Wednesday, December 28, 2011

How big is your El Guapo (Obstacle)?

To start today’s blog, I’d like to quote the great American philosopher, Lucky Day, from The Three Amigos circa 1987: “In a way, all of us has an El Guapo to face.  For some, shyness might be their El Guapo.  For others, lack of education might be their El Guapo.  For us, El Guapo is a big, dangerous man who wants to kill us.  But as sure as my name is Lucky Day, the people of Santa Poco can conquer their own El Guapo, who also happens to be the actual El Guapo!”

El Guapo

We’ve been told that the one sure way to know that you are on God’s path is because of the obstacles that will find themselves in your way.  As soon as we had acknowledged God’s call to GO to Uganda for six months next year, we started making a list of potential Obstacles that we knew that we would have to overcome.  Then one by one, God took care of those “issues” in what seemed to be an easy fashion. 

Our “El Guapo” of these obstacles was how we would take care of our clinics in Duncan.  I really did not see any way that we could continue to manage the clinics and be involved clinically if we lived half the world away.  In fact, it would have been difficult for me to start thinking about going to Uganda if I thought that the clinic would still be one of our responsibilities.  We had started talking to an Urgent Care group, from Oklahoma City, back in April.  We’ve had a hand shake deal with them since September.  The sale of the clinic has been scheduled for January 1st since that handshake deal was struck.  Jill and I have been able to make other, smaller arrangements, knowing that this big obstacle was taken care of.  Some of the proceeds from this change in ownership, would help to fund our mission and help to supplement future endeavors overseas.

We found out on Friday morning, December 16th, that the sale of the clinic had fallen through.  This came as quite a shock to us and my initial reaction was to go back to the thought that we could not possibly go to Uganda for this long period of time if we still owned the clinics.  But through the wise words of Jill and several friends, I began to see that God is in control.  He seems to maintain this control, even though I desperately want to relieve Him of these duties many times.  I have begun to see that, with God, this trip is still possible.  I think that my trust and faith was too small to even consider this trip and the clinic going together.  So God took us down the path, with me thinking that the clinic was taken care of, until I could see what He wanted us to do with Him in Uganda.  Then He put the clinic back into the mix and is now helping me see how to work back from there to make things work while we are gone.  We have a strong team at the clinic and they have been encouragers of us in this project.  They continue to work to help us make this trip a possibility.  I have a physician friend that will be covering the clinic in my absence.  He is mission minded and I have only known him since we decided to sell the clinic and Go.  I am not sure that our paths would have crossed if we had not had “African Missions” as a conversation starter.

What obstacles are you facing?  Your El Guapo is nothing compared to my God!


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

One at a Time

As the time of our departure for Uganda nears, we are trying to ready ourselves for the work that God will have us to do there.  The need in Uganda is so large, that it is easy to get overwhelmed with it.  We have been told many times that we will need to have a narrow focus to make a difference.  Much of the push in Foreign Missions today is towards training local people to do God’s work and less on actually trying to accomplish it by ourselves.  The more I think about this, the more is sounds true.  Jill and I are convinced, that if we are to make a difference for Christ in Uganda, we will need to do it through relationships and one person at a time.

I am sure that you have heard of the starfish story, but if you have not, please see the website of our friends, the Gash family, at  One of the first “starfish” that I was able to put my hands on was “JN” (His name reserved for anonymity).

As I got off of the bus to go into the clinic for our 2nd day in the medical clinic in Uganda this past summer, I was met by one of the “providers” at the clinic.  He would be the equivalent of a nurse practitioner or PA here in the US.  He wanted me to come quickly to look at a small 4 year old boy named JN.  His mother had brought him in for the community clinic that we would be having that day and it was noticed quickly that he was quite ill.  Before my arrival, the clinic had tested him for malaria and found his test to be positive.  I found JN very weak and getting tired of his difficulty breathing.  He had a temperature of 103 and his oxygen level was about 80% until we put him on oxygen.  My ER “sick kid” radar went off and a nurse from Ardmore and I looked at each other like we better do something quick or this is not going to end well.  Much to our surprise, the medical staff from the clinic did not seem too concerned.  Not because they did not recognize sick, but because they saw it so often that it did not shake them like it did us.  In Uganda one in 5 children die before their 5th birthday.  JN was too sick to be in Duncan Regional Hospital (mainly because we don’t have a pediatric intensive care unit).  If I had seen him in Duncan, he would have gone by helicopter to Children’s Hospital in Oklahoma City.  But we were not in Duncan, we were in a small medical clinic in the middle of "Nat Geo" Africa.  One of the nurses was able to get an IV ( a minor miracle on this kid that was so small and dehydrated).  We gave him IV fluids and medications for malaria and antibiotics for a pneumonia that he obviously had by exam.  Our team had brought a nebulizer unit and medication to use with it.  I was thinking, boy that is great, that is exactly what JN needs right now to help his labored breathing.  As we went to set it up, we realized that we did not have the converter needed to run the nebulizer on the electrical plugs that they use in Uganda.  Everyone in our group had converters at the guest house we were staying in, but that was an hour away.  I was able to perform some “MacGyver” medicine and get the breathing treatment to work with the pressure from the oxygen tank.  Whew, we finally had him stabilized.  About that time, they brought another young boy named KN from the Watoto children’s village.  He had almost the same symptoms and vitals, but he was 2 years old.  We were able to get him stabilized as well.  KN had the ability to go to the hospital in Kampala, because of an arrangement that Watoto had with a local physician and his hospital.  He would be going to stay in the hospital. 

