Happenings

After returning to Kampala last Saturday (July 16th), we had a movie night in my room.  The evening started off eventful, as Lauren’s bed broke while a few people were sitting on it.  Several of them then moved to sit on the floor to watch.  About a quarter of the way into the movie, a large rat ran into the middle of our room!  Before I knew it, both Lauren and Katlyn had jumped onto my lap, and everyone from the floor had clawed their way onto the nearest bed.  We may have been tired before that, but the adrenaline rush helped boost our energy!  The rat ran back out soon afterward, but it made for an interesting night!

On Sunday we had the English service, I taught Sunday School, and then taught the youth Bible study.  After lunch, we began preparations for the medical camp.  We first unpacked all of the suitcases the medical team had brought with them, then sorted the medicines into alphabetical order and placed them on tables in the pharmacy.  Next, we measured out dosages of medications into thousands of little bags and labeled each with the name and dosage.  I primarily worked on Ibuprofen (which would be in high demand) with Mariah and Elissa.  Although repetitive, it was fun work and allowed ample opportunity to engage in conversation with the new team.  I had expected that the team would be composed of doctors and nurses, but in reality there was only one nurse (Sherry), and the rest were willing volunteers who have led the medical camp for years.  The doctors who came were all Ugandan physicians, as well as several Ugandan nurses.  Elissa and her father, David, came from America, and I learned that he had sponsored Wilson (the founder of EAC) throughout his school years.  They lost contact for 11 years, and then reunited when Wilson traveled to the U.S. in search of David and his wife.  Years later, the family continues to pour into EAC and Wilson.  There was also a minister, Rex, and his wife Kathy who helped in the medical camp when they weren’t serving in churches or planning their upcoming conference for Kampala pastors.  On Sunday evening, we said goodbye to Katlyn and Lauren.  I think they had more buckets of water poured on them than anyone else this summer!  We had grown so close the previous 2 months, and I was so sad to see them go.  My trip would not have been the same without them here!  Although I knew I would miss them terribly, I was somewhat comforted by the fact that I would see them again in a couple months for Lauren’s wedding.

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On Monday we had a meeting to receive our assignments for the camp, and I was placed in First Aid/Emergency as well as Spiritual Health.  We continued packaging medications for most of the day.  At around 11:00 PM, we finished packaging the medicine, organizing it all on the tables, and writing the names of each of the available medicines on the boards of each doctors’ room.  It was a long day, but it made me all the more excited for the medical camp.

On Tuesday we arose around 6 AM, set up each area of the medical camp, had an early breakfast and devotions, and dove right in!  By 8 AM we already had over 500 people waiting to be seen.  First Aid was placed alongside Triage, so throughout the morning I assisted with taking blood pressure, temperatures, and weights of patients.  However, I soon realized that it took a lot longer for the doctors to see each patient than it did for the triage team to finish with each.  The only “emergency” cases that were brought to me were patients who needed to see the doctors immediately, so all that was needed was to push them to the front of the line.  I began to assist in the pharmacy section when we had finished with the people waiting, and quickly came to the conclusion that I would be of much more use there.  I made the switch partway through the morning, and was so glad I did!  It involved, much like you would expect, taking each prescription and gathering the meds into a bowl with the paper, then handing the bowls to the translators, who would explain to each patient the dosage written on the bags.  Although the doctors were to stick to the pre-planned dosages for each age group that we had bagged, they often didn’t.  That meant a lot of making new bags for individuals, which was more time consuming.  Most patients had around four different medications prescribed to them, and on that first day I was still learning how to decipher the doctors’ handwriting (still bad, even in Uganda) and where all of the medications were placed on our tables.  All of the walking and standing was hard on everyone’s feet, so I was always somewhat relieved when I had to sit and fill more bags of a popular medication.  We took turns running to grab lunch or go on potty breaks, and the doctors generously decided to continue past our official closing time and see every single patient that was waiting.  We worked until after 8:00 PM, but found out at devotions that evening that the camp saw over 500 patients (not including kids from the school).  All in all, a wonderful start to the camp.

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Wednesday I jumped right back into pharmacy, where the prescriptions quickly piled up.  Whenever the pace would slow, I would walk around to the waiting areas before the doctors’ rooms and in triage.  There I would play with kids, talk in limited Luganda to adults, and pray over people as they sat and waited.  I enjoyed the opportunities to connect more to the patients, but those times seemed few and far between.  The quick-paced nature of pharmacy kept me busy, which was good, as it kept me from thinking about my aching feet or tired body.  I had been praying that God would sustain us all and keep us working even when our bodies didn’t want to, and He did!  Day 2 was wonderful–I had great conversations with the pharmacy team, and the process went much smoother for me once I knew where each of the medications were.  Fairly regularly, people would come to assist from other sections, like women’s health or the dentist, which was very helpful.  I was so excited to see Harriet and her family waiting to see the doctors!  I went and greeted them, but the growing pile of prescriptions called me back into the pharmacy, and I was unable to see them leave.  Once again, we saw every single patient and finished around 9:00 PM before dinner and devotions.

Thursday was the final day of the medical camp.  It went so smoothly!  There was a steady stream of patients, and we saw more than on either of the previous 2 days.  The pharmacy had begun to run out of medications, but for many there were alternatives available.  Rex taught us about the importance of maintaining proper posture while working long hours, and training your body to continue to do so naturally.  He had started a contest that morning during devotions to see who could give the most shoulder and back rubs during the day, which was an AWESOME idea!  It felt so good to loosen up throughout the day when working 12+ hours.  That evening we finished the quickest we had all week, and took a picture while there was still daylight.  We found out that we helped 1,820 people over the course of 3 days–a record at EAC!  It was one of the most exhausting, incredible, and rewarding experiences of my time here.  That night, we had a bonfire and enjoyed relaxing and bonding during devotions.  I tried some goat meat for the first time, which was surprisingly delicious!

On Friday morning, Mariah and I were charged with organizing and moving all the remaining medications in the pharmacy.  Although the task seemed daunting at first, we finished relatively quickly and then packed up and left for Kampala!

We had the whole day off on Saturday to recuperate from the long week, and we all enjoyed the much-needed rest.

On Sunday, we left to return home to Zirobwe early in the morning.  We didn’t have the English service, but I taught my normal Pastors’ class (5-6 year-olds) as well as the Sheep (babies-4 year-olds).  It was interesting trying to adapt the lesson, which was over Jesus and the little children, to make it understandable and applicable to the wider range of kids.  For the first time, Harriet and her family came to church, and Harriet came to Sunday School.  She is looking healthier already, probably largely due to the PediaSure she’s been drinking and whatever medicine the doctor prescribed.  After church, I taught the youth Bible study over John 5.  I had been praying for the class, as there usually wasn’t much participation in discussion, and I felt like it wasn’t having much impact.  But this week, almost everyone participated and asked questions!  Praise God!  We had some excellent discussion, and decided to pair everyone up with a partner to meet with at some point during the week to read through the next chapter and come up with questions.  I’m looking forward to seeing what God has in store!  On Sunday afternoon, we said goodbye to Caragh, which brought our team down to 3 for the remainder of the day.  It still surprises me how few of us are left, especially when I recall the craziness of having 40+ people around.

On Monday, we had personal ministry.  Mariah returned from safari, and we went on a walk in the afternoon–headed nowhere in particular.  We stopped at Ismael’s house, a 6-year-old boy I worked with when Brittany was here.  He has cerebral palsy, and although he was recently sponsored, he does not yet attend school (although he is very intelligent).  When we approached his house, his brothers had him seated at a desk and were helping him to write.  They had come up with a matching pictures game, and were guiding him to draw the lines connecting the identical pictures.  It was so heartwarming to see how much effort they put into helping him, and his beautiful smile when he got one right.  After a little while, we continued our walk to Mama Dorothy’s house, so that Mariah could see the kitchen we had built.  No one was home, but as we left to return to the compound, Mama Dorothy was headed home on the same path.  She gave us big hugs, then grabbed my hand and dragged/walked me back to her house.  We sat with her in her home for a while, but without a way to properly communicate to one another, there wasn’t much point in staying long.  I tried to ask if we could help her with various chores, but my bad miming didn’t help her understand any more than my English.  Eventually, I prayed for her and we left.

