Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A game of choice for Shakib

Why does God continue to allow me to make choices?  Better yet, why do I continue to make the choices that are not the best for me?  Sometimes my choices are met with OK results.  Sometimes, the option I choose gives me a good result.  Why would I settle for good when I have the “BEST” living inside of me?  Don’t you think that God gets frustrated with us?  He is watching on, with His infinite wisdom, seeing us struggle with choices with obvious answers.  Yet, He patiently allows us to make choices and mistakes.  Then, He offers us the grace to overcome our poor choices.  All of our choices have consequences.  Some of the consequences are immediate, and some are eternal.  Some choices are regarding big things, and most are regarding small matters.  In most choices, we have little risk, no matter what we choose.

God allowed my frustration to teach me a lesson on Tuesday.  Let me tell you about our new “Starfish Friend”, named Shakib, that we met in Mukono this week.  His mother brought him to our clinic on Monday. 

Shakib is 3 years old and I initially thought that he was a girl, because he was wearing a dress.  I could tell that he had burns on his face and hands.  The fear in his eyes made me want to get him through registration and in front of Jay as soon as possible.  On further examination, Shakib had been severely burned 3 months ago.  The burns that were on his hands and face were healing.  The worst burns were on his abdomen, upper legs and pelvis.  Shakib was staying with his grandparents, when a candle fell over and started a house fire.  This is at least one of the stories as his mother told us several things that were not consistent.  Immediately after the house fire, Shakib was taken to Mulago, to the burn unit.  Jay noticed that that Shakib had linear scars on his left arm from the surgery that had happened at Mulago.  They did this operation to relieve the pressure from swelling that the burns had caused.  The scarring, in his left hand, had caused his pinky finger to curl down and the rest of his hand was flexed back.  This hand was essentially useless.  Shakib’s mother had evidently fled from Mulago as she was growing weary of seeing other burn victims die and tired of her son receiving injections and painful burn debridement.  She was told, by another patient’s family, about this “burn doctor” in Mukono.

Skakib and his family are from the Kawempe area.  Kawempe is on the north side of Kampala.  Mukono is about 20 kilometers out the east side of Kampala, towards Jinja.  This family had packed up what was left of their burned home and moved to Mukono to be in close proximity to this “burn doctor”.  We were able to meet this “burn doctor” yesterday.  His “office” is in a garage-like addition to his home, where old dirty couches line the wall on both sides. 

 The “burn doctor” was a nurse at Mulago in the 60’s.  He has a developed a “secret recipe” burn cream that he applies to the burns.  Shakib is supposed to go for dressing changes daily, but usually makes it every 5-7 days because of the family not having the 20,000 shillings required for the medical care.  The “burn doctor” would not tell us what was in his secret sauce, but said that it was much better than what was available in “western medicine”.  It was amazing to us that he had perfected a mayonnaise-like concoction in his garage, that all of the universities, burn centers and research facilities in the rest of the world have failed to figure out!?!?  I think that what he was best at was convincing his patients that his care was better than a hospital with a burn unit.  They slather a mayonnaise-like cream on a cotton roll and then put it over the burn. 

This is dressing change is at least better than not changing the dressing, which had been the option for the 6 days prior to us seeing Shakib on Monday.  His dressings were soiled and smelled like he had an infection. 

After we left the “burn doctor’s” garage on Tuesday, we tried to convince Shakib’s mother that they should come with us to Wentz Medical Center for burn care and physical therapy.  It is possible that his burns would heal, with his current therapy, but right now, he is unable to bend his knees or use his left hand.  So if he heals in his current condition, he will likely never walk.  I don’t have a medical education, but I have seen Mulago, I have seen Wentz, and I have seen the “burn doctor’s garage”.  I have some wisdom in this case and I think I can see ok, decent and better.  This young mother, however, refused to do anything but stay at Mukono for burn care.  Jay tried to pull the doctor card, going on and on (not really, I’m just paying him back for some of the grief he gives me) about his education yada-yada, but she did not care what he said.  So I did it.  I pulled the pin on the nuclear hand grenade of guilt trips, the “mother card”.  I told her, through an interpreter, that as a mother, we should all want the best for our kids.  I explained that I have seen the hospitals and Wentz would be my choice.  She eventually relented and decided to come to Wentz with us, just needing to go by her home to tell her mother before leaving.  We drove to her home and zig-zagged down the hill between buildings and eventually reached her house.  As it turned out, her mother was not at home.  Shakib’s mother would not even think of leaving town without first talking it over and getting permission from her mother. 

We made a deal that we would drive back to Mukono on Wednesday to discuss Shakib’s care with his grandmother and then bring him back to Wentz.  We called back on Tuesday night to make sure that the grandmother would be available when we drove back on Wednesday.  We arrived at Mukono at 10:45 on Wednesday morning, and the grandmother was not there.  Shakib’s mother, Teddy, went to town to try to find her mother.  She came back about 12:15 and had not found her.  It seems that Shakib’s grandmother is the “boss” of the family.  She is the bread winner and pretty much makes the rules.  She had told Teddy that if she left to take Shakib to Kampala, not to come back!  So here is this young mother having to make a choice.  She has a monumental choice, with significant consequences with either answer.  Does she value her relationship with her mother and the need for financial help, or does she value what she now believes is in the best interest of her son?

I have a praise report and a big prayer request.  Shakib, Teddy and his sister, Sheila, have returned with us to Gaba! 