Our group had already decided that we would chip in to pay for JN to go to the hospital, as his parents could not afford to take him.  The government hospitals in Uganda will only see and care for you if you have the ability to pay.  We were surprised to find out that if we sent the antibiotics with him, he could stay for 3 days for $30.  While patients are in the hospital, family must feed them, and bathe them and care to their basic needs.  Many times it looks like a refugee camp outside the hospital as families camp out to take care of their family members.  It turns out that JN could not go to the hospital because his family could not go to Kampala.  We compromised and JN and his mother stayed in the clinic (which honestly is nicer than the government hospitals) until 9:00 pm and then was allowed to go home.  One of the nurses on site showed JN’s mom where she lived on the Watoto campus and advised his mother to return if JN got worse.  The next morning, JN had already come and gotten his IV antibiotics and returned home before I got to the clinic.  The next day, JN was a completely different young man.  He was smiling and energetic.  I am convinced that KN would have made it if we had not been there.  He had access to the medical clinic and had access to a hospital via Watoto.  JN had neither.  If we had not been there, JN would not have been invited to the medical clinic.  He likely would have passed away.  I know that God must have something big planned for JN. 

I may never see JN again, this side of heaven.  I’d love to find him when we are in Uganda and get to know he and his family better.  I'd love to form a relationship with his family and get a glimpse of what God's big plans for him are.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Love Letter to Pearl

Dearest Pearl,

I miss you so much.  It has been 5 months since I last saw the sun shine on your face and cast shadows on your hills and valleys.  The image of your beauty, however, is etched on my mind’s eye like it was yesterday.  I can’t wait to visit you again and enjoy your natural beauty.  I know that you live half the world away, but no distance can keep me from coming to see you again.  I plan to stay several months and taste your sweet fruit!
  Pearl, don’t worry, I love your many children too.  They have the sweetest smiles and a wonderful contentment.  They have welcomed me with open arms and taught me many things about you.  As my knowledge of you has deepened, it has made me love you even more!

Anonymous Gregston Male

Uganda, nicknamed the “Pearl of Africa,” is a country of 30 million people.  50% of these people are children under the age of 15.  30% of these 15 million children can afford school.   1 in 3 Ugandans have access to clean safe water.    In Uganda there are over 2 million orphans.  This small country has the highest percentage of AIDS orphans in the world.  20% of children will die before their 5th birthday.    It is the place of Africa’s longest running war during which more than 20,000 children between the ages of 4 & 15 have been abducted and forced to serve as child soldiers.  It is located directly on the equator.  It has an elevation of 3600 feet, so it does not get as hot as many places in Africa.  It is located almost entirely on the Nile Basin, which makes the soil very fertile.  We believe it produces the best pineapples in the world!  Uganda is an especially poor country.  51% of the population, in Uganda, lives on less than $1 per day.  If you are in the other 49% you are above the poverty level.    The average life expectancy is 53 years.  In Uganda, 79% of the population uses a kerosene lantern for lighting.  41% in urban areas use electricity.  10% of the population uses the bush as a toilet facility.  86% of Uganda uses pit latrines, and 1% use flushing toilets.  There are an estimated 8 physicians for every 100,000 people.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Aren't You Afraid?