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Tuesday we went to visit Harriet and bring food for her family.  When we arrived, no one was around, so we sent a boy who lived nearby to go fetch the family.  We waited for about 40 minutes while amusing ourselves, and then Harriet and her father and sister arrived.  Harriet walked right up to each of us and greeted us, which she hasn’t done before.  We were told that the medicine the doctors prescribed her at the medical camp has ridden her of the heart pain she had been experiencing.  Her father also told us that Harriet was the reason the family went to church on Sunday–that she asks to go there every day, and prays for hours each night.  She apparently stays up after the rest of the family has gone to sleep to pray, even until midnight!  What an encouragement that was to hear.  They were happy to receive the food, and I got to see her laugh and smile for the first time after we prayed.  Our God is good!  Harriet’s physical journey to better health and deliverance from the spirits is a visual representation of how I see God’s work in the lives of all Christians.  He frees us from our bondage and begins to heal us from the inside out, drawing us closer to Him.  What a wonderful reminder Harriet is of God’s great transforming power.

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**Harriet’so family isn’t really into smiling in photos.

After walking back from Harriet’s home, we visited Mama Frank’s house.  I have heard so many great things about her, but haven’t had the opportunity to visit yet.  After just 5 minutes spent with Mama Frank and her sister, I could see why everyone loves them!  They are so joyful and loving, immediately making us all feel at home.  They showered us with hugs and kisses, and cut up a pineapple to share with us.  As we talked, I learned that joy must sound an awful lot like Mama Frank’s laugh–it was contagious!  She told us that everyone in the village calls her jaja, and doesn’t go past her house without saying hello.  Shortly after we arrived, Mama Frank’s daughter Viola joined us and was burning up with a fever.  Delaney and I took her back to the compound to get her medicine, water, and a cool rag for her head.  When she seemed a little more lively and upbeat, we returned and joined the others at Mama Frank’s house.  She showed us a photo album with pictures of her family, and we talked for a little while more before going back to the compound.

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On Wednesday, we went to jaja Sovario’s home.  He was the man I visited my first week in Uganda, when we prayed for his sick wife and helped him dig in the garden.  This time, we went to reinforce his kitchen, which was falling apart.  As on previous kitchens, we began by digging a pit of dirt, mixing mud, throwing it at the walls, and smoothing it out.  I was concerned about how hot it was when we set out for Sovario’s house, and prayed for shade and a breeze.  As small of a request as it was, God heard and provided!  There was a nice breeze, the kitchen was in the shade and the mud felt pleasantly cool.  When we finished, it was already almost time to return to Kampala.  We washed our feet and arms as best we could, packed and ate lunch, then piled into the taxi and headed out.

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Today is Natalie’s birthday, which began in EAC style at midnight, when Sandra and Christine poured water on her in bed.  What a way to start your birthday!  Mariah, Natalie, Delaney and I went to the craft market after lunch, but got caught in a downpour on the way back to the house.  Mariah and my boda driver stopped under a gas station overhang along with about 20 other drivers.  We ended up having a conversation with a security guard, and had the opportunity to share the Gospel while we waited in the rain.  It is so neat to see the strange situations that God uses for His glory!  Tonight, we went out to dinner at a Mexican restaurant to celebrate Natalie’s birthday, where I saw Kansas City barbecued steak on the menu.  What a strange experience it was to see a bit of home in a Mexican restaurant in Uganda!

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My last month here is already flying by so quickly!  Thank you to everyone who remembers me in their prayers–I greatly appreciate it.  As I face my last 2 weeks here, please pray that God would continue to use me and teach me.  After Monday, only Delaney and I will remain as MST’s, so pray that though we are few in number, we would continue to effectively minister to the community in Zirobwe.  Please also pray for my upcoming transition back to life in the States, and that God will multiply my time in the few days I have with family before moving back in to college.

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Bulungi (Good)

My last blog post left off on Thursday the 7th of July, so I’ll pick up on that Friday.  We returned to Zirobwe, unpacked, and then went to do community evangelism and a children’s program in a nearby village.  At first, it seemed almost like the last time we did community evangelism, in which we met someone, shared the Gospel, and moved on.  But my group (Natalie, Ian, Myla, Dominic, and myself) had a little meeting after the first 2 visits, and agreed that we wanted to be more intentional about building up a relationship with the people we visited.  Natalie shared something her pastor said once–that if he had an hour to share the Gospel with someone, he would spend the first 59 minutes getting to know them and asking them questions about themselves, and the last minute sharing the Word.  The next home we visited went much better, and I was glad to get to spend time with the 2 ladies we met there.  As we walked back to the center of the village, a group of men were sitting and talking to one another, so we went to go share with them.  After learning a little about each of their lives, another man approached us and immediately began firing off questions about what we believe and why.  We shared with him the Gospel and tried to answer his questions as best we could, but he wasn’t truly interested in learning about our faith–he more wanted to joke about anything said.  Almost as soon as he left, a young man came out of a nearby shop with his buddies and ran up laughing and yelling “I want to be saved! Save me!”  He and his friends were already wasted, and the group of men we had been getting to know thought the whole situation was hilarious.  By the time we left, the other groups had already finished the children’s program, and it was time to head back to the compound.  The entire experience was very discouraging and draining.  We each spent quite a bit of time that evening in prayer and meditation over all that had happened.

Saturday morning we went on home visits, and I went to see Jaja Sephoroza with Natalie, Katlyn, and Dominic.  She is a sweet woman, who has been through so much hardship.  Her husband died of an illness years ago, and she was left to care for their 2 grandchildren by herself.  She must walk with crutches, as a broken leg from years and years ago never healed properly.  Her house burned down last year, and her children are not around to help her or provide for her.  Despite all that and her current circumstances, she retained her hope in the Lord and the promise of a future with Him free of pain and suffering.  Jennifer left on Saturday to fly home, and I’m afraid we couldn’t blame the water dousing for our wet eyes.  It had been wonderful serving alongside her and seeing her beautiful heart the past 2 months.  I was sad to see her go, especially since she was with me throughout everything I had experienced here, but I know God has great plans for her in America.  We had a movie night that evening with all the remaining MST’s and staff and watched War Room, which is always an encouragement to my prayer life.

On Sunday we had church and Sunday School like normal, and I taught the youth Bible study after lunch.  We are going through the book of John a chapter at a time, so we read and discussed John 3 this week.  Sandra, who normally interprets for the group, was in a meeting, so I had to try and use simple English so that everyone could understand, even with limited knowledge of the language.  Several of the youth participated a lot, which was encouraging.  That afternoon, we lost many MST’s who returned to the States on Monday.  Gloria, Julia, Hannah, Ian, Kate, and Susan all left.  It was sad to say goodbye after getting to know some of them so well, but dousing them with buckets and buckets of water made it feel somewhat better.

Monday morning we did manual labor to prepare for the medical camp next week.  There will be huge tents throughout the yard, so we were clearing it with rakes and hoes.  Hannah found a baby snake at one point, and after it bit the glove I picked it up with, I dropped it and Lauren ran over and hacked it over and over with her hoe into little pieces.  You could say she isn’t a fan of snakes.  We found the shedded skin of the mother, which was about 3 feet long.  Glad she wasn’t around at the time!  The afternoon was free for the MST’s, so we spent it resting, spending time with God, and having fellowship with one another.

On Tuesday, we did a children’s program at the school for the kids in Babies and Middle class (3-4 year-olds).  We sang songs and worshiped, then split into 2 groups.  Lizzie and I taught about Daniel and the lion’s den, and heard the kids’ best lion rawrs.  We served porridge after our lessons and played with the children until they had to go back to class.

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That afternoon we went on home visits to the elderly.  My group, consisting of Mariah (a new MST), Sophie, Patrick, and Dominic, went to visit Jaja Wilson.  He is lame and taken care of, along with several little children, by his sister.  They work hard to provide for themselves, and he works in the garden despite not being able to walk.  His sister also digs in the garden, prepares meals, cares for the children, cleans, and does anything else that needs done.  I read and spoke with them about some scripture I had been reading lately, and they were so excited to be able to hear it.  His condition makes it impossible for them to make the long journey to church, so they are very hungry for the word.  Before we left, we brought them several jerrycans of water from a pump about a mile away.  The struggle we had carrying the heavy jerrycans that distance made me wonder how the Wilsons managed it every day–especially since one of them couldn’t walk.  The resilience and spirit of the people here never ceases to amaze me.  That afternoon, Kayla and Myla left to go back to Kampala and return home, and were appropriately soaked with water.  We were all sad to see them go, as our group continues to get smaller and smaller.

