Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Finding passion in Uganda


We have been asked, many times over the past year, “What made you decide to go to Uganda for such a long period of time?”  The obvious answer would be that God lead us in that direction.  We were blessed to be able to share about our call and experience in foreign missions at Cashion First Baptist this past Sunday.  Their pastor, Greg Davis, asked us questions and we were able to share some of our passion for the people of Uganda.  You may know this already, but working in Africa has always been something that I have been passionate about.  No seriously, hear me out.  Growing in up in FBC Duncan, we would (especially in December) hear from missionaries that were home on furlough.  They would tell us of the dire conditions that they were living in, the foods that they were eating, and the trials of learning a new culture and language.  I think that they told us of how big of a blessing the people were, but I never listened that long.  I was still stuck on the first list of negatives.  I was PASSIONATE that I did NOT want to be a foreign missionary, especially in Africa. 

 

I came to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ in my early teen years.  And to be honest, my fear of being “called” to be a missionary to Africa kept me from a deep relationship with Him for many years.  Any time that I would let my guard down and listen closely to God, I would hear Him reaffirm for me that He just wanted me to grow deeper and be more involved with His work where I was.  As I grew in my relationship and trust, this passion (against Africa) faded.

 

A few years ago, Jill and I felt God call us to step out of our comfortable boxes and support a friend that had done some things that most would feel should cut him off of the “support list”.  Through taking this minor risk and through a couple of books that we read, I began to see how “lukewarm” the American Church, as a whole, can be.  I also was shaken by what the bible has to say about being lukewarm. 

Revelation 3:15-17   (15) “I know you inside and out, and find little to my liking.  You’re not cold, you’re not hot-far better to be either cold or hot!  (16) You’re stale.  You’re stagnant. You make me want to vomit.  (17) You brag, “I’m rich, I’ve got it made, I need nothing from anyone,’ oblivious that in fact you’re a pitiful, blind beggar, threadbare and homeless”.

 

Well I definitely do not want to aggravate God’s GI system.  Jill and I had read David Platt’s book Radical, and part of his prescription to be a Radical Christian, was to spend 2% of your time in a new or different context.  That is one week per year.  So I began to feel that God was leading me to use my medical training to help in an underserved area overseas.  An OLD high school friend of mine, Jerome Loughridge, had been on several mission trips, so I called him for some advice.  I did not know exactly where to plug in, or how to use my medical training to serve God in the best way.  He, “coincidentally” was going on a 1 week trip to Uganda about 2 months later.  I plugged in with his group from Henderson Hills church in Edmond.  As I was in Uganda that week, I experienced the living conditions, the food, and the cultural differences, but I felt my PASSION come back as I met the people.  But this time, that passion was strangely very positive, rather than negative, as it had been in the past.  Have you ever seen those paintings that look like one thing, but if you do some sort of mental gymnastics “relaxing your eyes”, you can see a different picture behind them?  You know, the picture looks like the Egyptian pyramids, but if you can see the other picture it is an orca in the middle of the ocean?  I have never been able to see those second pictures.  In fact, I think that they are somehow like the Emperor’s new clothes!  Anyway, as I was actually in Uganda, looking at the poverty, the lack of medical care, and the cultural differences, God began to relax my eyes.  Those things melted out of the way, and I could see my brothers and sisters in Christ, and one of the things God created and trained me for.

 

It was my passion for the people and being able to see clearly how I could make a difference for God’s kingdom that prompted me to GO.  Speaking of the people, do you remember Shakib?  We came across Shakib in Mukono in late May.  He had been severely burned, in a house fire, and was intermittently getting “burn care” in a guy’s garage.  He had scarring and contractures in his hips, knees and hands. 
 
He had to wear a dress, because anything else as too painful.  He could not walk and was in constant pain.  His mother, Teddy, was staying with Shakib’s grandmother, as their only means of support.  We felt that God was prompting us to help in the medical care of Shakib.  We offered to take Shakib, his sister, and his mother back to Kampala and provide for the family, his sister’s schooling, and get Shakib medical care/physical therapy.  Generous donors to Due Unto Others, provided the funds for all of this to happen.  Shakib’s grandmother told Teddy that if she came with us, they would not be welcomed back to her house.  Teddy came with us, taking a huge risk, to do what she felt was best for Shakib.  This is now 6 months later, but guess what I got in my email this week.

 

Shakib has had multiple operations and much physical therapy, but he is now WALKING!   We saw many miracles and were able to participate in the care of many people in Uganda.  Even if we had only seen Shakib, our time, money, sweat, and tears of our 5 months in Uganda would have been worth it.  I am convinced that God has special plans for Shakib.  He was born to a Muslim father, but I think that our heavenly Father has big plans for him!  I am thankful that God made Shakib “That One Person” in Mukono.

