Friday, July 1, 2011

Back under the giant mango tree – this time will be the last… least for this season. I am amazed at the array of sounds and activities around me as we spend our last day in Mayuge. Five of our guys are on the “roof in progress” placing and nailing the perlins that will soon support the sheets of tin being stacked nearby, a ground crew tosses and catches tools, facing boards have been painted with “victory paint” that looks like Elmer’s glue, women balancing jerry cans full of water on their heads walk by on their way back from the bore hole, a large group of children are playing with a soccer ball in the road and Renee and Danielle are evaluating a severely malnourished child that came yesterday seeking help. The sound of the bright yellow battery powered DeWalt Recipricating saw seems a bit out of place in this land where scaffolding is made from stripped trees and perlins are made from rough cut boards toenailed together to make ill fitting joints. An ipod is playing worship music in the background reminding us as we work that this is all about our God.

Yesterday a skeleton crew of just the guys built and installed the trusses. When we arrived today we began building 30’ perlins by cutting angles on the ends of rough cut 2x4’s and toenailing 3 or 4 of them together. They are carried with a person holding each joint and passed up using a forked board to a waiting crew to nail them in place. We are determined to see a roof on this house that represents to us a physical way to show God’s love to this family. We watch the clock as we work diligently and pray that we will be allowed the pleasure of seeing our goal met before we go back to another world tomorrow. Finally at 4:00 the last piece of tin is in place and we bring Roberts family inside their newly roofed home. They walk around with amazement as they begin to imagine what it will be like for them to live here in a home built with love and many prayers that will provide a safe place for their son. JjaJja, always beyond bursting with enthusiasm, races to his home and comes back wearing all the dress clothes he owns; battered dress pants, covered by a long white muslim robe and an ill fitting dark suit coat. He doesn’t own a pair of shoes but he stands proudly in front of the home of his son and asks for a picture to be taken. There was not a word spoken by our team as we tried to imagine what this family who has nothing by our standards must feel as they have been given such an amazing gift from people that they do not know, nor will likely ever see again. We too have been given a similar gift by a God who we have never seen but who poured out his love to us through His Son. It is our prayer that the opportunities that we had to share with these people about the saving faith that is available through Jesus Christ will remain here along with the bricks and mortar used to build this home.

It is now Friday morning and the volunteer house here in Masese is quiet except for the sounds of Sarah and her children washing bed sheets in the back to prepare for the group of interns who will be moving in this afternoon. The team left at 4:00 this morning after a busy evening of dinner in town, finishing up errands and saying goodbye to the many people here that they have grown to love. At 11:00 Josh and Glendon were installing the giant roof rack on top of the matatu so we could fit the team and all of their luggage in one vehicle for the 3 hour trip to the airport. I am remaining here for 10 more days along with Dennis and Nick. We will be welcoming new interns today and picking up Nick’s mother and step dad tomorrow who will be teaching a Midwifery Clinic at the Bugabero Hospital on Monday and one here in Jinja on Wednesday. Charles and Silas will continue to work on the house until the walls are plastered inside and out, doors and windows are installed and the final coat of concrete is poured on the floor. The baby that we brought back from Mayuge yesterday (the 5th one that has come back with us in the past 2 weeks) is improving after receiving fluids and a blood transfusion last night. Little Reagan, the first child that we brought to Renee from Mayuge last week, will be returning home soon and the cycle will continue.

We have been blessed with the opportunity to work alongside of Serving His Children and make a difference. As we reflect on the work we have done here in the name of Jesus, we are left wondering if we are not truly the ones that have received the greatest blessing.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

It is becoming routine. Ignoring the early morning rooster, staggering to the kitchen for a cup of coffee, filling up bottles from the water filter, grabbing the protein bar of choice and filing into the Matatu. The scenery is becoming familiar, a stop in Mayuge Town for rice, concrete, order a crib to be made for Baby Robert, feeling the bumps increase as we transition from an asphalt road with potholes to dirt potholes with an occasional stretch of road. The looks of mild panic on our faces as the van tilts to the right scraping the trees then to the left is gone, we now automatically shift our weight from one side to the other without a break in the chatter of morning conversation about the job ahead for the day. We look for the mango tree which marks our last turn on the way to the place and the people we have grown to love as we serve our Lord.