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Wednesday we had Scripture Union, which was taught by Lauren and Katlyn.  In the afternoon we attended meetings about the upcoming medical camp, and were allowed to choose where we would be stationed.  I will have the opportunity to work in triage, first aid, and emergency.  This is going to be such a huge blessing to the community–last year over 1700 people showed up over the 3-day camp.  A team of doctors, nurses, and volunteers will be coming from the U.S. and bringing equipment and medicine with them.  I have been able to provide some medical care over the past 2 months, but this will be 3 days entirely devoted to health–from 5:30 AM until every patient is seen (sometimes up to 8 or 9 PM).  Pastor Paul and Pastor Israel will be leading the spiritual health aspect of the camp, I will be making posters to hang up in each area that have scripture in Luganda, and we will pray with every patient that comes to the camp.  There is so much potential in that environment for God to reveal His power and for people to come to know Him.  On Wednesday afternoon, Delaney led us in team bonding, where we played two truths and a lie and shared our testimonies.  I absolutely loved hearing how God has shaped and impacted the lives of the team, and continues to do so.

On Thursday we went to see Harriet again, and we brought her all the PediaSure from the clinic.  She was still looking as thin as ever, despite several weeks of eating.  When I asked about what foods she is eating, we were told that she will eat fruit and rice when her family has it, but often there is only enough for one meal a day–and many days the family goes without eating.  She is also still experiencing severe heart pains daily, so we invited her mother to bring her to the medical camp next week.  Unfortunately, we won’t have enough equipment to properly conduct the tests she needs.  In order to get those, she’d have to go to a heart hospital in Kampala, which could be very expensive.  I shared some scripture with the family to encourage them before we prayed for them and started the journey back to the compound.  On the long walk, I thought about the passage in Matthew 7 when Jesus says, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!”.  If I love Harriet and want good things for her, how much more does her Father–who knit her together in her mother’s womb, delivered her from spirits, and sent His Son to die for her–want good things for her!  God brought me encouragement and peace in the midst of worry and concern for Harriet’s health and well-being.  That afternoon we left to go to Kampala, and went out to eat at Pizza Hut (surprise, surprise!).

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This Friday we went to Sanyu Babies Home, and washed windows and floors before helping to feed a class of kids.  When we finished that, we filled up little bathtubs with water in the courtyard, and 22 naked little Ugandan toddlers came out to splash in the soapy water.  They made bathtime look like so much fun!  We rounded them up to dry them all off after they had worn themselves out in the tubs and had started shivering, then put pants on them and sent them off to lunch.  We stayed longer than usual, since the taxi was late to pick us up, but I was so grateful to have some more time with the kids.

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Today we return to Zirobwe.  Katlyn and Lauren are supposed to leave late Sunday night, but their flight goes through Istanbul.  The Turkish military is currently staging a coup, and the country is in turmoil, so they will not be able to fly through there.  Their airline has not yet given them a new itinerary, which is very stressful when they leave so soon.

Please pray for them, that God would direct their plans and ease their stress.  Pray for Harriet, that the Lord who loves her and owns the cattle on a thousand hills would provide for her needs according to His will.  Pray for the medical camp, that it would run smoothly that we would be able to help as many as we can with what God has given us, and that God would heal the rest.  Pray for the children at Sanyu, that they would know the love of their good and perfect Father.  Pray for me, that I would search for my fulfillment and joy in my Savior, and not in my situation or circumstances.  Thank you for the encouragement and prayers so far.  I look forward to the next 4 weeks and what God has in store for me!

Mukama Yebazibwe! (Praise God!)

Living in Zirobwe the past several weeks has been such a blessing, and I have had so many opportunities I never would have gotten to experience had Empower a Child remained in Kampala.  The village already feels so much more like home than the house in Kampala, and I’ve been able to do more than I could’ve imagined.  Although I originally was concerned about the transition and what it would mean when we didn’t have fully fledged programs, I have had the opportunity to witness such growth within a short amount of time.  There are so many more chances to form meaningful relationships in the village, something I am so grateful for.  I have been able to spend time with so many families and individuals and share God’s love with them again and again.

Last week in Kampala the internet was overwhelmed with how many people were using it, and I was unable to load my blog–much less post on it.  For the sake of not dragging this post out too long, I’ll only focus on a few experiences I’ve had the last several weeks, and be brief in summarizing the events of the other days.

On Sunday, June 12th, I taught Sunday School again for the 5-6 year-old class.  Although some of the older students translate for me each week, it can be difficult to overcome the language barrier with such young kids.  It’s hard enough to help kindergartners to understand the story of Jesus and the woman at the well, but the possibility of things getting lost in translation complicates matters further.  By the grace of God, the kids are usually able to answer questions and understand applications for my lessons.  Sunday was also the 21st birthday of Delaney, an MST who arrived earlier in the week.  We dumped water on her after church, but then had prayer and counseling soon afterward.  I was in a group with Nicki, Delaney, and Victor.  Almost immediately, a woman and her daughter approached us.  I assumed right away that the daughter was ill, as she was severely underweight and not very responsive.  Neither spoke English or Luganda, as they were from Rwanda, so another woman from the church from Rwanda translated to Luganda, and then Victor translated to English.  The mother told us that her daughter, Harriet, was 12 years old, and had been possessed by spirits for about a year.  She said that previously, Harriet was happy and healthy, but once it began she never spoke unless the spirits spoke through her, and then it wasn’t in a language anyone could understand.  She also said that Harriet would go lame every time her parents tried to bring her to church, and that she had not eaten a meal in 4 months (she would only snack occasionally).  The entire time we spoke, Harriet stared ahead with a blank look on her face and didn’t respond to anything that was said.  Having never experienced anything like that before, the other MST’s and I looked to Victor for how to best help Harriet.  We initially thought she might just be sick, but the more the mother described what had been happening, the more it became clear that there had to be something more going on.  I knew that demons do possess people, but I hadn’t encountered someone who was possessed before.  Victor said it happens fairly often in Uganda, especially in areas in which witchcraft is common.  I quickly read through every instance in my Bible where Jesus cast out spirits, and we brought Harriet outside to pray for her.  By now, the rest of the MST’s and several staff members had joined us.  We surrounded Harriet and laid hands on her, and began to pray.  I prayed, knowing that where my experiences and knowledge failed me in that situation, my God knew all things and His power was greater than anything afflicting Harriet.  I prayed expectantly, knowing that it was by faith that Jesus and His disciples cast out demons, and that my God always answers my prayers.  I prayed more fervently than I can remember ever praying before, and commanded any unclean spirit to leave Harriet in the name of Jesus Christ.  When we had finished praying, we all believed that God had worked in the situation and that the spirits would have left Harriet immediately.  But she still failed to respond or speak, and when a plate of food was brought for her to eat, she began to scream and cry as soon as it was offered to her.  At this point, I was confused.  Biblically speaking,  casting out demons was immediate.  One account stood out to me from the passages about demonic possession.  Found in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, it is the story of a father whose son in possessed.  Even the disciples were unable to cast the spirit out of the young boy, and Jesus said after casting it out, “This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer” (Mark 9:29).  But we HAD prayed.  When Jesus asked the father of the child if he believed, the father replied, “I do believe, help my unbelief!”  I had truly believed, as had the others who prayed alongside me, that Jesus would do a redemptive work in Harriet and cleanse her of the spirit.  I continued to cry out to God for this young girl as the leadership of the church brought Harriet inside and prayed for her, at which point she began to froth at the mouth and fight while continuing to scream.  We discussed what to do about the situation, and decided to go to Harriet’s house to pray for her with her whole family, at the source of where it all began.  Harriet’s mother tried to take her ahead, but she continued to scream and repeatedly attempted to run away.  Eventually, as we caught up with them, Harriet was sat down on a bike and rolled the rest of the way.  For the next hour and a half or so as we walked, we continued to each pray over Harriet and her family.  When we arrived, as she continued screaming, we spoke to her family and all prayed once more.  As we did, she quieted for the first time in several hours and fell asleep.  We returned home that evening both physically and emotionally exhausted.

Monday we started to build the kitchen for Mama Dorothy’s family.  This involved digging 20+ deep holes in the ground with an iron pole resembling a curtain rod.  To use it, you stab it into the same spot over and over again, then use your hands to remove the loose dirt.  We cut large branches off of trees with 2 dull machetes, then removed all the branches, cut them to the same size, and placed them into the holes.  By the time we finished that, our morning was spent and we were all exhausted.  We went back to the compound as a new group of MST’s arrived: three families–Holly and her son Spencer, Alicia and her kids Zoe and Luke, Susan and her daughters Loren and Kate, 3 friends from Illinois–Hannah, Julia, and Gloria, 2 friends from Georgia–Myla and Kayla, and two people who came on their own–Maggie and Ian.  After lunch, we returned to continue work on the kitchen. We cut down dozens of bamboo sticks, carried them to the kitchen, and tied them into layers of support parallel to the ground on each of the walls.