We truly believe that this gives him the best chance at healing and future mobility.  Teddy has gone out on a high limb.  Please pray that Shakib will be healed!  Please pray that his grandmother will understand why Teddy made the decision that she did and this relationship will be restored.

All of the Due Unto team watches this mother making, what we think is, a good decision.  She is using her beliefs and information that she has been given, to make a choice.  While at the same time, she is risking offending or even losing relationship with family.  Her mother and the “burn doctor” are giving advice that is contrary to current medical practice.  She is showing great courage in making this choice.  When I first met Teddy, I was frustrated with her for her previous poor (in my opinion) choice of leaving the burn unit.  Then I became even more frustrated that she did not come with us for care yesterday.  Now I find myself admiring her courage in making a life changing choice.  A choice, that could change the life of herself and her son.  I thought that I was going to have a chance to teach Teddy something about making good choices, but I find myself humbled by what she has taught me.  I should have been more patient with her before judging her previous choices.  I should have given her more grace in the path that she has taken so far.  She is bypassing the “OK” treatment of the local burn doctor.  She is making the “Better” choice of going to Wentz Medical Center for wound care and physical therapy.  Because this gives Shakib the “Best” chance at healing and function.  Join Teddy and I as we strive to make the “Best” choices.


Monday, May 28, 2012

Uganda, from a Nanny's perspective!

When Jay asked me about blogging about Uganda, from a Nanny's perspective, my first thought was...."I am no writer".  My second thought was...."I can do this"!

Our journey started long before last week, with emails from the kids, detailing their "Wish Lists".  You know, important things like skittles, tortilla chips, and "real cheese".

 (As a side note, another big thanks to our FBC family and friends for providing a big portion of that list!)  I started trying to figure out how to get the chips there without them being crushed and how to transport the canned biscuits for cinnamon rolls!  I tried 3 boxes before I found one that would hold 3 large bags of chips AND still fit into the trunk.  I also experimented with the biscuits, by putting the can in a ziplock, freezing them, and then letting them sit out on the counter, for the length of time that we would be traveling.  Well, that worked.  Now if they just don't explode on the plane!  I had a back up plan for cinnamon rolls.  I made 8 cans of biscuits worth of cinnamon rolls, froze them, and put them in extra large ziplocks to transport in the trunk also.

Grampy spent days making lists and checking them twice, to be sure that Jana, her family, and Jack could handle the vending business while we are gone.  A quote from our favorite daughter, "Mom, we've got this"!  Thanks kids!

I think that I went to Walmart everyday, last week, to get something that the kids added.  I even made a trip on Friday morning at 8:30, when we were supposed to leave at 9:00!

We finally headed to Dallas where we unloaded 2 big suitcases, 2 large trunks, and 2 carry-ons, then settled in for our 21 hour flight.  I had really dreaded the flight, not because I don't like to fly, but because after sitting anywhere for a couple of hours, I'm done!  We slept a little on the first 9 hour flight.  We also had some fantastic KLM food (not) and watched a movie.  After a 3 hour layover in Amsterdam, we started the last 9 hour leg.  More great food and a couple of movies later, we were in Uganda.  We got our temporary visas and all our bags.  We were met at the door by the best sight we had seen in a while!  After delivering all the hugs that were sent by family and friends, we drove to Kampala, arriving at their apartment about 1:30am.  We unloaded all of the goodies and the kids said it was "like Christmas, only better"!  The chips were fine and so were the biscuits.

After a short night, we walked to church for the 8am service at Gaba Community Church.  Grampy said that he should have jumped around on the stage like their worship leader!  On second thought, he might have given some old ladies heart attacks!  After church, we walked back to the apartment to change clothes, then headed to Jinja.  There was some talk of bungee jumping, but DARN the luck, it rained on us most of the way there, so that was out!  Instead, we ate pizza, sitting outside, in Jinja.  Later, we picked up a friend of Pastor Henry, Daniel, and he was our guide to Intanda Falls, on the the Nile River.  It was a beautiful spot with really big white water rapids. 

We left there and drove to Katie Davis' house (Kisses from Katie) for dinner.  We enjoyed meeting Katie and her girls.  By the time we got home to Gaba, it was 10:30pm. 

It was another short night, since my "inner Due" kicked in.  (See Jay's previous blog regarding his "inner Due")  I was awake at 3am and finally got up at 4am.  I took my shower and got ready for the day.  Thanks for all of the Facebook friends that kept my updated on the Thunder game, before everyone else here got up.  We spent the day at a school in Mukono, doing health screenings on their students and some others from the community.  We saw about 130 children today and we will go back there tomorrow. 

Wednesday and Thursday are clinic days too.  We are looking forward to working alongside Jay and the Due Unto team, for the next few days.  The week will be over too soon and we will head home on Friday night.  It has been an eye opening experience and one we are thrilled to have had.