We arrive in Mayuge late this morning because we are driving the newly purchased Matatu and were waiting on insurance confirmation. What a blessing this new vehicle will be for Renee as she ferries babies and mamas back and forth from Manafwa where we are starting a Malnutrition Center. She has been transporting as many as 10 people at a time in her Toyota Land Cruiser and will quickly fill the 14 seats in this new vehicle!!

There are a few women with small children waiting for us and the word is quickly spread that we have arrived and will be teaching about intestinal parasites and passing out deworming pills to everyone. Our translator, Aggra, is waiting to help us talk to the women and they begin to gather around the shade tree, placing grass mats on the ground and sitting while nursing babies and pleasantly chatting in their beautiful language which makes us feel totally inadequate. We must trust the Lord that He will allow us to be clear to them in what we say. As we look at the swollen bellies of so many children (an obvious sign of worms) we are grateful that so many people have generously donated funds that allowed us to purchase the 200 doses of deworming medication that we have brought with us. Thank goodness that we all seem to share a sense of humor as we share information about intestinal parasites and the prevention of infection – some interesting moments for sure!! After distributing the first 100 doses, we talked with the pregnant women about delivery and post partum care – I believe that if Aggra was white he would have blushed several times but he was a great sport!! When the school down the road took a lunch break we were inundated with more children and quickly dispensed the remaining 100 pills with many more needed. Tomorrow we will bring 100 more doses. These women care about their children just like we do – it is a blessing to be able to teach them things that will help them to find better ways to provide for the needs of their families and share the love that God has given us for them. We found today that there is a group of Christians in amongst the predominantly Muslim community – what an encouragement to know that if we have raised questions about the Lord that He has put in place others who will have more answers for these women!

Their lives are so much different than ours but even so we are finding that we understand one another often even without words. We find the same sense of humor, pride in our work, concern for our children and excitement in our progress. The walls of the house are now about 12’ and all work requires scaffolding. Scaffolding is made by punching holes in the brick wall to put support poles through and lash with handmade rope to more poles planted in the ground around the home. Rough cut boards are laid across the horizontal poles and somehow this structure seems to support several grown men! Each time a certain level is reached on one side, the entire scaffolding structure is disassembled and moved to the other side. After rebuilding the structure for about the 5th time, we decided that next time we would spend the addition money to buy more wood to build a scaffold around the entire house one time – we realized that we often value time more than money but here time is the more available commodity! The day is a steady routine of mixing the large pile of concrete and sand on the ground, filling a wheelbarrow with the mixture, adding just enough water from a jerry can and mixing it with a large hoe. It is then ferried to the job site where 15” round pans are filled with the mortar and handed up to the bricklayers on the boards above. Bricks are hand selected and carried to the house where they are placed in small groups on the scaffolding. Since the bricks are all made from mud and air dried, many of them crack and are discarded in the huge brick graveyard near the construction site. Slowly but surely a house is being built along with many lasting friendships. We pray as we lay each brick that this house will be a physical reminder that God is real and that he cares for this community.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Friday, June 24

