did CPR for a few minutes, once again the pupils were already blown. Once again the sad finality dawned on the relatives and people began wailing and falling on the floor. Once again I disconnected the IV and helped wrap the little body.

Two deaths at the same time, on the same table, with the general cacophony of grief. . . and no one but me had made the decisions this morning on these two. I had interviewed, examined, poked and prodded, seen that meds and fluids were given. They were obviously very very sick. But it was so discouraging to feel that even trying to do everything right was of no avail. Did I make things worse? Or just delay the inevitable by a couple hours? It is a very physical process, pushing hard on the sternum, holding the rubber bag and mask, touching the skin and peering into the eyes with a phone light, listening for any sound of change on the chest, smelling the skin-to-skin sweat and tears of the family all around me, hugging and holding and wrapping and lifting. And then suddenly, the mourners have carried the bodies out and the rounds must go on, there are still live children to see, no time really to feel sad. 

A baby who would have died lived thanks to a fast (ish) C-section under non-optimal circumstances; two pretty normal, growing, previously healthy kids age 1 and 5 died after brief overwhelming brain-affecting infections.

And a couple hundred other people waited to be seen, heard, paid attention to, cared for.

There are so many big, important things happening in the world today. But I am left thinking about small hands and beads of sweat on little foreheads and twitching limbs and vacant stares. And the miracle it is that anyone grows up, navigates the pathogens and meets their second and third decade alive.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Of sacred wounds and shining wonders: COVID-19 day 183 in Uganda

Ministry can indeed be a witness to the living truth that the wound, which causes us to suffer now, will be revealed to us later as the place where God intimated [God’s] new creation. —Henri J. M. Nouwen (1932–1996)

Sacred wounds of severe malnutrition

Same skin that was broken be the same skin takin' over. . . 

Most things out of focus, view

But when you're in the room, they notice you (Notice you)

'Cause you're beautiful

Yeah, you're beautiful

Them men, them gon' fall in love with you and all of your glory

Your skin is not only dark, it shines and it tells your story -- Beyonce, Brown Skin Girl

shining but not escaping

This morning we worked in our garden. The weeks are long. Most days begin before sunrise and work ends well after sunset, a stretch of  malaria and fever that seems to never end, meetings, calls, emails, prayer. So it is a gift to have a morning for a walk with the dogs, a cup of coffee, and a chance to hoe and crumble the composted dirt into rows for the next wave of planting. 

The wound in the earth, the broken surface, becomes the place of newly created goodness. 

The new rows, with papaya and banana looking on

And the journey of 2020, the journey of faith, is to not refuse the suffering but to expect it to become the actual place of glory. This is the cross, and a thousand times we learn it yet still resist the lesson. The way up is down, life comes by dying, God's power breaks through our weakness. This is the picture of the seed becoming a tree, the picture of a mother birthing a child, the picture of bodies with wounds that shine as stories.

So many stories.

COVID-19 for one. I have sticky-notes for prayer for people we know who have been infected, so far all recovered. 30 million stories, and for nearly 1 million (198,000 or 1/5 of those in the USA) the story has ended in death. Here in East Africa, we've been bracing for six months, yet the pandemic has not come with the ferocity of Wuhan or NYC. So far so good, or not. While coronavirus spread and death has not overwhelmed Africa (? some combination of younger populations/older people already dead, less travel exposure, previous similar rainforest miasmas breeding similar virae with some unknown immunity, early strict lockdowns, prayer and mercy, no one knows for sure), the global impact will be felt here for many years. The USA pulling out of the WHO; less investment in TB, malaria, AIDS, malnutrition; less access to a new vaccine; less income from tourism; school closures resulting in an epidemic of teen pregnancy; the world tending to turn inward and self-protective in the face of hardship; the list is long. After decades where child survival has improved, this new decade may look very bleak.

Is there any wound that cannot become the place of new beauty? 

African American spirituality was forged in the fiery furnace of slavery in the United States. The ore was African in origin, in worldview, in culture, and in traditions. The coals were laid in the bowels of ships named, ironically, after Jesus and the Christian virtues, which carried untold numbers of Africans to the Americas. The fire was stoked on the “seasoning” islands of the Caribbean or the “breeding” plantations of the South where men, women, and children of Africa were systematically and efficiently reduced to beasts of burden and items of private property. Yet those who came forth from these fires were not what they seemed. Despite the oppressive and ungodly forces applied against them, they forged a spirituality that encouraged hope and sustained faith, which enabled them to build communities of love and trust and to persevere in their persistent efforts to be the free men and women they had been created to be. . . Diana L. Hayes, Forged in the Fiery Furnace: African American Spirituality

If the history of America gives us any hope, it is found here. Injustice and oppression on a continental scale still cannot snuff out the shining lights.