Thursday, May 24, 2012

Who God uses: The David Story

On Monday and Tuesday of this week, we participated in a community outreach clinic in Rushere, Uganda.  Rushere is in SW Uganda, and is slightly up in the mountains.  It is a very small town, about a 40 minute drive off of the paved road.  Since it is so small, the options for accommodations were limited.  Our team of 11 had 8 rooms.  Only two rooms were doubles, the rest were singles.  Madison and Savannah shared a single room.  This had a bed that is sized somewhere between a single and a double in the US, but definitely small.  Jake and Jared had a double and Jill and Jayne shared a double.  The rest of us had single rooms.  In our immediate family, I was the only room with a sink in the bathroom.  The guest house was built in a square, and the small “court yard” was a local drinking hangout that usually had lively discussions until about 1-2am.  We arrived on Sunday evening and were supposed to check out on Wednesday am to head home.  We decided, as a team, that we would rather drive back late on Tuesday night than to spend an extra night there.  We arrived home around 12:15 am, and had cookies, chips, and g-nuts, for dinner, on the ride home.

If you missed the previous blog about Rushere, please read it before you continue with this one.  As promised in the other Rushere blog, I met a new friend named David.  The team from River Point Church in Sugar Land, Tx had seen David while visiting homes in the Rushere area on Sunday.  They had invited his mother to bring him to the clinic on Monday. 

David is 9 months old, and his mom brought him to the clinic on Monday to be seen.  He had been sick for several days and did not look well when he arrived.  Jill attentively noticed his ill appearance and brought him to my station, cutting to the front of the line.  David had a noticeable fever, he appeared dehydrated, his lungs sounded “junky” (like pneumonia) and he appeared anemic.  I am still mastering the art of reading anemia in African kids, but I had John, one of the local doctors, confirm my suspicion.  John agreed that David definitely needed to be admitted to the hospital, and probably needed a blood transfusion.  Dr. John sent a nurse with our teammate David, little David, and his mother to the hospital.  Our David paid his “entry fee”, our nurse explained the situation and the plan was for little David to be admitted to Dr. John.  This hospital drop off occurred between 1pm and 2pm.  When we completed our clinic and got back to town, we went to check on David.  This was about 6:30-7:00pm.  The nurses on duty really did not know where David was or what had happened to him.  The log book just said his name and that he was given paracetamol (like Tylenol) and was told to come back on Saturday.  This was a 9 month old that had set off my “sick kid radar” and was a slam dunk admission.  I was concerned that he would not have lived if he had not come to the clinic that day.  I asked if a malaria test was done, and no one knew.  The lab tech was gone for the day.  I asked if we could see if they paid for a lab test or x-ray, but the accounts person was gone for the day too.  I asked if David had been seen by a doctor, but the only record of him being here was the log book that said the he was given paracetamol and sent to the EID (early infant diagnosis) ward for HIV testing.  This was not even true, because we had given him the paracetamol bottle, before he left the clinic.  I did find out that David had been seen by a clinical officer.  This guy was not there any longer, but at my insistence he was called.   Jill, the Kids, and the Donicas are my witnesses that the vein on the side of my head was standing out so far that I could barely hold the phone to my ear.  This young man seemed to be unsure of what happened either, until I jumped squarely in the middle of him.  I asked him if he had done a physical exam.  His answer of “yes” was followed quickly by the question of why he could not tell that this kid was urgently sick.  He suddenly remembered that he had done a malaria test and that it was “negative”.  He planned on admitting the child for pneumonia, but sent him to EID to test for HIV and then the mom was supposed to bring him back.  He guessed the mom had decided to go home.  So after asking the question 5 times, with emphasis, to make sure he understood the question, he agreed with me that it did not matter if David was HIV + or -, he still needed urgent treatment, and because he sent him across the hospital campus for this test (which comes back in 3 weeks) this boy was at home and could be dead.  In a classic understatement, he said “I should come up there”.  I asked, again with vein on my head popping emphasis, “who is your boss”?  After much persistence he finally told me.  The nurse thought it would be a good idea to talk with Dr. John.  She had just seen him walk by and I thought that was a great idea, as we had worked with him all day and he agreed with me that this kid was desperately ill.  I talked with John on the phone, and in about 2 minutes he was standing in the outpatient area with me.  I told him as much of the scenario as I knew.  He got in the lab and found out that the malaria test was positive and the clinical officer had not checked a blood count to evaluate the anemia.  After John, in a calmer voice than I had used, reminded the clinical officer of his “ball dropping”, Dr. John said one of the biggest understatements of all time.  He looked the clinical officer right in the eye and said “so, next time you should probably do better”.  I kid you not!

We were still fearful for David’s life.  His mom was told to follow up in 5 days?  We had to find him and bring him back.  We could still freshly remember the girl in Kachungwa that we sent to the hospital that died before we could get there to check on her.  We have seen how malaria + pneumonia+ young age + anemia = bad outcome.  The power went out in Rushere about the same time that all of this was going on.  I was really tired from the day’s clinic, and it seemed overwhelming to try to find David in the dark.  I was tempted to say that we had done all that we could do, and if something bad happened it would be on the clinical officer’s conscience.  BUT the kids, especially Jake, would not hear of it!  We were going to find David before we had dinner or slept!  So Dr. John and a nurse, that knew the area where David lives, jumped in the van with us and we headed out to find David.  It was 8:30pm and REALLY dark in Rushere.  We drove as far as we could on the road, then Dr. John and the nurse went back into the village with flashlights, and some time later, they emerged with David and his mother.  This prompted me to say “Ameena”, in my best Ugandan accent.

We took David and Dr. John back to the hospital for his admission.  David still looked sick but was not any worse than when I had seen him early in the day.  We left to have a late dinner and get some sleep before our clinic on Tuesday morning.