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Tuesday we went back to the kitchen to complete the walls.  We broke up bricks and filled in the gaps between layers of bamboo.  Much like the last time, we dug up dirt, mixed it into mud, and threw it at the walls. We received news that Harriet had begun to eat, speak to her family, and was more active.  Praise God!!  He is so much greater than anything in this world, and it was incredible to see His mighty power and works in Harriet’s life.

Wednesday we had Scripture Union, which was taught by Shelley.  It is so evident that God has blessed her with a great ability to teach and minister to children.  After lunch, we had a planning meeting for the upcoming week, and in the afternoon we returned to Kampala.

Thursday we split into two groups–one visited Sanyu Babies Home, and my team went to Katalemwa.  Lauren, Katlyn, and I had the opportunity to work in the clinic there while the rest of the team led a program for the children.  I assisted a nurse alongside Lauren, and Katlyn worked with a physical therapist.  Because we had gotten a late start and the van also needed to pick up the other group before lunch, we only had about an hour and a half in the clinic.  3 patients came in–the first suffered from spina bifida, but was there because a wound on his foot wouldn’t heal properly.  Although he said it didn’t hurt, there was a deep gaping hole in the bottom of his foot about the size of a nickel.  We cleaned and redressed the wound.  Although the nurse made sure the bed and all the instruments she used were sanitized, the kids she treated had to wash their bandages and bring them back for re-use.  I asked her about which things the hospital tends to run low on, and plastic gloves and bandages were some of the things that get used up more quickly than they can be replaced.  I could see why–she was very careful about changing out her gloves often, and with so many patients with large, open wounds, bandages were used up very quickly.  Another patient had a bone infection and open sores on his leg, which we cleaned and bandaged.  The third child was polydactyl, and had recently undergone surgery to remove his extra fingers and toes.  This was the first child who came in accompanied by his father.  The nurse told us that all too often, fathers are out of the picture entirely or are not involved in their children’s lives.  This becomes even more common when children have disabilities, as there is a lot of stigma surrounding disabilities in Uganda.  She said that the father of this little boy also had polydactylism, and had been made fun of so much in school as a child that he never wanted his son to experience the same thing.  He paid for the surgery and was present all throughout the recovery process.

Friday we split into our teams once again.  My team was supposed to go to Sanyu Babies Home, but the van broke down and the project was canceled.  We then had the day off,  so we visited the craft market, ate lunch, and then returned to Zirobwe. On the way back we had a water fight between the two taxis–every time one would pass the other, everyone would toss water out the windows and try to soak the other passengers.

Saturday we had “Center Day”, which is an all day event for the sponsored children in the area.  There are 4 areas of development that we focus on–spiritual, social, health, and skills.  Del taught a Bible lesson on Adam and Eve and how sin entered the world, the kids memorized John 3:16, and each of 4 groups (Love, Joy, Peace, and Hope) created and performed a skit.  We taught the children how to make paper beads for skills development, taught about good health habits, and played sports competitions and relays.  I represented team Joy for 2 of the relays–filling up Coke bottles with handfuls of water (where I came in 1st), and an egg race (where I did NOT come in 1st).  Overall, team Joy tied for 1st place, which the kids were very excited about.

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Sunday we had our first ever English service at the church at 8 am.  I had previously been missing church and being poured into on Sundays, as there’s not always an interpreter at the services, and when there is it is difficult to hear them.  God heard my prayers and provided exactly what I needed!  After the English service, we still sat in during part of the Luganda service to control the children, and then led Sunday School.  Prayer and counseling was canceled that afternoon, so the rest of the day we relaxed and spent time in fellowship.

Monday it rained hard all day, so the home visits that were scheduled were canceled.  Everyone was assigned a prayer partner for the day, and we spent time getting to know one another, sharing struggles and joys, and praying for each other.

On Tuesday, Lauren, Katlyn, and I were tasked with organizing the clinic and pharmacy.  We sorted through many suitcases of medicine and equipment left behind by other volunteers, and found a spot for everything.  The clinic has come a long way since I slept in it on my first week here!  It has a lot of potential, and I am looking forward to utilizing it more when the medical camp comes at the end of July.  In the evening, several of us traveled to Zirobwe town to do community evangelism.  My group visited 3 different homes and shared the Gospel in each, but I found myself frustrated at how rushed we were.  A pastor from a nearby church was leading our group, but almost as soon as we had introduced ourselves to a family, he would ask who is going to preach to them.  As soon as we finished, he would rush us to the next home.  I felt like nothing we were saying was making an impression, and the people had no reason to want to listen to us or trust us anyway.  On previous home visits I’ve done here, we always build up a relationship with the family by having meaningful conversations with them before sharing our testimonies.  I had to decide to give my frustration up to God and trust that His word would not return void, and that even if we just planted a seed, He would send others to complete the work.  Although it was not the way I would’ve liked to evangelize, I know that God had me there for a purpose.

On Wednesday almost everyone did manual labor at the compound.  They dug a new trash pit, as we had just been placing it all in a pile.  Brittany, a physical therapist who came for 2 weeks, had requested that I assist her in the clinic with some of the children she had seen and developed care plans for.  She wanted me to continue to work with the kids after she left, so I was there mostly to observe and learn.  Maggie, a speech therapist, also worked with many of the same children. It was amazing to see how passionate both women were about helping in any way they could.  The mothers of the children were quick to try and learn how to better care for their kids, and were joyous to finally be receiving help.  Wednesday afternoon we had Scripture Union, which was taught by Gloria.  I was unable to go, as we had a sudden influx of kids right beforehand.  It was disheartening to learn that many of the children require surgeries, but may never have the opportunity to get them.  One boy, Travis, had spina bifida.  He was very intelligent, but not attending school because he couldn’t control his bowel movements or bladder.  Brittany fitted him for leg braces, which will help him walk a lot better with practice.

Thursday we went back to Mama Dorothy’s house to work on the roof of the kitchen, and smooth out the walls.  Apparently if you let the walls dry before fully smoothing them, they will not crack as much, which is why we waited to finish.  We built the structure of the roof, but didn’t have time to put the grass on.  Mama Dorothy’s husband told us that he would finish the rest, and told us to return to see the finished work and celebrate it.  We returned to Kampala later in the afternoon.

Friday we had the option of going to Sanyu Babies Home in the morning, but I got sick and had to stay home for the rest of the day.  Katlyn was sick as well (and had been the day before), but felt much worse than I did.  We had headaches, stomachaches, and fevers, and ended up lying in bed most of the day.

Saturday was a free day, but I was still sick. Katlyn felt much better, though, which made me think we had both caught some sort of 48-hour bug.  We returned in the evening to Zirowbe, and went to bed early.

By Sunday morning, I felt MUCH better, praise God.  A team from a school in Kentucky arrived–Beth (a teacher), Chris, David, and Jason (dads of some of the students), Lizzy, Brooke, Bailey, Mark, and Rachel.  We had planned to go see Harriet again, but it rained so much that we were unable to.

Monday we split into groups, and most of the MST’s led a program at the primary school in the morning.  Lauren, Katlyn, and I worked in the clinic, and teachers would send their students who weren’t feeling well or had wounds to us.  In the afternoon, we went to two secondary schools.  The first was a private Muslim school, where a group stayed and provided career guidance.  The rest of us traveled to a Catholic school and did career guidance and Ian shared his testimony.  We answered questions from the students, then went outside for sports ministry.  I brought about a dozen jump-ropes with me, and we tied several together to jump in groups.  Surprisingly, it quickly became the most popular activity of the afternoon!  We had a lot of fun playing with the kids, and went home tired but happy.

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On Tuesday we helped the school by doing various manual labor projects.  Kate and I were tasked with helping one of the teachers paint murals on the side of the school, which was enjoyable compared to other manual labor projects.  It wasn’t very skilled work, since the outlines were already drawn and we were basically coloring inside the lines, but it felt good to do something artistic.  That afternoon, we went on home visits, and I was able to go and see Harriet again.  Not only was she responsive, talking, eating, and drinking in front of us–we were told she’s eating 2 meals a day, playing with her siblings, and holding conversations with her family.  She seemed a little out of it, and her dad told us that for the previous few days she has been having heart pains.  It was so bad that morning that she began to scream and cry that it felt like she was dying–that her heart was being crushed.  We prayed for her and for her family, as the whole ordeal has been rough for them.  Harriet and one of her siblings were unable to attend school the past year because of her condition and the expenses the family paid trying to seek medical help initially.

