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 naïve 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",