This story doesn’t end here.  On Tuesday morning, Jill made a trip from our clinic to the Rushere Hospital to take Juliet for admission.  While she was there, Jill was going to check on David.  The hospital staff informed her that over the last couple of hours, they had not been able to find David, and they wondered if his mother had taken him home.  OMGoodness!  When Jill came back and told me this information, I could not believe it.  Was his mother that crazy?  Was the hospital that inept?  While those two questions were jousting in my mind, David’s mother showed up at our clinic, carrying David.  It turns out, that after we took David back to the hospital the night before, the nurses tried several times to get an IV, but were unsuccessful.  David had been receiving his malaria medicines and antibiotics by intramuscular injections.  His mother walked all the way from town, out to our rural clinic, to seek out more care for David!  My first thought was “Jennifer”.  We were blessed to have a NICU nurse, Jennifer, working with us from the Sugar Land, Tx team.  She starts IVs on kids the size of a soda can, surely she could whip one into David.  David was definitely dehydrated, which made IV starts difficult. 

Jennifer was initially unable to get an IV, so we decided to try to rehydrate David.  Jared and Jayne took turns giving David ORS (oral rehydrating solution) by the dropper full.


They did this for about 5 hours.  Occasionally we would try, unsuccessfully to get an IV.  We probably stuck David 10 times, including me trying to get an external jugular IV.  After all of this rehydration and IV attempting, I looked at David’s eyelid again.  He seemed much less anemic than he had earlier in the day.  I talked it over with Dr. John, and it was decided that since he looked better, we would take David back to the hospital for continued IM injections.  I got word on Thursday morning that David was doing better and was allowed to go home with medicines to take by mouth!
Sugar Land Texas team

As I have thought about this whole scenario, surrounding David’s care, I am convinced that God is trying to teach me 2 things.

1.)    He likes to use people that you might not suspect to accomplish his purposes.  I truly believe that David is alive because our team joined the Sugar Land team in Rushere this week.  But it was not the Board Certified Emergency Medicine doctor or the highly experienced and trained NICU nurse from the Houston area that saved David.  It was a team of mostly non-medical Texans that walked door to door inviting people to the clinic.  It was a caring Mzungu lady that noticed him looking ill, among the hundreds of other people there, and her bringing him to the front of the line.  It was the insistence of a 16 year old young man, with a heart the size of Lake Victoria, that refused to let “give up” be an option.  It was an 11 year old girl and a 12 year old boy that were persistent for hours on end that ultimately made the difference.  I have no doubt that if I trotted 100 kids in front of Nurse Jennifer, she’d get an IV in 99 of them.  I think God let Jennifer and I struggle that day to teach us who the Healer is.

2.)    As much as we pursued David on Monday night and his mother pursued us on Tuesday morning, God pursues us even more!  Even though it seemed that David’s mother didn’t want our “rescue”, we pursued her.  Even though we don’t deserve any grace from God, He pursues us, trying to woo us into a relationship with him.  He tracks us past where the road ends.  He hunts us down in the dark back alleys.  He wants to give us a ride back to a place where healing occurs.

Thank you to the heroes on my Due Unto Others team.  You continue to make a difference.  Thank you to Jennifer for your persistence and patience in caring for David.  Thank you to Dr. John for caring for David in the hospital.  Thank you to the Sugar Land team for making home visits to invite David to the clinic.  Thank you to the Holy Spirit for tapping me on the shoulder and teaching me the Truth!


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Back from Rushere

We have been busy doing a community clinic in Rushere for the past 3 months……wait a minute, it was only two days.  I am just exhausted, so it seemed longer.  We are on our way home now in the “Redneck Ministry Machine”.  It was formerly called the “Ministry Machine”, but since we had 11 team members for this trip and only 10 seats, we purchased another seat.  This is not just any chair, it is a white plastic lawn chair.  It is placed in between the two seats on the 3rd row.  I have the pleasure of sitting in the redneck chair while typing this blog.
The Ministry Machine!
Redneck Chair addition

 We joined a team from Sugar Land, Tx, as they have an ongoing relationship with the Rushere Community Church there.  Rushere is about 40 minutes off of the paved road, and to get to the church, we had to drive through a pasture for a mile or so.  The church building had about 2/3 of the roof covered with sheet metal, no sides and dirt floors. 

Jayne with Eddie in front of the church.  Both are ready for the NBA Western Conference Finals!

The church set up a tent for patient waiting. 

We saw 200 patients on Monday and 340 today. 

Like many of the rural community clinics that we have done, we saw many people that were especially sick.

 I saw a 2 year old girl, named Mercy, that was small for her age.  She was very fearful of Mzungus and kept her head hidden from me and would start to scream anytime that I touched her.  She caught my eye, because she had clubbing of her fingertips.  This is usually seen in people with chronically low oxygen levels.  I suspected that she would have a heart problem, but I could not hear a murmur, at least not through the screaming.  Her mother said that she had a low appetite and seemed to prefer to eat soil over food.  This is called “pica” and is sometimes seen with iron deficiency.  So there is a possibility that the clubbing could be related to a severe anemia.  Since this was a chronic problem, we wrote a referral and advised that she go to the hospital for more testing.  His mom did follow through on this and came back to the clinic today with an x-ray.  This showed a severely enlarged heart and some fluid on her lungs.  Dr. John (one of the local doctors in Rushere) said that even after Mercy was quiet in the hospital, he could not hear any murmurs.  Dr. John will continue this work up.  If Mercy requires a service in Kampala, he will contact me and transfer her to our care there.