Wednesday morning, Kate and I continued to paint at the school.  That day I taught at Scripture Union, about Joshua and the battle of Jericho.  We’ve been going through a series on the promises of God, so that day’s lesson was about how God promises to help us.  The lesson went better than I could’ve hoped!  The children were more engaged than I’ve seen them before, and eager to participate.  They were quick to learn the memory verse I picked out, and all wanted to join in when acting out the story and helping with my illustrations.  That afternoon, all the MST’s had fellowship with one another and played card games and pictionary.

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The fathers who came with the school team led a leadership and financial training conference on Thursday for adults in the areas surrounding the village.  The rest of us prepared for Sport’s Day on Friday.  I was in a group charged with coming up with prizes for the winning teams, which wasn’t easy when the teams each have about 100 kids on them.  Many of us had brought little trinkets to give away, but we also made dozens and dozens of little rubber-band bracelets.  Shelley left in the afternoon, which was a bittersweet farewell.  God will use her in incredible ways back in Australia!  Later in the afternoon, we had a meeting with a man who does sports ministry professionally, and taught us how to make the most of the upcoming events.

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On Friday we had Sport’s Day, which I had been dreading all week (I am somewhat athletically challenged).  I actually had a wonderful time, though!  The sports weren’t as much of soccer, volleyball, basketball, etc., but were relay games that got the kids’ competitive juices flowing.  There were 4 teams, which were each split up by age groups.  Natalie, Lauren, and I were in charge of the P2 and P3 group for the Lions.  Although our team only won twice, we still had fun and enjoyed the day’s activities.

Saturday was Center Day, where both the kids and MST’s were a little worn-out from Friday’s activities.  Lauren, Katlyn, Jennifer, Lara, Maggie, and I led a health information session with the older girls, where we covered changing bodies, periods, stigmas, proper hygiene, etc.

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Sunday we had an English service again.  I taught about Jesus healing the official’s son in Sunday School, but the kids were zoning out quite a bit.  I think everyone was recuperating from 2 full days of activities.  Kate, an MST who’s here with her mom and sister, had started a Bible study for teens in the church last week.  She’s leaving next week, though, so this week I sat in on the group and starting next week I’ll be teaching it.  Katlyn, Lizzie, and I were on dishes duty for lunch, but the water ran out (which has been happening fairly often lately).  It was a new experience to hand wash dishes using the small amount of water we had left in jerrycans.  Afterward, we returned to Kampala and went out to eat at Pizza Hut as a farewell to Brittany, who left to go back to the states that night.

On Monday we celebrated Independence Day at a hotel on the edge of Lake Victoria.  We carefully swam in the lake, sunbathed, had cheeseburgers for lunch, and ate an American flag cake.  Although we didn’t get to shoot off any fireworks, it was a fun day!  I can’t imagine being able to celebrate America better in Uganda.  Maggie and Lara left for the airport at the end of our time at the hotel, which was only about a 15 minute drive away.  The prime minister of Israel is here in Uganda, so there was a lot of security checkpoints and traffic was slow on the way from Entebbe to Kampala.

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Tuesday we had a free day, and went to craft market.  A new MST, Lizzie, had arrived late the night before, so we were able to introduce her to Kampala.  That afternoon, the school team came back from the hotel they had been staying at to say goodbye before leaving for the airport.

Wednesday we were supposed to have projects, but the end of Ramadan meant the country had a national holiday, so the staff had the day off.  That meant that we had another free day, so we mainly spent it resting and enjoying one another’s company.  We went out to eat at Cafe Javas for dinner, where I had apple pie and ice cream for dessert to finish celebrating America.

Today we went to Sanyu Babies Home from 8 am-noon, which was amazing.  We started off doing whatever odd jobs the staff needed help with–hanging laundry, mopping floors, washing windows and walls, cleaning dishes, peeling eggshells, etc.  After we finished everything they could think of for us to do, we went to a class of toddlers to spend time with them and love them.  The kids were so happy to just be held and played with.  Although it is extremely difficult for a foreigner to adopt from Uganda, my few experiences at Sanyu have definitely given me a heart for adoption.  It breaks my heart that so many children, even in the U.S., don’t have anyone to hold them when they cry, make their favorite meals, or kiss them goodnight.  Praise God that He is our perfect father, even for those who have no earthly father.

Thank you all for your prayers the past 6.5 weeks!  I have seen God answer one after another.  There were miraculously enough beds for everyone to stay at in Zirobwe, and in Kampala a large group stayed at a hotel so we’d have enough room.  The Lord’s hand, as I mentioned earlier, has guided the transition to Zirobwe.  The new MST’s have even commented on how easy it was to jump right in, since everything was already running so smoothly.  I also made a full and quick recovery from my illness last week.  Please pray that I would utilize every moment of my trip here–it is so easy to sit around and do nothing when programs are canceled or when we finish something early.  Rather than wasting time, pray that God would lead and direct me to where He wants me to go.  Most of my friends here are leaving in the next couple weeks, please also pray that I would grow closer to those who remain and that the mission trip wouldn’t end for those leaving, but that they would continue to do God’s work wherever they go.

Hello, Mukwano!

The past couple of weeks have been a time of adjustment to the move to Zirobwe, and all the changes that came with it.  But I have seen God moving not only in me, but in everything I have been able to be a part of.

Last Tuesday we visited Katalemwa, which is a hospital for children from war torn regions.  We carried many of the children up to the room in which we held a program, since so many of them had injured legs and feet.  Several of the children’s mothers came along, which was a great opportunity for them to learn about Jesus.  We all sang praise and worship songs and Jennifer taught about Jesus walking on the water.  We then passed out coloring books and stickers, and walked around to help and just love on the kids.  One girl had only a couple of stubs left for fingers on her bandaged hands, and was unable to color.  I covered her hands and arms with stickers and saw her smile for the first time during the program.  It broke my heart to see the horrors the children had already faced and the pain they were forced to endure at so young an age.  Most were missing limbs, and were clearly in pain, but still showed such joy and appreciation for things as simple as a few crayons and a coloring page, or a piece of candy.  Before we left, I was given a tour of the clinic along with Katlyn and Lauren (two MST’s who are in nursing school).  It consisted of a couple of small rooms, and very basic medical equipment.  The staff was very friendly, and creative in coming up with solutions when the lack of resources prevented better care.  It is difficult to see the suffering faced on a daily basis here, and the lack of access to good medical care, and not feel ashamed of the entitlement and unappreciative attitudes many Americans (myself included) display on a daily basis.  Here, you get called a doctor for something as simple as knowing how to clean a cut and put on a band-aid.  The trip to Katalemwa, although fairly short, has already given me a different perspective on healthcare.

Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday we had orientation for the transition to Zirobwe, and spent time in fellowship with one another.  I am learning more and more that everything here runs on “Africa time”–that is, a couple hours (or more) later than scheduled.  We would often be prepared for a meeting, or outreach program, only to wait for several hours, or even be told a program was canceled.  This was very frustrating for me at first, but I’m adjusting and God is teaching me patience and flexibility.  My schedules may not always go according to plan, but as Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord.  Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”  Even when I don’t understand God’s reasoning behind some of the time I think is “wasted” here, I trust that everything will be done according to His purpose, and strive to make every spare minute count.  The bunk beds were taken to Zirobwe on Wednesday morning, and a few new mattresses were ordered for the house in Kampala.  We slept with the mattresses on the floor, and got new mosquito nets the next night.  Eventually, the plan is to get new bunk beds for the house in Kampala, but that won’t be for several months.  Luckily, the floor isn’t all that bad–it’s even a little cooler closer to the ground!  Friday evening we went to a culture show in Kampala, which was INCREDIBLE.  It was several hours worth of traditional dances and songs, and there was a buffet of Ugandan foods.  We were able to sit in the front row, and had a blast.  There were people from all over the world who came to the show.  My favorite part was when the drummers came out with huge drums balanced on their heads, and beat on them with their hands and by kicking their feet above their heads!  It was so neat to get a glimpse of the culture and diversity within Uganda.

On Saturday, we were supposed to leave at 9 AM for the village, which meant we left around 12.  I learned during the car ride that whenever a new road or building is constructed in Uganda–whether in a village or a city like Kampala–a baby is sacrificed to protect the construction.  It is horrible to learn that even in the most developed parts of this country, such satanic rituals are still practiced.  I prayed during the rest of the car ride for the Ugandan people to get to know the love of Christ and that such rituals would become nonexistent.  When we arrived in Zirobwe, we had the rest of the day to settle in, which was wonderful.  The compound has come a LONG way since last week!  It’s a huge blessing to have a livable space to stay in–I had prepared myself for worse.  I was assigned a room with Jennifer, Katlyn, and Lauren, and we have one of the biggest rooms, although also one of the most rat-infested.  You win some, you lose some! We were excited to see we each had a couple shelves to put things on, and after unpacking the room felt more homey already.  Another fantastic improvement to the compound is running water!  Most of the time, we are able to shower, use the toilet, and the sinks are running.  Praise God!  I don’t know if I could have handled 3 months of wet-wipe baths very well.