 

Now, I’d like to throw out a possibility for you to get a taste of foreign missions and see if it does not stir your appetite to GO even more.  Jill and I will be leading a 2 week mission team to Uganda in June of this coming year.  Here are some bullet points regarding this trip:

-          The tentative plan is for the team to leave DFW on the 13th of June and return on the 28th.

-          The team will be limited to 20 people, and older children will be considered and discussed with parents. 

-          We will make a trip down into SW Uganda and provide medical clinics in those areas.  One of the places that we will go is Kibale, an area recently in the news with a horrible ebola outbreak over the summer.    

-          We will need medical and non-medical people for this team. 

-          Accommodations will be in Jill “accepted” or approved hotels.

-          We will add on a short safari at the end of the trip.  This will be a true taste of Uganda.

-          Cost will be approximately $900 for meals, lodging, transportation, safari etc. per person.

-          Airfare could be $1,500-$2,400 per person, depending on how soon we can get the tickets reserved.

 

This is about 6 months away.  We will need to have some meetings between now and then to prepare, get immunizations, etc.  The 6 months will give you some time to fund raise, but not a lot, as we need to get flights booked ASAP for better prices.  Please contact me as soon as you can, if you are interested.  Many people have talked to me about wanting to go to Uganda in the future, and we are limited to 20 people.  I am excited to see what God can accomplish through and in this team.  No matter how much you sacrifice and give to bless the people that you are serving, you will be blessed even more.

 

Please prayerfully consider stirring your Passion for foreign missions.  Help the Due Unto team find “That One Person”!

 

1 in 5 children in Uganda die before their 5th birthday.  What if we could help That One Person?

Jay

 

 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The parable of the lost cow?


 

As I sit to write this blog, I feel a little rusty.  As well I should, I have not posted a blog since August 28th.  We have gotten back into the swing of things in Oklahoma and have been catching up on some things at our ranch.   A couple of weeks ago, we were looking at some things with our building contractor who is doing some renovation of our house, when a guy from the oil company came up.  This fellow drives his truck around and checks the oil pumps for the oil company.  He asked me if the cattle around this place were mine.  I reluctantly said yes, as I feared that he was about to tell me something that they had messed up.  He said that he had noticed a cow in the body of water formally known as our lake (now a large puddle) and he was afraid that she was stuck.  I thanked him and headed off to retrieve her with a rope, a 4-wheeler and a whole bucket of naivety.  This is what I found when I got down to the cow.

 

I can’t figure out how she sunk so deep in this dirt.  There were no deep tracks leading up to her, just her up to her chest in the mud/dirt.  I quickly realized that I was not going to pull her out with a rope and a 4-wheeler, so I went back to the house to get a shovel.  Surely if I could dig out around her legs, she would step up out of there and walk to safety and be eternally grateful.  Well I dug for about 30 minutes and then tried to pull the cow’s tail to get her going but she was completely exhausted.  I am quite a green (lack of experience, not so much environmentally radical) rancher, but I have heard horror stories about people getting things stuck in their “dry” ponds.  So I was hesitant to bring any equipment down into this area.  Simon, our building contractor and his nephew Felix, graciously offered to help us to free the cow.  We realized that digging and pulling was not going to work, so Simon thought we could dig under the cow, wrap some straps around her, and lift her out with the tractor.  I reluctantly went to get the tractor, fearing that we would have to have a helicopter to get the tractor out.

 

Simon’s plan worked perfectly, as I lifted the cow right up out of the hole and started to back up.  Then… the tractor sunk to its axels. 
 
This is a 4 wheel drive tractor with big treads, and it was going nowhere but down.  I sat the cow down (out of the hole) and she made absolutely no effort to get up. 
 
We spent about 3 hours using rocks, boards, pieces of sheet metal and the front end loader to try to get the tractor out, but we had only moved it about 8 feet.  So Simon had another great idea, we just needed to bring the 4-wheel drive pickup down to pull out the tractor.  I had been arguing with him about this while we dug and worked on the tractor.  Finally, I had no better ideas, and figured the helicopter could get out a tractor and a pick up just about as easily as the tractor alone.  So I went to get the pickup.  We used a long tow strap and kept the pickup as far as we could towards the side of the lake bed.  We were able to pull the tractor out.

 

I then circled the tractor around, tied onto the cow’s straps, and literally drug her to the edge of the lake and stopped. 
 
 I brought her food and water, and she immediately began to eat.  This made me feel better, because I knew that if she was thinking about passing away, she would not be eating.  We left her there and left to return to Duncan.  The next morning, I went back to check on her and found this.

 

And after a little time of searching, I found this!

 

This whole scenario was a little scary and somehow comical.  As I thought about that cow, it reminded me of the parable of the lost sheep in Luke.  Luke 15:4-6 says, “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them.  Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5. And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home.  Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep’.”