Joseph saw a lady named Juliet.  She is 30 years old and was quite ill with what we are convinced will be malaria.  She has been sick for several days and unable to eat the last few days.  David and Jill delivered Juliet to the hospital this morning in the “Redneck Ministry Machine/ambulance”.  When Jill returned, to the hospital, this afternoon, Juliet was still there, but had not even had a malaria test yet.  This was icing on our frustration cake that we consumed yesterday (more on this in a minute).  She is usually healthy, and provided she receives appropriate care, she should improve.  We used some Due Unto Others funds to pay for her hospitalization and treatment.

Joseph saw another patient today named Fenix. 
Fenix with his mother and Pastor Gerald

He is 3 months old and quite skinny.  Mom states that he has decreased appetite.  He looks severely malnourished, but the reason is not clear.  Mom is breast feeding, but we also saw her feeding the baby from a sippy cup.  This was filled with cow’s milk.  I think that this could be contributing to the malnourishment.  Working with the Sugar Land team, a local Dr. (Abdul), and the local pastor, we will send Fenix to Mbarrara next week to have an evaluation by a pediatrician to work up the cause of his problem.

I saw a 10 year old boy named Nathan. 

He limped up to my station with his left leg very swollen from the knee down.  It had several areas that pus was draining from the shin.  This problem had started 10 months ago, and had not improved.  Jill, David, Jared and Jayne took him on another run to the hospital.  They were joined by Jennifer, a NICU nurse that was in Rushere with the Sugar Land team.  Nathan had an x-ray that showed that the infection involved the bone (osteomyelitis). 

He will require a surgery to clean out the leg, and months of IV antibiotics.  This would be difficult to heal in the US, but short of supernatural healing, will likely end up with an amputation here.  Dr. John will be looking after him and referring him, as needed.  We again used Due Unto Others funds to pay for his hospitalization, procedures and medications.

Dr. Abdul saw a boy named Kenneth.  He is 8 years old but looks like he is about 4.  He has a low appetite and does not like to run and play with other children.  He gets short of breath with most any activity.  He has a heart murmur bad enough that you can feel it on his chest and hear it with your stethoscope just near him.  He likely has a septal defect, in his heart, that needs further evaluation and possible heart surgery.  Dr. Abdul has arranged for a nurse to travel with Kenneth and his mother to Mbarrara on Thursday to have an echocardiogram and EKG done.  He will then see a cardiologist in a private clinic there.  Dr. Abdul will follow up Kenneth, in his office, to get those results and see what needs to happen next.  The Sugar Land team will be paying his expenses for this evaluation and his initial medicines.  If he needs open heart surgery, it would surely be at Mulago, our new home away from home.

It is stressful and tiring to see so many community members with health problems.  Many of them we can help with our simple medicines that we carry.  Others are VERY ill and have been so for years.  They have not had care because they have been unable to navigate or afford the healthcare system in Uganda.  Even though we fatigue, we have to stay vigilant to not miss the “sick one” that could die without intervention.  Many lives were touched during this 2 day outreach.  People made professions of faith, people were made well with medication, prayers were answered, and the local church was strengthened in the community.  I pray that all of these things brought glory to Christ.

Even sicker than any of these mentioned in the blog, is my new friend David.  He is 9 months old and has severe malaria and pneumonia.  His story is complicated and taught me about God’s love and pursuit of us.  This interaction is what gave us the frustration that I referred to earlier.  I will tell about him in my next blog!

Please pray for the community of Rushere.  Please pray for Rushere Community Church.  Please pray for all 540 patients that we saw there, but especially pray for those named in this blog.  They need supernatural intervention!

Your support, in so many ways, allowed us to be in Rushere this week.  Your financial support has allowed us and is allowing us to make a difference with these very sick people.  They will see a demonstration of God’s love through the ability to get needed healthcare.

From the Redneck Ministry Machine,


Monday, May 21, 2012

Hold on to your joy!

We have been busy, here in Uganda.  Over the past month, we have been on the road, taking medical care to rural Uganda, far more than we have been at our apartment in Kampala.  Because of this frantic pace, we welcomed a couple of days off this past week.  We’ve shown the Donica girls around Kampala, we have gone to the craft market, and we have visited with our friends from Ardmore that are in town with Watoto.  Another group, from Henderson Hills Church in Edmond, arrived on Friday night at the airport.  Another friend, from Jinja, was supposed to be on the same flight.  Since we were off the next day, we decided to load up and make the 1 hour drive to Entebbe to greet them at the airport.  On this current mission, we have made 2 trips to the airport, both in the past week.  David has taken us the two previous times.  This time, Jay felt like he could drive us there and back, so we would not have to bother David.  David knows many short cuts around Uganda.  He has taken us to the airport using some back roads to cover the first half of the trip.  Jay, not wanting to get us lost, decided to take the main highway, all the way from Kampala to Entebbe.  This stretch of road, is cleverly named, “Entebbe Road”.