We awoke this morning to the news of Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death. No one is obligated to agree with all her arguments, but we have to admire the way she found good right in the hardest places. Being a woman in our parents' generation, forging a way for equal pay and opportunity. Even just the example of standing on principle and being willing to work and work hard.

And this week's news in general has been discouraging; the hope of reunion with family recedes as vaccine development feels less certain and travel remains a mirage. Nevertheless (an important word) the truth remains that there is nothing too impossible for God to turn to good (Rom 8).

Let's take courage then. In spite of forces that distress us all, let us look for the forged gems. 

A gem, see story below

Remember the 15-year-old whose premature baby the nurse was wrapping up as a dead body? Innocent, we learned this week, in the Latin root means not-yet-wounded. I don't wish wounds on 15 year olds, or 15 day olds. But this pair returned for a check up this week. K smiled proudly as I paraded her little chub-cheeked baby around the NICU as inspiration to all the other moms of 1.2 kg strugglers: here she was weighing in at 2.52, very much alive and well. Every day we feel the weight of all that is broken, and yet see the glimpses of beauty. A mom of twins who was determined to leave the hospital, but because we do rounds and assess and talk we convinced her to stay, which allowed a transfusion to save one twin's life. A mother whose blood pressure had reached danger levels, who could be induced and rescued. Our young doctor Isaiah tracking down a missing lab result that made a diagnosis of possible leukemia, needing a referral. A school staff engaging with the Gospel in new ways as our team continues mentorship. An accusatory email trying to wound us, that required a soft answer because more important issues are at stake. A toddler with signs of starvation who came too late to be included in the day's milk distribution; yet our BundiNutrition staff took it upon himself to return to the hospital and start him on feeds. These are tiny sprouts of new creation, but significant nonetheless. Every single person around us has their own wounds, some open and some scarred, all telling a story of growing glory.

the toddler on his grandmother's lap that needed therapeutic milk

Lastly, here is a two-set album from Porter's Gate, worship music that gives a soundtrack to all the above. Listen to "O Sacred Neck", which talks about wounds and glory.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

SERE-ING through COVID: Day 174 in Uganda and trying to RESIST

 Parallel to COVID upending our world killing over 900 THOUSAND people, and the economy tanking causing half of families in US cities to experience un- or under-employment and all families in the majority world to struggle more for food and health care, and the political order wobbling in response to those two things with the largest sustained movement of protest in US history, and some pretty crazy environmental cataclysms leaving Scott's mom in an orange haze of smoke and our Utah kids and Oregon niece and nephew way too close to fires  . . . . life has been lurching forward on other fronts. Sometimes it is hard to know what daily life looks like for most people. Much of ours is the same crowded ward and plowing through patients with insufficient help, to find places we can make a difference . . . only we are doing it behind smothering masks, with even more interrupted-than-usual supply chains, more delayed-than-usual response from the Ministry of Health. Or meeting for mentoring, prayer, supervision, study, only now it's outside with spacing or online by calls and zooms. Or sitting at a desk, only now it's hard to think more than a short distance ahead and the general weariness of crisis hovers.  One big difference for us has been that our semi-annual meetings as Serge leadership have gone to remote-online rather than gathering for fellowship. So whereas in Septembers past we were spending a week with the Executive Leadership Team and all the other Area Directors at a conference hotel somewhere, having meetings and extended times of prayer but also long talks over meals or relaxed evenings of bocce . . . now we are dialling in to four hours of zoom each day this week. And while we miss the face to face fellowship, the silver lining is that the zoom technology exists, we actually ARE getting decent communication, and the Holy Spirit is not limited. I was dreading it at first, but now it's Thursday and I'm looking forward to 4-8pm (OK not really thrilled to be in maybe the most Eastern therefore latest time zone in the group, and that means that in spite of trying to slow down 8a-4p pacing to have something left for the meetings, it's still a long day, but other than that . . .).

(Above, the mornings, Below, the evenings.)