 

One of our special friends in Uganda recently passed away.  Young Joseph, from Mytiana, has gone to see Jesus.  Joseph had a significant facial cancer and long odds against living.  Through the giving of Due Unto Others supporters, Joseph was able to receive chemotherapy and we thought that he was improving. 
 
I don’t know the specifics of what happen, but I do know this.  Joseph was young enough that he is in Heaven.  Please pray for his father Ellya and for Ellya’s remaining children.  We have felt like our role in Joseph’s life was perhaps to reach Ellya for the Lord.  We tried to show God’s love to this family, but we know that they have gone through much heartache in the past year, that only God can break through.

 

One in five Ugandan children dies before their 5th birthday.  What if we reached that One!
Jay

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Updates and Newsletter copy

Greetings to all of our friends and supporters of Due Unto Others.  We thank you so much for your support in so many ways over the past year.  We were blessed to have the donation pledged for James' prosthetic leg.  I am excited to see if his smile can get even BIGGER!

Here are some updates from this week regarding some of our favorite "starfish" in Uganda.

Kenneth had heart surgery on Monday of last week.  He was released from the ICU late last week and was allowed to go home to Rushere today.  What an amazing healing that has taken place in him and he is now a witness of God's love to his entire village.  Thank you to all of you who helped pay for his care.  Please continue to pray for Kenneth and the big plans that our God has in store for him.

Kenneth preparing to return to Rushere after his release from Mulago Hospital

After some delays and postponements, Joseph had his heart surgery yesterday.  According to the report, all went well and he is recovering in the ICU.  Please continue to pray for his healing and for his story of God's love when he returns to Soroti.

Lydia is returning to Mulago for a check up on Friday, and if she is stable, she will be admitted and have surgery on Saturday.  Lydia is one of the sickest "Cardiac kids".  Doctors have been trying to get her stabilized on medications so that she can undergo her heart surgery.  Please pray for a healthy check up and a successful operation for her.
Lydia with her mother

We were asked to write a short article about our trip to Uganda for the Africa Renewal Ministries newsletter.  If you have been following our blog, this article will seem a little superficial, but if you have not, it will give you a bit of an overview of our time in Uganda.  Take the time to Friend Africa Renewal Ministries and Renewal Healthcare Network on Facebook.  They give updates about projects that are in progress.


What a blessing it was for our family to be able to serve our God in Uganda from February 2nd through June 14th of this year.  We thank God regularly for introducing us to Africa Renewal Ministries and the Renewal Healthcare Network.  This article is a little about our family, the Gregston family: Jay, Jill, Jake (16), Jared (12) and Jayne (11).

 

When our family left DFW airport on February 2nd, we had many emotions running through our heads.  One of those emotions was shear relief!  We had been on an interesting journey over the prior few months.  We thought that we had sold our business and with the transferred responsibility and added proceeds, we would be able to go to Uganda, paying our own travel and living expenses.  This sale fell through, 6 weeks before our scheduled departure.  God not only worked this situation out, by putting people in place to cover our needs in our absence, He allowed our home to sell as well.  Selling our house was a blessing.  It allowed our expenses to be decreased while we were in Uganda.  The only problem was that our house sold 10 days before we were leaving.  So a mad pack and move marathon ensued, ending at 4:00am, the morning that we left for the airport at 6:30am.  We were exhausted and the 24 hours of flight time seemed like a time to rest a little.

 

Despite knowing that we did not need to be, we were a little fearful.  We had been in Uganda for 2 weeks in July of 2011.  We knew that God had called us back for a longer period of time, but we really did not know what to expect.  I felt that God had called us to take needed healthcare to rural Uganda, and I knew that we felt like our family was to serve Him, together, out in these rural areas.  We did not want to have our kids in a boarding school while Jill and I were out running these clinics.  Africa Renewal Ministries and Dr. Martin had plans to take healthcare to rural areas too.  They just had not done it to the level that we were thinking, leaving us both a little na├»ve as to what we were getting in to.

 

Every person in our family was excited about the adventure that lay ahead of us.  We probably all pictured it in different ways, but everyone was “all in”.  Each of us gave up something important to go and do what we felt God was calling us to.  I think that because of this willingness to give things up and go, God blessed each of us in unique ways.   One of our blessings was meeting a family, from California, that was in Uganda for the same time period as us.  The Gash family has children about the same age as ours and we were able to give each other a built-in support group.  Their family helped us with many of our medical clinics, helping to keep some of our costs down.

 

Our first couple of weeks, in Uganda, proved to be frustrating, at times.  We were searching for a van that would be used to load up our team and supplies and take us to the rural areas of Uganda.  Because we had no vehicle, we were dependent on others for transportation and found ourselves waiting to be picked up quite often.  We did an internship, of sorts, at Wentz Medical Center during the first two weeks.  I learned more about the local medical care, health system, and potential referral options.  Jill and the kids learned about pharmacy medications, lab tests and checking inventory.  In addition to these things, we were adjusting to a new culture and trying to make sure that we had our apartment set up for our stay.