The Great British philosopher, Austin Powers, once said, “There are only 2 things that scare me, and one of them is nuclear war.”  After some prodding for what the other one was, Mr. Powers said, “Carnies”. 
Now I don’t know how good a blog post can be if you start with an Austin Power’s quote, but if you can tell me what he says that Carnies smell like, then you have as bad a taste in movies as I do!
Since we have made our plans, of going to Uganda, public, we have gotten many questions along the lines of “Aren’t you afraid?” or “Is it safe there?”
To be honest there have been fears associated with our decision to leave all that we have going at home and GO.  As I returned from Uganda the first time, I did not immediately ask Jill to start praying about going to Uganda for a longer period of time.  I felt, in my heart, that we were supposed to do that, but I did not want to bring it up to Jill.  I was concerned because she is usually more perceptive or receptive to what God is saying than I am.  I was sure that she would get the same message from God and we’d be on our way. 
Now as a child, I had some common childhood fears.  You know, things like the dark, cemeteries, cranky teachers and of course being locked in a room with Barbara Walters.  But as I got older, my fears would fall into one of two main categories:  Fear of Failure and Fear of Lack of Control.  Fear of Failure is common in physicians and is partly why we are able to successfully complete all of the schooling and training required.  This fearing to fail, is a bit strange to add to my entrepreneurial spirit, as it drives me to work hard, sometimes harder than I should.  My need for control slowed my relationship growth with Christ, and is still one that I have to lay down frequently.  As I started thinking about leaving our home and taking Jill and our kids to Uganda, my fear list expanded to more than just the two above.  Here is some of the list:
1.)    Fear of physical danger – Now I have been to Uganda twice and I have not felt physically threatened.  But I am not na├»ve enough to think that it would be as safe as we are in the US.  (Of course, I think that much of our feeling of safety in the US is unwarranted.)  We will be the minority and easy to pick out of a line up in Uganda!  It won’t make my mother or mother in law happy, but there is more physical danger to my family in Uganda for multiple reasons.
2.)    Fear of getting sick or injured – This plays a little into #1, but my main fear in this area is that one of us would need state of the art medical care and it not be available.
3.)    Fear of finances – I realized that if we were to GO for an extended time, we would need to sell the clinic and I would obviously not be earning money in the ER, while I was gone.  In addition, we would not only need to maintain our home in Duncan but add a home in Uganda.
4.)    Fear of the kids missing out on something : Our kids have many advantages and I’d love for them to take the opportunity that these advantages give them to succeed in life.  I guess the question becomes the definition of success.
5.)    Fear that the kids won’t like it – I really do want our kids to be happy.  I was fearful that we would  show up in Uganda and after a week or two, the kids would be ready to pack up.  This would fall into Fear of Failure.
6.)    Fear of the unkown – OK, this does play right into the control issue.
As I had mentioned in a previous blog, Me a Missionary, part of my motivation to missions was kindled via reading Radical by David Platt.  As I read that book, I went from thinking the author was right, “somebody should go”, to feeling that I was that somebody.  I was asked this week how we moved from thinking something “Radical” to actually doing something “Radical”.
Soon after my return from Uganda last January, our teaching pastor Craig Groeschel, presented a sermon regarding Fear.  I would recommend this MESSAGE ON FEAR to anyone.  Two points that he made completely changed my fear list that I listed above.
A.)   What you fear reveals what you value the MOST.
B.)    What you fear reveals where you trust God the LEAST.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
 2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV
Sunday afternoon, after this message was presented, I asked Jill to start praying about us going to Uganda for a longer term.  She seemed surprised, but began to warm up to the idea quickly when she saw Uganda and the need there.
After facing my fears and filtering them through this message on fear, I have a new frame of reference on my fear list.
1.)    Physical Danger – (again this won’t make the mother and mother in law happy) What do we really have to fear?  Even if we die for Christ’s sake, that would make us martyrs.  The way I read the Book, there is a special place in heaven for martyrs.  That has to be waaaay better than even the best day in the USA!
2.)    Fear of getting sick – God has given me reassurance that his hedge of protection will be around us.  We are taking every precaution and at least we are taking a doctor with us!  We will be working with a Doctor and a reputable clinic in Kampala.  We should be able to get care if we need it.
3.)    Fear of Finances – Through the sale of our clinic and our savings, we will be able to go to Uganda and pay our own way.  We have big plans for our Mobile Medical Unit there, and we are depending on God and our supporting partners to help fund the project itself.  The total funding required will likely be about $90,000.
4 & 5) My perspective on the kids is one thing that has really cleared in my mind.  What is this “American Dream” that I was worried that I would spoil for them?  Having nice things and an abundance of technology to distract us from what is important?  Having our heads down looking at our phones or iPods, self absorbed and killing time?  To be honest, God has blessed our family with what many think is the American Dream.  If my kids can grasp what it is to be sold out to Christ while living in a third world country, I will take that over them living the American Dream that I have seen.
6.)    Fear of the Unknown – Going to Uganda has become an adventure for us with God.  The unknown seems exciting rather than intimidating. 
I woke up this morning with this blog on my mind, about 90 minutes before the alarm was set to go off.  I was typing on it when Jill came into the kitchen.  She saw what I was working on and recommended that I look at our “Jesus Calling” book for today.
                “Be willing to go out on a limb with Me.  If that is where I am leading you, it is the safest place to be.  Your desire to live a risk-free life is a form of unbelief.  Your longing to live close to Me is at odds with your attempts to minimize risk.  You are approaching a crossroads in your journey.  In order to follow Me wholeheartedly, you must relinquish your tendency to play it safe.”
                “Let me lead you step by step through this day.  If your primary focus is on Me, you can walk along perilous paths without being afraid.  Eventually, you will learn to relax and enjoy the adventure of our journey together.  As long as you stay close to Me, My sovereign Presence protects you wherever you go.”

Psalms 23:4  Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

What are your fears?  What are they keeping you from accomplishing with Christ?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Jayne's first post

Hi!  I am Jayne.  I am the youngest of our family. I am 11 years old, and I love Africa. If you have ever been to Africa you know that you always leave a part of your heart there.  I went to Africa last summer, and it was amazing.  It is so different there.  People there almost never eat meat.  My dad went to Africa in January 2011, and one of the missionaries that went said that he saw an elderly lady (who was very old for Uganda) and all she wanted to do before she died was eat meat one time.  When we were in Uganda last summer we were guests at a Watoto Village called Bira.We got to eat a traditional meal in Mama Ruth's house.

One of the boys in that household is a five year old. His name is Derek. We played and played!  He rode on my shoulders, I spun him around and around, and we ran all about.


Thanks for reading,