Our team divided this morning so that the SHC Board members could travel to Manafwa with Renee and Danielle to see the site for the new Malnutrition Center and visit the Health Center in Bukabero where Kissito Healthcare is forming a partnership. This center will be offering support to Renee when the program is ready for operation – probably the first part of 2012. Renee currently runs an Outpatient Malnutrition Program at the health center twice a month where she assesses children and offers food and education to enrolled families and transports severe cases back here to Jinja for treatment. We were blessed to be a part of returning a young mother and her children to their home after a month at the Jinja center where her child had been rehabilitated and where she gained a better understanding of how to care for her family and learned about and saw the love of Jesus through the amazing staff there. We also saw the start of that cycle for another mother as we watched Renee evaluate and interview another mom and baby that came back with us, searching for hope. When the Mayuge team returned later that evening, they brought with them 3 new children for the program bringing the number at the house up to 19 program children. Four more will be returned to their homes tomorrow and so the endless cycle of transformation continues.
Meanwhile back in Mayuge………God was working in hearts in a larger geographic area than we could have imagined. Word had filtered out that there was an American nurse and praying Mzungus (white people) at Roberts home. The following is an entry from Barbara’s journal……..
What an amazing day this was – God’s Holy Spirit was moving very powerfully in several situations. One of the men in another village arrived carrying his son in his arms. The child, he said, was about 2 years old but he was “sick in the brain” since birth. He’d heard the “mzungus” were here in the village and he brought his son to us to see if we could help him. The child was moving his head constantly and the father said he had seizures like epilepsy – he’d never spoken or learned to walk, but he appeared to be well cared for and loved in spite of his disabilities. Inside, my heart was just breaking for this little one – there was no pill I could give him or bandage I could apply. May heart cried out to God, “What can I do for this baby?!” I felt so helpless…but God spoke to my heart, “Pray for him.” I asked the father if we could pray for his son and he agreed. We gathered around him and laid hands on him and prayed to the Great Physician for a healing touch for this precious baby…..
In this land where life is so hard, sometimes all we can do is simply pray. I still cry for this baby and know that God sees my heart.
After we prayed, we went over to the matatu (van) to get some supplies and as we turned around there were several of the people from the village standing there – they were wanting us to pray for them also. There were two women with what appeared to be Yaws on their legs caused by a parasite that burrows under the skin forming knotty looking furrows just under the skin. One of them was very pregnant and she asked for prayer for her unborn baby.
A man asked for prayer for his wife who had had 8 miscarriages. A woman wanted prayer for chest pain. A grandma showed us her abdomen where she had a nasty looking abscess – we told her that she needed to see a doctor – I don’t know if she will but we prayed for her too. There is so much need here – I feel I have so little to offer to help them – there is so little I can do with my pitiful, tiny first aid kit……but I can pray!
One of the men said the grandma told him there was great power in the white mzungu prayer, though it’s the power of the One we pray to! Thank you Jesus!!!!

Thursday June 23

Today we witnessed the beginning of what we pray will continue to be a stronger connection to the community in which Robert lives. Through a translator, we sent the word out yesterday that we would like to meet with the women in the community, particularly those who were pregnant or had small children at 11:00. We had a rough plan in mind to teach 3 basic concepts to these women 1) Dirt contains small things that we cannot see but will make us sick, 2)Wash fruit and hands before eating and 3)Do not put babies directly on the dirt, always put them on a mat. We arrived in Mayuge early in the morning and set to work preparing for our lesson. Jessie and Eileen practiced a drama showing 2 different ways of caring for babies; one that resulted in a healthy baby and one who was sick. They had to improvise and create babies out of a sweatshirt, a pillow and 2 animal masks! We made 2 hand washing stations out of a suspended water bottle and a pen and cut up long bars of the blue soap “omo” that African women use to wash floors, clothes, children and dishes with into 40 chunks. When we started cutting string to thread through holes made with a nail, Jja Jja Robert (Roberts grandfather) jumped right in and sat with us as we worked, laughing with us in his own language while we laughed in ours!

At 10:45 a few women began to nervously gather nearby. Aggra, our translator, told us that they were “fearing us” because many were not used to seeing white people. As we walked over to them and began greeting them with “Jambo”, (the only African greeting that we knew!), their fears began to melt away with each handshake. Soon we were laughing and talking – neither party really understanding the other but beginning to communicate none the less! About 30 beautiful women and numerous children and babies arranged themselves on the dirt around a large shade tree and we began to talk. Through Aggra, we shared the reason we had come; because our God has told us that we are to love all of His people and that He had told us to come to teach and share with them. That we believed in a God who could make us clean on the inside just like the water makes us clean on the outside. That Jesus is real and walks with us. The women listened intently and laughed as the girls acted out their drama with the “babies.” We explained to them how they could help protect their babies by placing them on a mat rather than the dirt and passed out clean cloth matts to each of them. The children laughed as they tried washing their hands in running water from a spout made from a pen and a water bottle and expressed appreciation for the soap they received for hand washing at home. The delight as they laughed with us and the excitement of learning something new that could help their children was evident on their beautiful faces and we came to find a special place in our hearts for each of them.

We can hardly wait to see what God will build in their hearts as we continue working to build a house!!