 

I had anticipated that our routine would be loading the van and going on day trips to villages, putting on clinics and then driving home to our apartment in the Kampala area.  As the schedule was unfurled, we realized that there would be many trips where the distance was too far for day trips.  Places that we would be staying in hotels or guest houses for up to 9 days at a time.  This may have been where most of the “adventure” was for some of us!  As we settled in to our routine, we would usually go on a road trip one week, then work in areas close to Kampala the next week.  This allowed us to reach all of the ARM projects, in Uganda, and also to have time to “regroup” between the trips.

 

As we started running the clinics in rural Uganda, we were overwhelmed with the actual need, severity of illness, and the lengths that people would go to come see us in these clinics.  We had people traveling 8-10 miles, carrying sick children on foot to see the mzungu doctor.  In Kachungwa, the site of our first road trip, we had a young girl die soon after we got her to the hospital.  When we went to the hospital to check on her, we were appalled at the facilities, or lack thereof.  This scenario of overwhelming need, lack of resources, and seeing death up close was very taxing on our family.  God showed us through this that we really needed to focus on one person at a time and making a difference for them.  Through our time in Uganda, our mantra began to be “That One Person” (TOP).  Each day, we would pray that God would show us “That One Person” that needed an extra dose of God’s love that day.  Sometimes TOP would be a child that needed a complicated surgery that they could not afford.  Some days TOP would be an 11 year old boy, with HIV, that needed to defeat me in a soccer match and in doing so win a new soccer ball for himself.  Other days, TOP would be a young girl that our daughter singled out to give a handmade doll that she and her grandmothers had made.

 

Jill and I would whole heartedly recommend the “family” concept to missions.  Our family grew in many ways but primarily in our individual and collective walks with Christ.  We saw miraculous healings that served to deepen our faith.  We saw the Holy Spirit at work in ways that we had not seen in the USA.  Our team did morning devotionals, rotating the leading of the study time.  Our kids, ages 11, 12, and 16 lead these as well.  We “homeschooled” our kids while we were gone.  Opportunities were taken to discuss many subjects as we went on our missions.  Science through medicine and nature.  Math through pharmacy calculations and conversions of many things from temperature, to money, to units of measure.  Geo-political topics were plentiful.  All of our minds were challenged daily as we tried to learn some parts of a new language.  Our “homeschool” plan was not one for long term, but we feel that our kids gained so much in their world view and their perspective of Christianity, that we would not hesitate to do that again.  Our kids were able to work as pharmacists, laboratory technicians and as nurses during our time in the rural medical clinics.  They all feel that they want to pursue a career, of some type, in medicine and that they will use that training to be a part of foreign missions in some way.

 

We are so blessed that we teamed up with Africa Renewal Ministries and the Renewal Healthcare Network to execute our missions in Uganda.  Our road team of David, Faith and Joseph helped us navigate through many potential pitfalls as we went about our medical missions.  Dr. Martin choreographed many things from Wentz Medical Center in Gaba. Many others at Wentz and at Gaba Community Church helped to make our time in Uganda productive, safe and life changing.  They were very accommodating to our family, in many ways.

 

For those of you sponsoring children through ARM or for those of you supporting the Renewal Health Network, you are supporting a worthwhile cause!  We have seen these projects first hand and YOU ARE MAKING A DIFFERENCE!  Our team saw more than 10,000 patients over our time in Uganda.  Since the first of January, every sponsored child has received a medical exam, any needed medication, and some extra evaluation and treatment where indicated.  The RHCN continues to see and care for Ugandans, even though we are back in the US.  I know that there is a continued need for funding as we are still caring for some children requiring specialized cardiac procedures and receiving chemotherapy treatments.  I am sure that the RHCN could use your talents as a medical team or individual if you are interested in volunteering your time, at some point.

 

Our family has forever been changed and blessed from our time with Africa Renewal in Uganda.  I am grateful that we were able to blog about our adventures to chronicle our time there.  You can check out our blog a www.dueunto.blogspot.com.  We cannot wait until we are able to return to see our friends and care for the wonderful people of Uganda.  Our family encourages you to find “TOP” (that one person) for Jesus today!
Keep searching for "TOP",
Jay

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Are you comfortable?