And for our kids, residency marches on with surgeries and calls (Luke), trauma nurse-practitioner shifts (Abby), gruelling training in tactics and leadership (C), farm work feeding the hungry and extra shifts taken at a local bakery (Julia), and the final dissertation completed with an uncertain horizon of job hunting (Jack). Except for Jack, everyone has a steady job with disparate but sustainable income. Everyone wears masks and plans their life around not harming others. Everyone is a bit limited in the opportunity for fun, or friendships, or down time, but handling the year with some resilience.

The next step for our soldier is a course called SERE, so that acronym was on my mind this morning. Survive, Evade, Resist, Escape. As his brother put it, oh, it's basically about suffering, he's really good at that . . . .Sigh. It's been over 8 years since he started on this path, and he's done this kind of SERE training before, but I am sure this round will be the most intense. The idea is to be prepared for being caught behind enemy lines. If your plane crashes, if the battle goes into unanticipated failure, if you are betrayed, what do you do?

How much of life in general follows the SERE pattern, I was thinking this morning? Most of us are trying to SURVIVE 2020. We are often behind enemy lines so to speak, living in unfair and imperfect situations. A lot of our energy gets taken up by the basics. I know for us, going 5 months without a trip to the groceries in Kampala meant more dependence on basic local food, a minor inconvenience. For many families, survival means stretching inadequate budgets, depending on stressed support networks, juggling home-based distance learning. My special-needs nephew misses his sports and social programs, which are survival not fluff. Our elders are surviving with less too, being isolated and confined. If we get this virus, survival will not be assured in a land of limited oxygen and almost zero intensive care. We are also trying to EVADE more exposure, evade being caught with no options, evade the worst consequences of upheaval, evade floods and landslides. And we'd all like to ESCAPE into 2021 or beyond, or into a more just world, or into a holiday. Even the church seems to be in this mode of just hunkering to survive, evading the pitfalls of politics perhaps, escaping towards Heaven.

None of that is inherently wrong and each has its place. But an anchor in there is the word RESIST. How do we live in 2020 resisting evil? 

Maybe the same way Jesus lived in 0030 resisting evil. Yes, he had to survive and evade and escape too. His parents struggled for safe shelter to survive birth, fled to Egypt to evade genocidal soldiers. There were times he escaped angry crowds or the pressure of people's unending needs, with early morning mountaintops or desert marathons. But ultimately he had to walk right into the worst of evil in a posture of resistance unto death. He resisted the false narratives of his day by turning upside down the prevailing notions of who is blessed, resisted the shortcuts to fixing everything by means of power, instead focusing on heart-level changes in a handful of followers, resisted the forces of death and disease by touching individuals with healing miracles, resisted the injustice of his religious culture by eating with and embracing the marginalised people. Mostly he resisted the expectations for a Messiah by allowing himself to be killed. This meant resisting even the well-meaning pleas of his friends, resisting even the desperate desires of his own heart in Gethsemane. 

One of my favourite verses is Rev 12:11 "And they overcame him (referring to the dragon) by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death."

That is how we resist I think. First, it is grace, we can't resist evil on our own. The blood of the Lamb means that the death and resurrection of Jesus definitively defeated all evil. That is our foundation, trusting a power outside ourselves, an event that already occurred, being part of a family whose identity and ultimate home is secured. Prayer is our foundation of resistance, because in prayer we are oriented to God's work in the world not our own. Second, the word of testimony. Speaking, writing, bearing witness to truth is the biggest tangible blow to evil in our day. For some issues that is highlighting facts: the efficacy of a mask, or the statistics on racial disparities in mortality. For others, our word is our story, the witness of how we are living based on a different set of values, or ways that God has worked. Third, evil is defeated when ordinary people live lives based on love. When avoiding death is not the most important metric, people do evil-defeating things, like starting businesses to employ women trapped in sex-trafficking, or teaching preschool, or praying over neighbourhoods marred by violence, or creating new music and art. 

I don't know what kind of RESIST-ance the SERE course teaches. But I do know that God's people are called to resist with their trust, their words, their lives. We can emerge resilient in 2020 as we embrace faith that God still has the final word and will bring good. As we choose to speak truth, giving no shadow to rumour and lie and fear and hate. And as we engage in acts of justice and mercy, lives oriented outward in whatever way we can in our little spheres.

Oh, and as you're resisting evil by looking for ways to serve, by bearing witness, by praying . . .don't forget to vote. And send prayers for the soldier in SERE.