We needed to arrive, at the airport, at 10:15 pm.  So we left Kampala at 9:00, thinking that would give us plenty of time to not miss our friends.  Even at 9:00pm, there was a traffic jam on Entebbe Road, before we could get out of Kampala.  We were stuck in traffic, not moving at all, because of the obstacles (other vehicles) in our path.  I was “driving” the stereo.  Our van has a 1994, Toyota cassette, AM/FM system, but only speakers in the front.  So we play songs with an iPhone, that is connected to an external speaker.  I was playing a great selection of praise and worship, country & western, and some “classics” like “My Ding-a-ling”.  It was dark outside, and my iPhone was lighting up the inside of the van.  We had our windows down, as usual.  All of a sudden, a would-be thief quickly approached the van and reached through our window, trying to take my phone.  Luckily, I was holding the phone with both hands, as I was looking for the next song that I was going to play.  As he reached in, I screamed and leaned away from the side he was reaching through.  Jay and Savannah, both seated in the front, thought I was screaming because a bug came in the car.  As Jay turned around, he saw the white shirt of the man as he was pulling his arm out of the window and running up the hill.  As the guy let go of the phone, my phone came up and hit me in the chin.  I bruised there and on my leg where I kicked the chair, flexing to preserve my property.  We did a quick inventory, noting that nothing (and nobody) was lost.  We closed all of the windows, locked the doors, and turned on the air conditioner.  The thief came back down the hill and stood about 20 feet from the van.  We thought of many things we could try to do for revenge.  None of them were nice or practical.  The traffic started to move, a little bit at a time.  This man, and a friend, walked, almost next to our van, for about ¼ mile.  At one time, he waived and mocked us.

As we thought through this scenario, we came to the conclusion that this ended about as well as it could have.  No one was seriously hurt and no property was lost.  If he had snatched my phone, there is no way that we could have retrieved it.  If the thief had stayed with his arm in the van much longer, one of us could have been hurt, or we might have grabbed his arm and a physical conflict might have ensued.  We were stuck in bumper to bumper traffic that was stopped.  We had nowhere to go.

This little “lesson” got me to thinking.  I will tell you what I was thinking, at the risk of you thinking that I equate my iPhone with “joy”.  I started thinking of how this scenario looks a lot like the enemy coming to try to steal our joy.  He waits for a time when we are distracted, even by things that are good, like Christian music.  He waits for times when our defenses (like our windows) are down.  Even more than that, I think that Satan waits for times that we are idle, blocked in or frustrated by obstacles, to try to steal our joy.  If we had been moving towards our destination, the thief would not have been able to attempt the heist.  By the same token, if we are moving forward in our walk with Christ, the enemy has a much more difficult task attacking us.

Joy is precious.  I encourage you to keep your windows up, keep your doors locked, and keep moving forward in your walk with Christ.  Keep a two handed grip on your joy and fight back when the devil tries to steal it!

Thanks for your prayers and support!


Thursday, May 17, 2012

Mud in Your Eyes ministries?

God has given me a "VISION" of a needed ministry in Uganda. 

John 9:3-9 says: 
3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4 As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. 5 While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

6 After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. 7 “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.

Any time that we go out and host a community clinic, we see multiple older Ugandans with the primary complaint of decreased vision.  Using the instruments that we have with us, I am only able to do a minimal ophthalmologic exam.  It is evident, however, that many of the people have growing cataracts as their primary problem.  Cataracts are a problem where the lens in the eye develops clouding and lack of flexibility that contributes to decreased vision or possibly blindness. 

There are several things that contribute to cataract formation.  The first of these is age, and this survival to an older age is a blessing to many Ugandans.  Another thing that contributes to cataract formation is sunlight exposure.  Uganda sits right on the equator, and very few people have or wear sunglasses.

Cataracts are very common in the USA also.  Most of them happen to people that are in their 60's or older.  A very large majority of these patients, in the US, have Medicare insurance and can have the cataract removed, using state of the art equipment, operated by experienced surgeons.  Uganda has eye surgeons and hospitals that do cataract surgery too.  Access to these services can be very limited if one does not have financial resources.  I am not sure of the waiting time to have a cataract removed at a government hospital, but I would have to assume that it would take persistence and much time to get through the system.

Can you imagine what a difference regaining sight could make in someone's life?  Can you imagine how you might feel God's love if you were diagnosed and helped through a network of care to help you regain your sight?  Sounds like Amazing Grace! 

This is how I could SEE this working.  First of all, we identify the equipment and instruments needed to perform cataract surgery.  We then trust our God to provide the resources to assemble the needed supplies, in Uganda.  Local members of the Mud in Your Eyes team, work with health clinics, all over the country, to identify people in need of cataract surgery.  The exact diagnosis is confirmed by a local optometrist.  I work with physicians in the US to coordinate volunteer ophthalmologists that could come to Uganda for 1 week to several weeks to perform cataract surgeries.  These would already be scheduled, coordinated, diagnosed and ready to go for their expert surgical skills.  I don't see any reason that we could not see and treat 1,000 people per year.

I wanted to share this VISION with all of our supporters for several reasons.

1.) I would like your prayer in this potential ministry moving forward.
2.) I would like any leads on eye doctors that might be interested in donating some time in Uganda.
3.) I need to find and purchase/have donated the equipment to perform cataract surgeries.
4.) I wanted to have accountability from others to see this move forward.

Please let me know if you have leads for me or if you are interested in helping me develop Mud in Your Eyes Ministries.


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Tendo in the ICU!

