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Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Be that one leper


As Jennifer and I have entered Thanksgiving week, we have been inspired by the season to be in touch with those who helped save her life 11-plus weeks ago. We know how rare and meaningful it is to see the patient who was nearly dead, now able to walk and speak words of appreciation. So in the last week, we visited both the Emergency Medical Services crew (ambulance) and the Helicopter crew that were called to Sago Road on Labor Day. Thanks to West Virginia small town spirit and can-do, she also was connected by phone to two of the passers-by who stopped and called 911 and waited with her on the road. Without exception, each vividly remembered the day, the injury, the severity. And each expressed thankfulness to God to see her alive and nearly well. 

We listened to a Trinity Forum ( presentation over the weekend on Gratitude and the presenter challenged us to be thankful “to” (someone) this Thanksgiving rather than our traditional habit of being thankful “for” (some thing). This Thanksgiving we have a long list of those TO WHOM we express our thanks:
-to the kind drivers who saw Jennifer lying on the road and stopped to help and didn’t run away from the blood and sorrow
-to the skilled and faithful people who were doing holiday duty and responded to the 911 call
-to our organization (Serge) that provides for us and allows us time to heal, and colleagues who stepped into the gap to take up our work
-to those who mobilised prayer and communicated love - and to those who prayed
-to all in our family who came to be with and support us
-and to God who has been our Rock and Refuge.

Gratitude in the midst of grief has been our theme this month. That is true of life every month, but our cups are especially overflowing with both this month.

Thankful for all of you who follow, read and pray. Happy Thanksgiving.  

Saturday, November 20, 2021

Why We Fight


One of our Bundibugyo teammates wrote to Jennifer this week to help her think through a presentation she will be doing in church this week.  She asked Jennifer to articulate the vision of why we work in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (aka, The Nursery) of Bundibugyo Hospital.

This is what she wrote back…

… off the top of my head I look at NICU work as being the hands of Jesus to the most vulnerable and marginalised.  This world is broken since the Fall, so hard and wrong things happen particularly in childbirth (specifically mentioned in Genesis) to everyone, but those in the poorest places have the least capacity to withstand those struggles. In Uganda, neonatal deaths account for almost half of childhood mortality and in fact are in the top five causes of death in the whole country, all ages. Jesus came with a concrete mission to reverse the curse, to defeat evil, to bring life. He did that by the cross and resurrection, and He invited his followers to participate in the same. He modelled welcoming the “least of these” and teaching that “of such is the Kingdom of Heaven” as he gathered children.  We try to imitate Him and embody His light and salt approach by moving out to the hardest edges, walking into the places where hope is hard to find, where evil seems to be winning. In Uganda one of those places is the maternity and NICU service, a place that should be full of joy and yet too often holds not just suffering for the sick baby but the worst kind of sorrow for the whole family. By being present we show that God does not shy away from suffering, is also present, sees, notices, cares. We touch, treat, weigh, measure, listen, advocate, teach . . .PRAY . . .because God cares about these “least of these” infants, it is part of His Kingdom coming that Life gets the upper hand over Death, and it helps people see that God’s work in the world is different than the way things normally go. There is actually hope.  Most NICU stays are a week to a month, so we get lots of time with the moms.  They hear the prayers, they see the help, and they dare to hope that God is at work in saving their child. Of course many do still die, but in my experience the parents still find a lot of meaning and comfort that we enabled them to make every effort to save their loved child, and we can offer them hope of eternity together.

Jesus preached and healed, and sent his followers out to do the same. 

It is our holy privilege to do that in Bundibugyo

Friday, November 12, 2021

We interrupt this chronic crisis to bring you: A Birthday


Today we celebrate 61 years of Scott. And in honor of that I, Jennifer, who have been silent for a bit over two months, am sneaking back onto this forum while he runs an errand to invite you to celebrate with me. Because this birthday finds him (us) in an unexpected place with an unclear plan, or at least more realistically aware that every birthday finds us in places that are complicated combinations of our choices and life, and we never can plan on the next one! So today please join me in a bit of joy. 

Today's birthday has been joyful, largely due to the presence of our second-born who by God's mercy was able to walk through every step of the first two weeks of this near-death blip with us, and also to come back over this Veteran's Day long weekend. He's been a stalwart and a gem. It's also a glorious Fall day in West Virginia, for a father-son bike ride and polar-plunge river dip, for sunny rocking on the front porch with guitar-accompanied singing truth, for making food and talking. But mostly, today is joyful because it provides a frame in which to gather thankfulness for Scott. It's not the first time he's been instrumental in saving my life but definitely the time that death has come closest. I am thankful for his presence, recognition of the situation, pushing for the helicopter extraction and then sticking by me in the complicated journey of care. He's been constant through those four days on the ventilator, five in the ICU, ten in the main hospital and another week in the rehab.  Then another seven weeks of plugging along at our farm taking me to umpteen appointments, managing both of our jobs at distance alone, shopping, cooking, and on an on. I am trying to be aware of just how drastically my fall has knocked into dozens of other people's lives and plans, but no one's as hard as Scott's. So On this birthday, I am thankful for the companion God has given me (41 years of friendship, 34 years of marriage), and specifically for his capacity to pivot on this unplanned sojourn as we wait to see what it means for our lives.

Our mantra of late has been the paradox of gratefulness and grief. I'm grateful to be alive and in recovery, yet also grieving for the loss of so much of life for now. In the same way on this birthday I'm grateful for Scott's wisdom, energy, faith, commitment, kindness, care for me, capacity to stay involved in our own struggle and those of our team and Area and friends . . . but also grieving that he has to be away from a life that we spent 28 years investing in, the human beings that fill his heart, the hands-on work that brings him satisfaction. Two birthdays ago we got Bwindi in Kampala; last year we went to a Safari Lodge for a lovely treat of a time together. This year we've been boosted for COVID at Walgreens and watched the Veteran's day parade, and are treasuring the weekend with our son and chatting with the rest of the family. We are  marveling that we can be here, even making his mom's traditional carrot cake (without Ruth 61 years ago none of this story would be possible!).

After today, back to PT and zoom calls and the slog of survival, back to hoping and praying and waiting. I'm aware that my brain is not to be fully trusted (going to have this read by someone before posting) and everything takes more energy than it should. But for today, I'm glad that I'm not in this crazy situation alone, that God gave Scott 61 years and counting, and hoping it is many more. He's done a great job of recruiting prayer for me, which is definitely my lifeline. Today pray for him, to also meet God in the mess, to be filled with faith, hope, and love as we recited in our wedding vows from 1 Cor 13, to accept the new normals with grace and find good in his next year of life. And to have a HAPPY BIRTHDAY!