It is hard to believe that we have been back from Uganda for over 2 months now.  I’ll have you know that my Granny has scolded me for not blogging since July the 7th.  She says that she gets up every morning to check for new blogs and then listens to a David Jeremiah sermon.  We have been getting positive reports back from Uganda, several times per week.  This week, 2 of our “Cardiac Kids” (Kenneth and Joseph) are having their surgeries to repair heart defects. 
Joseph from Soroti

Kenneth from Rushere

Kenneth did well with his procedure on Monday.  He was in the operating room from 9am-5pm.  He is in the ICU and if all goes well, he will be out to the ward on Thursday or Friday.  Joseph is scheduled for his surgery today (Wednesday).  Please keep them and their families in your prayers.  Many of you have contributed to their care, and their families have said over and over how grateful they are. 
Jamil has started school and is doing well in Palisa.  I can’t wait to see new photos of his eye and how it is healing. 

Tendo has regained her swagger and is dancing and doing well in school, after her big surgery to repair her ruptured diaphragm. 

Joseph (younger boy with facial tumor from Mytiana) is about to return to Mulago for his 6th and final round of chemo.  He will have a “re-evaluation” after this last round of chemo, to see what his prognosis is.  I know that he has had a better response to the chemo than the odds would predict. 

 James is continuing to improve and is almost ready to be fitted for his prosthetic leg.  He continues to amaze me with his beautiful smile and upbeat attitude.  (We are still needing about $450 for his prosthetic if God lays this on your heart). 

Shakib is continuing burn treatments and has been sent for consultations on his vision, to make sure that he had no eye damage in the fire.  He checked out OK on this front.  He has been sent to start the series of surgeries to release the contractures in his left hand and left knee.  We received this picture this week.  It is the first time that we have seen him smile.  If the picture had sound, I am sure that we could hear him laughing!

Look for an upcoming blog about a young girl named Sabina, from a small town north of Jinja as well.



I have to be honest with you, Jill and I have had a hard time feeling “Comfortable” since we have gotten home from Uganda.  I have blamed that on different things at different times.  There was the fact that we left more suddenly than we had planned and left several loose ends in Uganda.  We are thankful that our friends and “medical teammates” have been able to take care of most of them for us.  We also have been settling in to a new address, and trying to figure out what to do with a lot of the “stuff” that we still have, despite doing a major cleaning out prior to leaving in February.  This process has had some highs and lows, but definitely has been trying and exhausting.  Thank you to our friends and family that have helped us with this at different times.  I think much of this discomfort is from a re-acclimation to our culture of excess.  Our OU football season tickets arrived recently and it is difficult to think about what we spend on these tickets every year, and how that compares to sending kids to school in Uganda or helping them with a life-saving surgery.  It really leaves us pulled in different directions.  Jill and I were discussing this feeling of discomfort with our friend Pete about 10 days ago.  He said something that really struck a chord with Jill and I.  He said that we are not made to feel comfortable here (on earth).  We are aliens, strangers in a strange land.  Our home is heaven and not on this earth. 



I have decided that I don’t want to feel comfortable with the American lifestyle again.  I have been much too comfortable in the past and that is part of what challenged us to go and leave that comfort for something that was definitely not comfortable and even scary at times.  This is a strange prayer, but I am praying it for me and my family right now.  I am praying that we never feel comfortable again!  EVER! But at the same time, that we get more “accustomed” to feeling uncomfortable!



1 Peter 2:11-12 says "Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us."



Step out on a limb this week and get out of your comfort zone.  We are aliens and strangers here.  Let us relish and celebrate this fact together.  Find “That One Person” that God wants you to make a difference for this week!



Uncomfortably yours,



Jay

Sunday, July 8, 2012

A dose of Reality


Here it is, a little over 3 weeks since we arrived back in Oklahoma from Uganda, and I am getting a healthy dose of reality.  Let me explain.  Since we sold our home in Duncan and moved to Uganda in February, we have had our heads down serving others, but wondering what our new reality would be when we got home.  Our plan was and continues to be that we will live in our farm house that is on our ranch.  Over the past weeks, we have been based in our farm house, but we have still had our heads down with Jill’s father.  First, we had a week to spend time with Herb, doing things that he liked and going to his favorite restaurants.   Then, we spent 10 days in OKC, helping as he had his surgery and recovery.  He has recovered faster and better than we expected, and now, we have come face to face with our new reality.  WE HAVE TOO MUCH STUFF, for the available space and it is 100 degrees, all the time, in Oklahoma!



This week, I will be digging back into my work at the clinic, and we will start trying to unpack and sort through some of the boxes that we have stacked in the house and barns.  It is just now that I am wrestling with feeling depressed that our work on the ground in Uganda is on “hold” for now.  The work that we started in Uganda through Due Unto Others and Renewal Health Network continues.  Even this week, our friends, the Gash family, will be helping in a 4 day clinic in Gaba. 

At the end of these 4 days, 100% of the sponsorship locations in the Africa Renewal Ministries program will have been visited by our team.  Joseph and Faith, with other hired and volunteer help, will be performing various outreach and community clinics over the next several months.  Even though all of this medical mission work will continue, and we will be helping to fund raise and bring awareness to the need from the USA, we still will miss being in Uganda, with our hands on the need.  Jill and I are looking forward to going to churches to share about what God is doing in Uganda.  It also looks like we will also be able to share at the World Medical Missions conference in Kentucky in November.  We would trade these engagements for a long day at Mulago, taking one of our starfish to see a medical specialist and trying to avoid the bathrooms.