We went by Mulago to visit Tendo this afternoon after finishing our clinic in Musanafu.  Tendo had her surgery yesterday to repair her left diaphragm.  This diaphragm had ruptured after she was run over by a car almost 2 years ago.  She has gradually developed more and more problems, due to her intestines and stomach being up in the left side of her chest. 

We were told that her surgery yesterday was a “success”.  I had a chance to talk with Dr. Tom, Tendo’s doctor, today.  It turns out that Tendo has Dextrocardia.  This is a condition that about 1 in 1,000 people have, where the heart is oriented to the right side of the chest and not to the left, as normal.  We knew that her heart was more to the right on her chest x-ray, but we thought that this was related to the hernia, pushing things to the wrong side.  This “surprise” complicated the surgery a little.  Dr. Tom also discovered that the hernia extended to the right side as well.  He was able to repair everything, but the change in operative procedure necessitated a larger incision.  The work on the right side ended up causing a pneumothorax (collapsed lung) on the right side, to go with the one that the surgery caused on the left side.  So now she has chest tubes on both sides and remains in the ICU.  Please continue to pray for her and her recovery.  This surgery was “elective”, but if she had not undergone the operation, she would have had gradually declining health over the next few years, and likely would have died.  It is just tough to see the girl that was dancing last week, laying in an ICU bed with chest tubes coming out of both sides of her chest.

We visited Raymond and Musunyi in Wentz Medical Center today.  They are the two boys that we brought back with us from Musanafu yesterday.  They are better than yesterday, but not ready to go home.  Musunyi has malaria and his hemoglobin (blood count) is around 9, and normal is above 12.  Raymond has pneumonia.  He has taken a special liking to Jill and lights up when she comes into the room.

God continues to put people in our paths that need something special, sometimes even small things.  We met a young girl, named Sarah, today.  She is 13 years old and has not started school yet this term, because she did not have the notebooks that she needed.  These add up to a grand total of 8,000 shillings. 

The pastor of the church that we were working in, says that she is very active in the youth group, youth choir, and is responsible to take care of things around the church.  We gave her this $3+, and took the opportunity to pray with her about her school year and walk with Christ.  Thank you for supporting us in so many ways, so that we can be in Uganda and find kids like Sarah, that need to see God’s love.

Until next time,


Monday, May 14, 2012

Tendo's Surgery

So, I have a few things to catch you up on with our special friends in Uganda.

First of all, let us talk about my buddy Joseph.  We got some discouraging news when I got to visit with the oncologist on Friday.  It turns out that the tumor is not a Burkitt’s Lyphoma, as originally thought.   Instead, it is a rhabdo-myosarcoma.  The bad news about this is that it is not as responsive to chemotherapy.  The tumor is too extensive to resect surgically.  I have found oncologists (cancer doctors) to be incredibly optimistic, almost to a fault.  The oncologist says that 50-60% of tumors like this “respond well” to chemotherapy.  I was also told, however, that they don’t respond as well as Burkitt’s lymphomas, which have a 20% cure rate.  So what I know is this.  Joseph will either be 100% healed or he won’t.  I am confident that our God is healer enough to make that happen.  So please join me in petitioning Him for this healing. 

The good news with Joseph is that the “general pharmacy” had the chemo medicines that he requires.  This is good because he will get them for free.  The other exciting news is that he was released from Mulago to go home yesterday.  He had received 4 consecutive days of chemo and will now get to “rest” until May 30th, when he will return for a CBC and if his blood count is OK, he will get the 2nd of his 6 rounds of chemo.   Please pray also for Ellya, Joseph’s father, as we are not sure that he knows Jesus. 

The update on Tendo is that her surgery was postponed on Friday.  Either there was too much pressure on the limited OR space, or she was bumped for an emergency, but she was rescheduled for today.  She has now been in the hospital for 5 days, awaiting this procedure.  She continues to be in good spirits.  Jayne has given her one of the dolls that she and her friends made, before we left.  This particular doll was sewn with love by Madelyn Girod. 

 I got late word, before I posted this, that Tendo was out of surgery and it was deemed “a success”!  Thank you for your prayers and please continue to pray for her recovery.

Our friends, Madison & Savannah Donica arrived this weekend.  They will be helping us with our clinics this week.  We are working in Musanafu this week.  Today we saw 175 kids in a clinic open to the community.  We ended up transporting 2 of them to Wentz for admission.  They were both sick with fever, dehydration and possibly malaria.  Raymond also had pneumonia.  Please keep Raymond and Musunyi in your prayers also.

This is another great week in Uganda!


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Starfish updates

Before I start my updates, if you have not seen the blog from yesterday, or seen the video, please check this out.  My interaction with Isaac has been my most fun interaction, with a child, since we have been in Uganda.

We took Tendo to the hospital at Mulago on Wednesday.  We got her checked in and most of her surgery and hospitalization paid for.  We will finish the balance when she is discharged.  Thank you again to all of the Due Unto supporters that chipped in to cover this life changing surgery for her.  She is in good spirits and even took the time to teach Jayne “how to dance”.  See these videos.
Her mother and her maternal aunt came with us to Mulago.  They had brought so many provisions, that it took all of us to carry them.  She is scheduled for surgery on Friday morning.