Sunday was similar to last week, except we went to church about an hour earlier to bless it and pray for those who would be coming.  This week my lesson was about Jesus being tempted, and it went very well!  The children knew they would get sweets this week if they knew the answers to my questions, so they all listened very well.  At the end, all but one or two were able to recite our memory verse (in Luganda).  After a very quick lunch, we all returned to the church, where we split into small groups and scattered across the building.  People would come to us for prayer and counseling.  This was an incredible experience.  Although the ladies that came to me did not speak very much English, they were so appreciative that I had taken the time to pray for them, even if they didn’t understand what I said.  I have noticed that many times the things people ask me to pray for them are actually for someone else–a child, sibling, friend, etc.  It shows further the humbleness of these people and their love for those around them.

On Monday, we went to EAC’s primary school for their first day of class.  The teacher for the babies’ class (pre-school age) had not shown up, so we were to teach it.  Even though we arrived about an hour after class “started,” the babies were still waiting in the class.  It was expected that one of the teachers wouldn’t show up, which is why we went, but it made me wonder how often that occurs.  Shelley led in teaching the kids their ABC’s and numbers 1-10, which wasn’t easy in a class when some kids had never heard them before, and others had them memorized.  We took a break midway through to do breakfast ministry, in which we served porridge to kids from babies class, middle class, and top class (up to kindergarten).  It was basically flour mixed with water, but the kids all brought out their cups and eagerly drank it, even going back for more if they finished before it was gone.  They washed their own cups, and then we played for a short time outside.  I blew some bubbles at one point, but was quickly ambushed by children yelling “Give it to me!” in Luganda and pulling at my clothes.  I had to put the bubbles away before my skirt and shirt could be pulled completely down! After the break we continued to work through flashcards of the alphabet and numbers at individual tables, but the kids were no longer as interested.  We dismissed at noon, then got lunch before our next project: home evangelism.  We were split into teams, and I was placed with Katlyn, Lauren, and a Ugandan volunteer named Mark.  We visited 3 different homes, and were invited warmly into each.  The women in each household shared some of their experiences with us, and we shared our testimonies and encouraged them with scripture, and then prayed over each family.  I was somewhat surprised to learn that only one family had a Bible, even though all 3 went to church on a weekly basis.  We decided that when we were next in Kampala we would make a point of purchasing Bibles in Luganda for the families we had met with, along with others from the church who were hungry for the Word.

Tuesday was Shelley’s 24th birthday, and to fulfill the Ugandan tradition of getting people wet on important occasions, we doused her with buckets of cold water until there wasn’t a dry spot left on her body.  She was also very surprised to get carrot cake and the opportunity to call home to her family.  There is no Wifi and not much service in Zirobwe, so she had been concerned that she would be unable to contact anyone at home.  Everyone chipped in to purchase about 15 minutes of time to make an international call, which she really enjoyed.  After her little surprise party, we revisited Mama Dorothy, who we had held the housewarming ceremony for last week.  We did manual labor around the yard to beautify it and make it feel more like home, and I was placed in charge of creativity.  We planted flowers and bushes around the perimeter of the yard, and in front of the house, then lined the front with bricks.  We also dug up some stubborn roots, and moved piles of bricks out of the middle of the yard.  A little after midday we ate with the family and then spent the afternoon in fellowship with them.  I mentioned at one point that we could dig a fire pit or something for the family, as they had nowhere to cook, which led to a decision to build a kitchen for them next week.  What a great opportunity to show them God’s love!  I look forward to it–partially because it will involve mixing more mud with our feet.  We staked out a location for the kitchen, and outlined it with bricks.  Mama Dorothy was so excited when we told her we would be returning to build it for her!  She thanked us again and again for coming, and I must have received a dozen hugs and handshakes over the course of the afternoon.  What a blessing it was to witness her joy once again.

Wednesday we were assigned to manual labor all morning, which involved clearing areas to build a basketball court and a volleyball court.  We split into two groups, and I was tasked (along with Victor, Nicki, and Delaney) with raking the basketball court area.  There was anywhere from 3-9 inches of dead grass matted on the entire court, but the difficulty was not in the amount of land or grass to be raked.  The back-breaking aspect was that the handles were only a couple of feet long, so we each had to bend over the entire time.  I know that God gave me the strength and endurance to finish, because I certainly don’t have enough to do it on my own!  Scattered throughout our hours working, Victor would give mini-sermons over what was on his mind, or what his pastor had preached on recently.  It was encouraging as we worked to hear God’s word!  Before lunch, we changed into skirts to teach Scripture Union, which is a nationwide program given at schools each Wednesday.  The entire school piled into the church, and Shelley taught about Jesus feeding the 5,000.  We acted out the lesson while she taught, and the kids thought it was hilarious.  We learned a memory verse afterwards, but my mind was stuck on the difficulty with teaching such a lesson in Africa.  The prosperity Gospel is huge here–and is something we try to avoid insinuating.  If these kids got the idea that God will always provide them plenty of food if they just have faith in Him, then they would lose their faith the first time they went hungry.  It is such a tricky subject, and one that Shelley handled very well.  That afternoon, the MST’s all went for a walk together, then sat on the front porch of the clinic and each shared our testimonies.  It was such an incredible experience, and one that I feel has definitely brought us closer to one another.  These women have very unique testimonies, and it was amazing to learn how God had worked in each of their lives through the good and bad, and drawn them even closer to Him.  Before bed, Mark started a bonfire, and we all gathered around it for dinner and more fellowship.  It felt good to sit around a campfire–I think it reminded us all of home and family.

Manual labor was the schedule again on Thursday, as we finished the volleyball court.  It was more strenuous than the basketball court, as it was filled with living plants and uneven terrain.  We took turns raking and hoeing, and each left with sore bodies, but pleased with the amount of work we had accomplished.  After packing for the trip to Kampala, we ate lunch, had a planning meeting, and then were off!  When we arrived, we had the evening to ourselves.  We used it to go get junk food at a convenience store and eat dinner at Pizza Hut–an evening spent well, in my opinion!  It felt good to take a warm shower again, crawl into bed, and tuck my mosquito net around me before passing out.

Today (Friday) we enjoyed a full free day in Kampala, which I used to do laundry, Skype my family, spend too much time on social media, and go to a westernized cafe for dinner.  Scovia, a sponsored girl my age who is living with us, returns to school on Monday, so we wanted to wish her well with a good dinner.  It was a great conclusion to a long week, and left me feeling refreshed and looking forward to what the upcoming days hold in store.

Please continue to pray for me as we expand the programs in Zirobwe.  In the next couple weeks we will be teaching women how to make reusable sanitary napkins, holding an unofficial medical clinic, starting an all-day children’s empowerment program, and several other new projects.  Pray for God’s direction for the management and staff with these changes, as well as the other MST’s and myself.  We are also getting in a large amount of new MST’s on Monday (13!), and don’t have nearly enough beds for them all.  Please pray that God will provide somewhere for everyone to sleep during their stay, and for their transition to EAC to go smoothly.

Week 1

Olyta from Uganda! This week has held some of the most incredible experiences of my life.  God has already taught me some very important lessons, and I have been blessed to serve alongside some amazing people.

My journey began in the Kansas City airport, where both of my bags were miraculously under 50 pounds.  My flight to Detroit was short and uneventful, but once at the airport I had a 7 hour layover.  I prayed for the next leg of my journey, walked the length of the airport, ate a Coney Island style hot dog, attempted to watch a movie on the airport WiFi, then took a nap (surprise, surprise!).  The plane ride to Amsterdam was about 8 hours long, and although I wasn’t able to fall asleep, I was able to talk quite a bit to the man sitting next to me, Maurice.  He is from Rwanda, and is pursuing a PhD at Penn State.  God placed me right where I needed to be!  He was able to give me some advice on transitioning to life in Uganda, and I soon discovered that he is also a believer.  He is returning to Rwanda to complete an internship for a couple weeks.  Once we arrived at the Amsterdam airport, we continued talking over coffee while we waited for our flights to begin boarding.  The Starbucks at the airport was FANCY!  There were at least 10 baristas, they served dinners and wine, and even had a small art gallery.  During the next flight to Kigali, I sat with 3 other people–a man who works for the U.S. government and has been all over the world, a French woman who works with Doctors Without Borders, and a man from Kampala who works as a professor at a university in Norway and returned to research infectious diseases.  Thank God, I was able to sleep for several hours on the flight, and dozed on the way to Entebbe.  When I finally arrived, I waited in line for quite some time to get my passport stamped and visa checked, but then a man named Crish picked me up from the airport and drove me most of the hour and a half trip to the EAC house.  The roads here are the worst I’ve experienced, and there are no traffic laws–it is a free for all.  At one point, the traffic slowed more than usual, and we passed a group of people standing around the dead body of a man who had been hit by a car while on his Boda Boda (motorcycle).  It broke my heart to hear how common it is for deadly and debilitating accidents to occur here.  As we drove, I caught a glimpse into the extreme poverty and desperation that exist here.  Shacks lined the streets where, even after midnight, people were trying to sell various wares.  Prostitutes were at many of the street corners, and children ran around with little to no clothing on.  I prayed that I would never grow calloused to the pain and suffering that exists here, and that God would continuously break my heart for the things that break His.  When we reached the house, I was greeted warmly by many of the other MST’s (mission support team), then took a shower and collapsed into my bed around 2:30 AM.