I think the trick for me will be to spend the next period of time working to deepen my walk, my prayer life and my study time.   Then as I get back into my work routine, I will need to continue to look for “That One Person” that needs to feel God’s love.  I will be continuing to keep up with our special friends in Uganda.  As you know, 4 of the Cardiac Kids will be undergoing operations between now and the end of the year.  We are still raising funds for these procedures to allow them to move forward.  The reality is that we feel that we are where God wants us, for now.  It can seem less fulfilling than loving on kids in Uganda, but God’s will is not for us to understand, it is for us to try to discover, then follow.



The Reality is that we are blessed and we would be wise to Realize it.

Jay

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Dependence Day






Do you know what day it is in Uganda?  That’s right, it is July 4th.  It is not Independence Day there, but it is July 4th.  After spending almost 5 months in Uganda earlier this year, I have a fresh perspective of how blessed we are to be Americans!  We have more wealth, more comfort, more food, more freedom, more luxury and more health care than anyone in the world.  We have less hunger, less needless death, less loss of utilities, less poverty, less childhood mortality and most of all LESS DEPENDENCE ON GOD than anyone in the world.  All of our comforts and access to the best, makes it where we are able to not be dependent on God.  We are far too self-reliant.  We are independent this day!



While in Uganda, it was interesting to see the Ugandan’s view of Americans.  Many of them think that everyone in the USA is rich.  To be honest, if you compared Americans to most of the people in Uganda, that statement is true.  We also heard some interesting comments like, “All Americans are so kind and caring”, or “Americans are so giving”.  As much as I wish those statements were true across the board, I know that they are not.  I explained to our Ugandan friends, there are many good people in the US, but there are also those that choose to do wrong and actually those that are evil.  Most in Uganda see all Americans as the same, or with similar Christian beliefs.  I know that this is how our country was founded, and I sorely wish that this were still true.



When I look at the US, I see a country divided, oblivious to how blessed we are and how we are on the edge of losing these blessings.  We can argue over healthcare, gay marriage, fast and furious, deficit spending or taxes, but if we could just get back to agreeing on being one nation, under God, I think most of our differences would fade away.  While we were gone, I was “tuned out” of all of these debates for the entire time.  When I returned, the same exact debates and arguments were still raging out of control.  There had been no resolution or common ground found.



For all of my Oklahoma friends, I want you to remember how good it felt to be “One state under the Thunder”.  We had something in common.  We were pulling the rope in the same direction, cheering for our neighbor, and gathering momentum.  Just think about how much momentum we could gather if we all rallied behind a Living God!  What will it take to get America back “Under God”?  What will it take for us to have Dependence Day?   What would it take to get us to be the people that the Ugandans see us as?  The great American philosopher, Brad Allen, said that he thinks there will be another revival in the US, but he is concerned about 2 things:  1.) It may happen outside of our current churches & 2.) It may have to get a lot worse in the US before we turn to Christ.  I too am worried that this may be true.  We are so self-reliant, that I am afraid of what God may have to do or take away to get our collective attention.



I pray that on this Independence Day, we will be more dependent on Him.  I pray also that we will return to Dependence before the blessings of America are gone.  Could we schedule a Dependence Day?  I'll bring the fireworks!

Jay

Monday, July 2, 2012

Happy New Year!


Happy New Year!!! 
You did not realize that it was a new year did you?  It is in the medical world.  On July 1st, the world of medical education graduates to a new year.  I have been aware of this new year many times over the past 20 years.  Over the past 12 years, though, July 1st has mainly been my anniversary.  As many of you know, we are on day 7 of Jill’s father Herb’s hospitalization for his laryngectomy.  So we have spent the last week at the OU medical center.  With the 1st falling on a Sunday, today is really the new year of medicine at the OU medical center.  We are seeing confused young men and women looking to make sense of the maze of charts and cranky nurses.  At the same time, they are trying to study about different illnesses so they can answer the “pimp” questions that will surely be coming from their residents and attendings.  I once read an article titled, “Don’t get sick in July”.  In this article, the author states that July is the worst time to get sick because in July, college students become medical students, medical students become interns, interns become residents and residents become attendings.  Everyone in a new position and learning new things.

 I am standing in “Presby Tower” (formerly Presbyterian hospital) remembering 16 years ago.  I started my internship in Presby Hospital on July 1st of 1996.  I was on an Internal Medicine rotation and I was supposed to be on call every 4 nights.  But, since I was the “off service” intern (Emergency Medicine intern working with the Internal Medicine team), I got the pleasure of taking call on the very first night, then getting to come back, just 3 nights later, on the 4th.  That day I was scared to death that the “code pager” was going to go off.  I was on my first day as a doctor, and I was responsible for all code blues in a big OKC hospital.  That night, I could not sleep, worried the pager would sound.  With time and experience, my anxiety about those situations lessened.  God was able to heal people despite my inexperience.