Thursday, September 03, 2020

Life as Performance Art: #COVID-19UGANDA day 167, September 3, and Ezekiel

As missionaries we have a complex relationship with social media. As does everyone. Yesterday, for instance, we had some zooms with people potentially interested in working with us, and each referenced a blog post or story (from us and our team) that they had found meaningful. That is encouraging; it can also be paralysing. I never even heard of the word "blog" until some colleagues who had one joined us. I just looked up our first post: Sep 3, 2006, oddly EXACTLY THIS DAY 14 years ago. According to the stats on the sidebar, we have posted 2,016 times since then, an average of every 2.5 days (!!), and 2009 was the most prolific year.  These days my favourite medium is probably the instagram story (jamyhre) because the images are transient, immediate, allow for short text, and feel both poetically specific and grittily real. Facebook, Instagram, and Blogger are all platforms that project our life into a public sphere, and we keep throwing it out there. Which teeters on narcism or exploitation for sure. And yet . . . it also can be prophetic.

I mean that literally. Because in the march through the Bible, now it is Ezekiel's turn. As the world is falling apart, God does not just send Ezekiel messages to verbally warn or denounce or lament. In chapter 3, he eats the scroll of words from God that he will take to the people. By chapter 4, he's involved in his own art installation, lying on his side outside his house for over a year, cooking limited rations in the dust, to represent hard times ahead. He makes a model city and builds siege ramps. Later he takes a sharp sword to his beard and hair and publicly weighs and burns portions according to the coming judgement. When his wife dies, he breaks cultural rules to avoid mourning traditions, foreshadowing death to come that will be so all-encompassing the nation will be unable to hold onto their ceremonies. 

Ezekiel doesn't just talk about what he hears from God. He lives it. In front of everyone. He's an influencer for repentance, against a culture of injustice and consumption.

Bear with me, but I think that there may be a modern equivalent in some corners of the web. When people share a story about their differently-abled child and his job. About their cancer diagnosis and the struggle. About loneliness living in a country far from home. About impossible decisions to ration care in an epidemic. About the wearying parade of need and the relentless demands of love. These stories challenge our assumptions. They only make sense if the entire fabric of the universe is based on a different metric than winning, strength, power, or fame. 

Today in our team meeting we looked at the fact that 41% of the Bible is narrative. Not just the painfully bizarre stories of Ezekiel, but most of what we call the Gospel itself. Stories of real people in real-life situations, and stories that are parables, both have a way of getting behind our defences.  We might react argumentatively to propositions about the police, guns, protests, or politics. But a story of a person shot in the back seven times humanises the situation.  Truth is objective and absolute, yes. But our ability to perceive it is always subjective and bound by culture and language and history and perspective. Which is another way of saying, God is real. But we can only encounter and describe God from our puny limited selves.

So here we are, September 3rd again, 14 years later. Telling our story a few days at a time. Today we had four different meetings, 3 of which were mostly cross-cultural and one with our American team. I had spent many hours in the last week prepping a Uganda-specific teaching morning about malnutrition for our BundiNutrition team, gathering the latest local data and protocols. I'm pretty passionate about the value of treating hungry kids and the way this is a window into everything that is broken and in need of redemption. In other meetings we listened to people going walking hard paths. Those are their stories to tell, not mine, but the sheer weight of bearing loss and confronting evil and struggling to survive sometimes feels shocking. There were laughs too, like when some fairly new team mates made the pizza dough which was wet, limp, difficult to roll, impossible to stretch, a bit of a funny grey color, falling apart (Mike described the pizza table as a crime scene . . . we were NOT laughing at that point). We worked hard to eke something out that was edible. About an hour ago, after everyone went home, Scott said, I wonder if that was actually wheat flour or cassava flour? Sure enough, there is only one Lubwisi word for both, kahunga. So our colleagues thought they were getting a great deal on locally milled baking flour . . . only wheat is not grown here, so they were being sold a massive sack of kahunga (dried milled cassava). Which does not have gluten, and does not easily make a dough or a pizza.

Well, we're not Ezekiel, but we do struggle with cooking and live out our inadequacies publicly. We do TRY to point to God, to choose life paths that would not otherwise make sense. We do ask our faith questions out loud, and (thanks to Scott) share real-time photos of what we see. Thanks for reading along for all these years, watching with us for the redemption we KNOW is coming.