The next morning I awoke at 7 as the others were preparing to leave to go to the Babies Home, but had the morning off to unpack and relax.  I met the rest of the MST’s, most of whom come from the U.S., but Irish and Australian girls are here, as well.  I ended up going back to bed and slept for a couple more hours, then ate rice and beans for lunch before having a planning meeting to prepare for the week.  We discussed the upcoming programs we would do, and were assigned roles.  That evening, the group visited a slum to do some evangelism.  This was where I saw even greater levels of poverty and despair. 13340508_1175457045850196_2025679517_o.jpgDespite their circumstances, the families we visited with were overjoyed to see us and generous to offer food.  My group visited with two ladies and their grandchildren.  These women have lived in the slums most of their lives, and both have physical disabilities (one was hit while on a Boda Boda, and the other had a tumor on her spine).  Regardless of their pain and suffering, they praised the Lord for His provisions for them and for sparing their lives!  It was incredible to see the strength of their faith in the midst of so much devastation.  One of the women grabbed my hand to hold when we were first introduced, and held it so tightly and for so long that it went numb!  I had to laugh later when she asked me if I was hiding something because I was listening quietly when she was sharing some of her experiences.  We prayed with the ladies before we left and encouraged them to continue following the Lord.  Before we left, we played with many of the children, who kept shouting “Mzungu!” (white person), a term I have become very accustomed to.  13313507_1175456645850236_263832403_o.jpg13313805_1175457302516837_1038852137_o.jpgOne little boy didn’t smile or speak the entire time, but wouldn’t let go of my hand.  As we left, he walked me all the way to the edge of the slums, and when I would say goodbye and walk on, he would run to grab my hand again.  He had no shoes, his clothes were torn and stained, and he had little wounds covered in flies.  13330513_1175456879183546_1909395452_n.jpg                                The ladies we visited, this little boy, and the other children were content to value the time we spent loving him, even if we could do nothing to improve their lives.  Although I left ashamed at the waste and excess I see on a daily basis in America, I was encouraged to know that although the situation of many people here may never improve, God provides an eternity without suffering to those who love and serve Him.

On Tuesday, we had morning devotions as a team and then traveled to a small village to do a children’s program and help the kids write letters to their sponsors.  We played games for the first hour or so, then the kids began to write their letters.  I was amazed at how much time each child dedicated to thinking about what to write, and at how good their handwriting was.  13340817_1175456582516909_543122917_o.jpgWe played more games while some of the students finished their final copies, and then had praise and worship.  I have been struck by how passionate people here are about worshiping the Lord!  They don’t care how good their voices sound or what they look like, but focus just on praising God.  One little girl–probably 8 or 9 years old–helped to lead worship and was quite the leader!  She flowed from one song to the next and probably would have kept going all day if left uninterrupted.  Blake, one of the MST’s, shared the story of David and Goliath, and then we ate a finger-food lunch of rice, beans, and potatoes.  I was amazed at how much food these kids could eat!  Their plates were piled high and they devoured every bite, while I took a lot less and got full much quicker.  The girls wove flowers into my hair and each others, and I (somewhat accidentally) started a petal and seed throwing war.  I left exhausted from running around with the kids, but pleased with the joys the day brought.  13313705_1175455095850391_693646597_o.jpgA meeting was called Tuesday afternoon for me and 3 of the other girls (Lindy, Shelly, and Jennifer) who are staying longer.  We were told that in the next couple of weeks the entire organization is moving to the village of Zirobwe, and that we will no longer be doing the programs in Kampala.  This came as a huge shock, as there was nothing on the website or any of the orientation packets about this move.  It has apparently been in the works for months and has been the intention of the organization for years, but none of the MST’s knew about it until after our arrivals.  This came off as somewhat dishonest, as we would no longer be doing the projects many of us chose EAC for (the Babies Home, Katalemwa hospital, etc), and weren’t told until after we paid to come serve.  The short term MST’s had already expressed frustration that the programs they came for, like the Health Clinic in the village, weren’t even running or expected to start for months to come.  I wasn’t too concerned about the comforts that we would be losing, like running water, electricity, WiFi, and toilets, but rather that the programs in the village were not yet developed and we would be completely ending the programs and relationships that have been formed over years in Kampala.  The other girls also shared that the compound in the village is not yet finished being built, and won’t be livable for some time, and it doesn’t have the resources needed in case of emergencies (like transportation).  Furthermore, the dozens of new MST’s coming throughout the summer have no idea that the trip they paid for and are expecting will be entirely different from what they will experience.  After praying and talking it over with the other girls, we addressed the issues we had in another meeting.  I continued to pray about it, and knew that God’s will would be done and His plans accomplished–even if they didn’t coincide with my expectations.  I felt at peace knowing that He would use me wherever I went for the glory of His kingdom.  That evening, we went to a local mall and ate at the first Pizza Hut to open in Uganda, as a farewell to Katherine and Hannah, two girls from Ireland who spent a gap year here.  The manager, an American, asked us if it tasted like home–and received an enthusiastic “YES!” from some of the girls who have eaten enough rice and beans for a lifetime.  I am glad to be serving alongside some amazing, Godly people here!  I know I can learn a lot from them in the upcoming months.

On Wednesday, we left at 8 am to travel to the village of Kuwanda near Zirobwe.  13322112_10206519930093020_270015872926893092_n.jpgI was pleasantly surprised at how large the EAC compound is, even though it is nowhere near being finished.  We were to sleep in the future clinic, so we grabbed some mattresses from another room (after chasing the rats out of them), and settled in a little. 13239059_10206519928172972_6351518576287958444_n.jpgThe next several hours we spent planting grass in the courtyard.  This involved digging up large patches of grass from outside, bringing them in, cutting them into pieces, removing all the rocks from the courtyard by hand, digging holes every couple feet, planting the grass, and watering it.  My parents might not believe it, but I was told I am a very hard worker!  It was difficult and strenuous labor, but the words of 1 Corinthians 10:31 and Colossians 3:23 kept repeating in my head when I felt tired, and I prayed that the Lord would give me strength.  After lunch, we visited the home of a family who had just moved.  We were able to hear the incredible transformation of a woman, who was an alcoholic living in the slums, who gave her life to the Lord and changed her ways.  The woman’s husband used to only see her a couple times a year, but has since returned to care for his family.  Her daughter’s school was miles away from their old home, so she would usually pretend to leave for school and never actually go.  A donation from a church in America allowed EAC to build a house for the family, and we went to bless it and pray over them.  They sang praises to God and danced with joy, and then served us food.  I tried a goat’s milk tea for the first time, and was surprised at how much I enjoyed it, despite the mysterious chunks.  It was incredible to see the sheer joy and happiness the family had for something we take for granted so often in America–the ability to have a place to stay.  They didn’t even have furniture, curtains, or a floor, and they were still so grateful for how God had blessed them.  13254549_10206519930853039_8551780104782704235_n.jpg