The following July, I became a licensed doctor, and started moonlighting some.  In July of 1998, I became an upper level resident and started to moonlight in Duncan and make schedules for our residency.  By July 1st of 2000, I was finished with my residency and our family moved to Duncan.  Come to think of it, more life changes have happened, for me, on the Medical New Year than on January 1st.  It was July 1st that I became a husband, a medical student, an intern, a resident, a “real” doctor, and it was July 1st of last year that our family woke up in Uganda, for the first time. God was able to bring Jill and I through all of these changes and bless our family each time.



I read an article this week that says US hospitals and Doctors spend 31 Billion each year on malpractice insurance.  Out of this staggering number, “only” 6 billion end up in the pockets of patients that have a malpractice claim.  The other 25 billion ends up in the pockets of malpractice attorneys and insurance companies.  In addition to this large number, another 650 Billion is spent on tests and studies to try to protect against malpractice suits.  My medical generation, the one before it, and every one since has been trained in an environment of malpractice avoidance.  In my humble opinion, I think that this is the biggest issue facing healthcare in the US.  We still have the greatest medical care in the world, it is just too expensive.  This additional 681 billion spent to avoid exposure to malpractice claims, adds greatly to the expense.



Herb is doing well.  He is recovering and is getting to sip on some water today to see how his swallowing is working. 

He is walking the halls and getting his strength back.  He met a man named Greg yesterday. 




Greg had a laryngectomy in January and he was able to encourage us and give us some pointers.  I think that this encounter was a very productive one.  Herb was introduced to a support group of men and women who live active lives after a laryngectomy.  God is able to bring Herb through this with a positive witness to help others.



Many of you may have seen this already, but our most current mission video, GOD IS ABLE, is up on youtube and we would be delighted if you would take a look at it.



Happy New Year!



Jay

Sunday, July 1, 2012

To the Heart of the Matter


This blog will be part two of the information regarding the Cardiac Kids.  I profiled Kenneth andLydia on my blog a few days ago.  Before I move on to introduce you to the other two heart patients, I would like to update you on Lydia.  I just got word from Dr. Martin this morning, and he says that Lydia has stabilized on some new medication.  She has been scheduled for surgery on August 2nd, as long as she remains stable.  Please pray that, over the next 32 days, she will remain stable and be able to have the procedure done.  Compared to the other Cardiac Kids, this procedure is more simple, but her disease has progressed to more problems.



The third “That One Person” with heart problems is Mercy. 



She is 2 years old and, like Lydia and Kenneth, is from Rushere.  We noticed her in the Rushere clinic that we did 6 weeks ago.  She was very afraid of Mzungus, so it was hard to examine her.  In fact, despite her big heart problem, I could not determine a murmur over the screaming.  We did notice the “clubbing” of her fingers.  This is a problem where the finger tips get thicker in response to chronic low levels of oxygen.  We see it commonly in people with chronic COPD.  She went on the bus to Mbarara with Dr. Abdul and then to Mulago.  She has been found to have Tetralogy of Fallot.  This is a problem where parts of the heart and big vessels entering or exiting the heart are on the wrong side.  This is a surgery that cannot be done in Uganda, except for the fact that a visiting surgeon from the West (UK I think), comes to do surgery.  She has been put on medicine, and awaits the visiting surgeon for her operation in December.  This will be the most complicated and expensive surgery of the 4.  We don’t have an exact amount for that surgery yet, because they are still pricing and getting some of the supplies that they will need for the surgery.  I am estimating that this operation, and care surrounding it, will cost around $10,000 USD.  What a blessing that she will be able to have this done without traveling to another country.  If she had needed to come to the US, her costs and family disruption would have been much greater.



Our fourth Cardiac Kid is Joseph. 



Joseph is a 12 year old boy from Soroti.  We found Joseph on our last trip that we made while in Uganda.  We saw him on a Saturday, and were standing in Oklahoma the following Friday.  He is easy going young man with a big smile.  The interpreter, that I was working with in Soroti, pointed out Joseph to me because he had noticed that Joseph was not growing and seemed to have muscle wasting.  He wanted me to check him over to make sure that he did not have a big illness going on.  Joseph’s heart murmur gave away at least one of his problems.  He was seen at Mulago, and found to have a large PDA (Patent Ductus Arteriosis) that is causing some dilated left heart chambers and some pulmonary hypertension.  The PDA allows blood to flow in the wrong direction in his heart. Joseph has been put on medication and scheduled for surgery on August 20th.  The estimated cost for the operation, hospitalization, medications, and family travel will be $1,500 USD.  He has some dilation of his heart, but this should improve if the problem is corrected.