While we were getting Tendo checked in, we ran into Joseph, and his father Ellya, in the heart institute waiting room.  Joseph is the young boy that we picked up in Mytiana and has been diagnosed with Burkitt’s lymphoma of his face and sinuses.  He is getting worked up by the cancer institute to make sure he is a candidate for chemotherapy.  He got an ECG and echocardiogram while we were there.  If he qualifies for chemo, he will have 20% chance of survival.  As I have said before, for Joseph, it will be either 0% cure rate or 100% cure rate.  We are circling that prayer wagons to petition our God for the 100% cure.  Please join us.  We are also praying that this miraculous healing will show his father towards Christ.

As we picked up Tendo in Konge this morning, we stopped in to check on Nakiganda also.  She is now in the school.  One of the teachers goes and picks her up each morning and takes her to the school.  She is now being academically stimulated and getting a nutritious breakfast and lunch each day.  She was looking beautiful with her blue dress on today. 

 She lit up when we walked in, but then went back to eating.  We are currently working with the diagnosis of chronic malnutrition, but plan to do some blood work in the weeks to come.

Jamil, the young boy with the large eye tumor, has been released from Mulago and is back home in Palissa.  He has connected with the health center there, and they are changing his dressings each day.  He continues to see some light and shape from his right eye, and this should be “impossible” as his optic nerve was removed.  He is doing well, and I continue to get updates about him from Fred.  We will get a chance to see him again when we go through Palissa in mid-June.  Fred told me that when he took Jamil to his home in Palissa, he noted a conspicuous absence of a bed, bedding or mosquito net for Jamil.  Needless to say, the Due Unto team is making this happen for one of our favorite young men in Uganda.  Keep praying for his sight to be miraculously restored as a witness to God’s power!
I will update you on Tendo's surgery when we have more information.

Thanks for your continued prayer and support.


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

When Losing is a GOoD thing!

I had mentioned my new friend Isaac in a previous blog.  He is an 11 year old boy that we met in Kitgum a couple of weeks ago.  He caught my eye because he was looking “pimp” in his lime green pinstriped suit coat, shorts and football (soccer) cleats.  Isaac has HIV and has had the disease since birth.  He is taking antiretroviral (ARV) medications and daily antibiotics to prevent infections.  This tells me that he is likely fairly progressed in his disease, as the Ugandan doctors usually don’t start ARVs until the patient has a CD4 count less than 250.  His grandmother had brought him to the clinic for a skin rash and a fungal nail infection.  With his grandmother bringing him, I would assume that his mother is very ill or already dead from HIV.  At 11 years old, Isaac would be pushing the envelope for life expectancy for a kid born with HIV in Uganda.  A few weeks back, we HIV tested some 150 secondary school kids (ages 13-18) and none of them had HIV.  This made me think that these secondary school students were at a “between age”.  By that I mean that they are at an age that they are too old to be alive if they were born with HIV, and too young (in theory) to participate in behaviors that would cause them to contract HIV for themselves.

Seeing and talking to Isaac, I just felt that God wanted me to do something that would make Isaac feel special and feel God’s love.  Looking down at his football cleats, I asked him if he played football.  He raised his eyebrows, which means yes, almost like a nod.  I asked him if he was good at football, again the eyebrows elevated.  I asked him if he had a football, and he looked down and shook his head no.  I then asked him a question that I already knew the answer to, “do you think you could beat me in football”?  He smiled an impish grin and raised his eyebrows again.  So I asked him if he could return the following day to take me on, one on one, in a game of football.  He agreed.  I told him that if he did not show up, I was going to send some big strong guys to pick him up.  He again agreed to be there.

So the plan was formed.  David and some of our family ran to the pharmacy that afternoon to get some medications that we had run out of.  While in town, they picked up a really nice soccer ball that is a replica of the ball used in the World Cup, recently hosted here.  They went to a filling station to air up the ball and several of the kids and guys at the station tried to talk them out of the ball.  It was really cool, but only cost $14 USD.  I discussed it with Kent, to make sure that he did not think it was too distracting, and then I talked with the team the next morning at team meeting.  We would shut down the clinic for a few minutes and draw everyone’s attention to the football game in the middle of the compound.  We wanted to make it like a melodrama, where Isaac was the good guy, and I was the bad guy.  Some of the team made paper signs cheering for Isaac.  We just wanted to make it a big deal and give him a day in the sun.

It got to be about 2:00pm and I had not seen Isaac yet, so I started to get worried that he was not going to show up.  I started to ask kids that were about his age if they knew him.  No one seemed to know him.  I was about to put a 5,000 shilling ($2) bounty on his head and have the older kids go try to find him, but then he showed up.  He was by himself, wearing flip flops, not cleats.  We fed him some rice and beans and let him wait a few minutes until I was able to take a break.  Please click on the link below to see how Losing can be a GOoD thing.

The people that were waiting did not seem to mind the extra delay.  They enjoyed the game and they enjoyed making a kid be a hero against the mean grey haired muzungu!  At the end of the video, you can see me lean over and ask Isaac a question.  I asked him if he knew that Jesus loves him.  He did more than raise his eyebrows, he shook his head, and said “Yes”.  I feel that Isaac is a “starfish” that God has placed on our beach.  He has a disease with no cure.  He is taking all of the medications that he can to stay healthy.  I don’t know what the future holds for me, or for Isaac.  I am a little jealous, however, that he is likely to be playing football in heaven before I am.  I plan on seeing Isaac again, someday, in heaven.  Until then, I am going to be practicing.  I want the whole world to know, that the first time I see Isaac in heaven, I will be asking him for a rematch!!