Thursday was my favorite day we spent in the village.  It started off with excitement–Shelly had found a lizard inside her pants in the morning, and we didn’t know where it scampered off to.  Later, it was found at the end of my bed, so I put on a glove and picked it up to take outside, but its tail fell off as I tossed it into the dirt!  After devotions, we were sent to work.  One of the walls on the school kitchen was crumbling, so we were tasked with rebuilding it.  The process involved first breaking down the old wall and lacing it with sticks gathered in the nearby brush.  Then my team dug up a large patch of dirt and poured water to make a thick mud.  The next part was the most fun I’ve had so far–we mixed the mud up with our feet and kept adding more clay and water.  It got more and more difficult to lift our feet as the mud thickened, but eventually we were told that it was ready.  13322214_10206522844485878_8058106253747235745_n.jpgNext, we carried the mud to the kitchen, which was nearby, but a square foot of mud weighed AT LEAST 50 pounds, making the dozens of back-and-forth trips tiring.  My shirt and pants were covered in mud, and my feet were caked so much that I couldn’t feel the rocks I stepped on.  13321894_10206522843405851_2516963450869930935_n.jpgOnce we had carried all the mud, we joined the other team in forming the wall.  They had been throwing handfuls of clay at the lattice of sticks, then smoothing it out.  I helped add water to the wall once it was thick enough, patched it with more mud, and smoothed over it all. 13239140_10206519926892940_8683447319368414215_n.jpg Some of the village kids were hanging around watching the mzungus work, and I chased several of them around with my dirty hands while waiting to wash off.  They would try to sneak as close as they could to me without getting caught, and then take off running and laughing if I moved an inch closer to them.  We had the middle portion of the day to ourselves, so we took a tour of the land.  EAC owns 33 acres of land there that was practically given to them, and it includes a school, the compound, a church, and a women’s empowerment center.  When the land was first purchased, it had dozens of shrines across it, as many witches lived in that area.  The people living in the village claimed that the ministry would be cursed.  One tree in particular was supposedly where one of the gods resided, and EAC decided to cut it down and build a church there.  They were told that there would be no rain, and that all sorts of calamities would befall EAC.  However, on the first church service in the new building, there was a huge downpour of rain.  What a wonderful revealing of God’s power!  Later in the afternoon, we held a program for children that were around the compound, and I got to hold an adorable little baby to let her big sister play.  It is common here to see children as young as 4 years old caring for their little siblings.  It breaks my heart to see their childhoods taken away by poverty, hard work in the fields, and having to act as a parent to siblings.  I am so grateful to have had parents who took the time to care for me, and opportunity enough that I did not have to work all day as a child.   Although children are not valued very much here, I was comforted by the words of Matthew 19:14, and the fact that God values children even when they are unwanted by the world.13312763_10206522845845912_683077225229324393_n.jpg

Friday was our last day in the village, and we spent it visiting “jajas” (elderly people).  Me and several other MST’s, as well as some of the EAC staff, visited a man who lived about a 40 minute walk from the compound.  When we first arrived at his home, only his wife was there, and she was suffering from malaria.  We laid hands on her and each prayed for her, and then walked another 10 minutes or so to her husband’s garden, where he was working.  We found him expecting us, and he told us that he owns 3/4 of an acre of land, and the food he grows there is how he makes a living.  However, he is going blind and is getting slower in his old age, so it is difficult for him to work as much as he needs to.  We then took turns hoeing his land while he shared some of his experiences.  He is from Kenya, and used to have a different wife than the one we met.  However, when he discovered that she was unfaithful, he sent her and his daughter away.  Although his daughter now lives nearby, she refuses to speak to him.  His new wife is an alcoholic, and they don’t have any children together, although she had a couple of children from a previous marriage.  He claimed to be a Christian, and apparently has been a part of many different religions over the years.  He was going to the church at EAC regularly before his worsening vision made it difficult for him to go there and back.  After finishing the hoeing, we returned to his home carrying firewood and gave his family some food and essentials, like soap.  We prayed once more and then returned to the compound to pack up and head back to Kampala.  On the way there, our cab driver asked that we stop at a clinic and pray over his mother, who was hospitalized with malaria.  We did so, returned, and were all anxious to shower after washing ourselves with baby wipes for 3 days!  I received an email from EAC management that tried to address the concerns of myself and the other MST’s, and it seems the transition will still occur on schedule, with only minor changes.  Please pray for the organization throughout this time, as well as the incoming volunteers.  The other MST’s and I spent the evening at a cafe, where I had a milkshake (it was glorious!), then we all watched part of a movie on my computer before deciding we were too tired and went to bed.

Saturday began with a power outage around 2 AM, which lasted until the afternoon.  It was the MST’s day off, and we used it to go to a craft market in Kampala.  I experienced both Boda Boda drivers and women in the market trying to rip us off because we are mzungus.  We argued every price, however, and I was able to buy some birthday presents for my family.  After walking around in the heat and dust, we were anxious to get cold drinks, and went to a cafe nearby to talk and cool off.  That night, we used a projector to watch a Nicholas Sparks movie, and prepared our lessons for Sunday School.

Church here is in Zirobwe, so we all piled into the taxi around 8:00 to arrive a little after 9:30.  For the first couple hours, we controlled the children at the back of the church while the choirs sang and people shared how God had been working in their lives (all in Lugandan, so we primarily focused on the kids).  I sang and danced and sat with two lovely girls who spent the service memorizing Bible verses with me.  13324008_1175454682517099_646266568_o.jpgAfter the children’s choir sang, the kids and MST’s went outside and we prayed for those who were sick, then sang a couple of songs and split up the age groups.  I was in charge of teaching the story of Jesus’ baptism to the 5-6 year-olds.  I was glad to have an interpreter, as many of the younger children do not know much English beyond “hello” and “I am fine”.  Although it was difficult to keep their attention for very long, they became very interested in the lesson when I mentioned I would give sweets to those who were able to answer my questions about the story.  When we had finished, one of the little girls prayed for us, and then I gave them each a coloring sheet and split up crayons for them to color.  While we waited for the service to end, I was able to speak with my interpreter, who shared with me that he hopes to be an architectural engineer.  He is the only believer in his family, as the rest are Muslims.  He told me he continues to pray for them and share the Gospel with them.  I tried to encourage him, and told him I would pray that God would change the hearts of his family.  Please join me in praying for them.  Sunday afternoon we said goodbye to 3 of the MST’s–Kenna, Katy, and Blake.  Although I had only known them for a week, I saw God use them again and again, and grew to know and admire them for their servant’s hearts, hardworking spirits, and passion for the Lord.  I hope to demonstrate God’s love in such a way during my time here and beyond.

Today, Monday, marks a full week since my first day in Uganda.  We got an early start to leave for the Babies’ Home at 7:30, but it was the most calming project I have done throughout my stay.  We first did various chores for the volunteers there, like hanging laundry to dry, sorting and folding it, sorting through beans, painting, raking leaves, etc.  There had already been volunteers there earlier, so there was not much else to do but love on the kids.  This organization takes in children that are orphaned and abandoned from birth to 4 years old.  We spent the morning with the youngest group, feeding and playing with the babies that could not yet walk.  It broke my heart to hear the stories of some of the children.  There were twins there–a boy and a girl–who were only a couple weeks old.  Their mother died in childbirth and their father was unable to care for them.  An MST named Jennifer who arrived the day after I did was holding a little boy when she noticed that his legs are crooked and weak, he is very slow to respond, and his head tilts to one side.  We learned that he had been left on a bus, and although he looked to only be a few months old, was estimated to be a year old.  He and the other babies have bald spots on the backs of their heads and are barely able to support their heads because they lay in their cribs all day.  When we were given milk to feed the babies, it was scorching hot, and yet the staff insisted that it was fine.  We still waited for it to cool until it was warm, but it made me wonder how often the babies aren’t cared for properly due to lack of time or resources to give each child the attention it needs.  I was told that in the older groups, volunteers are not allowed to pick up the children, because the staff don’t want the kids to get used to being held and loved on.  This project broke my heart more than anything I’ve experienced this past week.  I held 3 babies and continued to pray over them, their futures, and for the volunteers who care for them, but I left with a heavy heart.  Adoption is not common in Uganda, and it has become increasingly difficult for foreigners to adopt from Uganda, so it is unlikely any of the children will ever know the love of a family.  I pray that they will come to know God as their Father and comforter.  After leaving the Babies Home, we had lunch and packed up our things to prepare for the furniture to be moved to the village.  Around 3:00 we went to the slums (different from last week’s), and ministered to a woman named Jessica whose heart is broken because her children have turned away from the Lord and taken up bad habits.  I prayed over her, but we did not have much time to share with her, as the van was needed to pick up new MST’s from the airport.  The rest of the evening has been spent packing, Skyping with family, and enjoying the company of Alexis and Marissa before they leave tomorrow.

Thank you to everyone who has supported my journey here–both through prayer and financially.  Although I am still unsure what the upcoming weeks and months hold, I rest assured that God has me here for a purpose.  Please continue to pray for me to hear and obey God’s voice daily, for the hearts of those I will be ministering to, for me to transition well to life in the village, and that I would remain healthy (and anything else you can think of).

I will post more pictures later–some of the other girls took some for me on their cameras when I didn’t have my phone, and will be sending them to me soon.