Please join me in praying for Joseph and Mercy.  They have life saving and life changing surgeries coming up.  We are praying that the healing that they receive will be a display of God’s love to their families and their villages.  We pray that people will be drawn to Jesus from their care.  If you feel called to help with these two awesome kids, please email me at dueunto@gmail.com.  I’d be happy to give you more information about these kids and their families. 



Here is a quick update on my buddy Jamil.  I got an email from Pastor Fred this week that said that Jamil has moved into the boarding school and is progressing well in his classes.  The Due Unto Others supporters have sponsored Jamil through the end of 2012 by paying for his school, room and board and by getting his uniforms, bedding, towels, shoes etc. 



You can see from this picture that Jamil is happy about this new lease on life that he has received after having the large tumor removed from behind his eye.  Thank you to all who have been praying for Jamil and for those who have helped sponsor his surgery and school. 



Jay

Thursday, June 28, 2012

You Captured My Heart!


I have been remiss in not telling you about some special friends of mine in Uganda.  I like to call them the “Cardiac Kids”!  The amazing part about these kids is that we identified them all in the last few weeks that we were in Uganda.  Most of their care was coordinated before we left, but a majority of their work up has been accomplished since we have been gone.  Our work in Uganda is not finished!  We are working through our local friends to continue medical clinics and TOP care for our special friends.  Our team was actually in Rakai, on a road trip, for medical clinics this past week.  They will be in Gaba for more clinics next week.  Please keep them in your prayers.  



Now let me tell you about the first two “Cardiac Kids”.



The first of these “That One Persons” is Kenneth.



 He is a 9 year old boy from Rushere.  We saw him in our community clinic that we did there about 5-6 weeks ago.  He had a very loud murmur and was quite small for his age.  He and his mother complained that he could not run and play, like his friends, because he would get too tired.  The team from Riverpoint in Houston arranged for him to go to Mbarara, to get an echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart) and see the cardiologist.  He subsequently was seen at Mulago by the pediatric cardiologist.  He has a Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD), or a hole in between the two ventricles.  This allows blood to flow through his heart in an abnormal manner, allowing oxygenated blood to mix with unoxygenated blood.  This requires an increased workload on the heart.  In addition to the VSD, he has a PDA (patent ductus arteriosis).  This is a hole between the left and right atrium.  This too allows blood to mix, when it should not.  He was told in Mbarara that the repair of these two problems, in combination, could not be done in Uganda.  At Mulago, he was told that it can be done and he is scheduled for surgery on August the 20th.  The heart problems have not cause long term damage to his heart at this point.  He is a good candidate for a full recovery and to catch up with his peers.  The cost of his hospitalization, surgery, travel and family care at the hospital will be right around $6,000 USD.  That is a lot of money, but almost seems ridiculously cheap for open heart surgery that could save a 9 year old boy’s life!  Please pray for Kenneth.  If you feel God leading you to help with his care, please let me know.



The second of the cardiac kids is Lydia. 



Lydia is an 8 year old girl that also comes from Rushere.  She was presented to us by Dr. Abdul in Rushere.  He knew that we had sent Kenneth to Mbarara to see the cardiologist.  In fact, Dr. Abdul had taken time out of his schedule to ride the bus with Kenneth and his family to Mbarara to make sure that everything was taken care of and understood.  Lydia came into the hospital in Rushere because she was short of breath.  She was having some congestive heart failure and had a loud murmur.  Dr. Abdul asked if we could “sponsor” Lydia to send her to see the cardiologist also.  We agreed and she made the trip to Mbarara with Dr. Abdul also.  She was found to have a PDA and some pulmonary hypertension.  She had to go to Mulago by ambulance and be admitted to the hospital to see the pediatric cardiologist.  She needs and emergency surgery to fix the PDA.  This does not have a scheduled date, but we are praying that she will stabilize where she can have this surgery soon.  She must be more stable to survive the surgery.  She has some dilation of her heart, but this would hopefully normalize after correcting the PDA.  Her surgery, hospitalization, medications and family care will cost about $1,500 USD.  Please pray for Lydia to stabilize where she can have the surgery.  If you feel called to help with her expenses, please let me know.



Can you imagine how these kids and their families will feel God’s love if we are able to provide resources to save their lives?  These numbers of dollars seem cheap for heart surgery, to us.  But to these families, that amount of money is not even imaginable.  Simply stated, these kids will die barring a miracle or a successful operation.  I feel blessed to have met them and to have a chance to work on God’s team to make a difference for them.   I will profile the next two cardiac kids in the next couple of days.  You can contact me at dueunto@gmail.com.



Thank you for your continued prayers and support of the Due Unto Others team in Uganda.



Jay