Monday, August 31, 2009

Do not forget in the darkness what you have been promised in the light.

It happens all too easily. A rough day (or several in a row this week...) and I forget. We all do. It becomes to easy to look around and think. "Why? Why do I do this?" "Why take one more child, why live with less so we can give to others more, why leave family and friends to go to a land of strangers, WHAT am I doing here?" I do not usually forget the answer, "For Jesus. Because He called me to this." But far to often I repeat that over and over to myself and forget what it MEANS. It means that it has been granted to me, it is my PRIVILEDGE, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him. (Philippians 1:29) That suffering is not alone, but is with Him, and oh what a priviledge it is just to be able to be in His presence, to share that with my sweet Savior. That I do it for JESUS, "who being in very nature God did not consider equality with God something to be grasped but made himself NOTHING taking the very nature of a servant being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father!" (Liking Philippians today 2:5-11)

It is so simple, and yet this weekend it seemed hard to remember.

The anger of Friday melted into grief, into crying out to the Lord and asking Him how I could more effectively serve His people. As God would have it, the day after Friday is Saturday, and there really is no better affirmation than 350 children flooding through my gate to worship the Lord and eat chicken together. As satan would have it, later that night I found that several people who I have grwon to love and trust have cheated and lied to and stolen from me. The details are not important, but needless to say, I ended the day feeling betrayed and alone, again questioning, "What is it all for." I woke up (did I ever sleep?) Sunday morning to diahreah all over EVERYTHING in Grace and Jane's bed. (I know that is kind of a gross thing to share, but I am trying to paint a picture of my destparation for you here ;) ). The girls had decided to make the best of the situation and proceed to pain everything in the room with poop. Great. After deciding that church was more important than poop, I threw all the sheets in the bathtub and rounded up the gang, but only after packing up all Michael's clothes, lots of long-life milk and multivitamins for him. He was going home.

I cried through the service at the thought of having to take him back. This precious child that I had so fallen in love with going back to a place where there was no garuntee that his mother would not simply sell the milk we sent with Him. And God spoke so plainly. He did not appologize for my heartache, even better, He shared it. He KNEW. Because the pain in my heart at having to give up a little boy that I have loved for a month did not even come close to the pain it cause Him to give up His only Son. And He did that for me. The pain in my hear that felt so unbearable was just a fraction of what he felt when He sent His ONE AND ONLY CHILD to save us, to allow us to spend eternity with Him. Wow.

That is what it means that I do this for Jesus. HE loved me first. I love Him back. And sometimes it hurts. But even then it is pure joy to even be considered worthy to share in His suffering. That is the promise. Not that He is sorry that it hurts. But that He sees. That He knows. That He is here with us.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

*be warned: I always re-read things before I post them. I didn't re-read this one, it is liable to be messy...

I am processing so many emotions right now; I'm just going to go ahead and let you know that this post will not be eloquent or well written. It will not be a beautifully worded story, but just the ramblings of a mom who is tired today. It will just be, and it will be good enough.

On Thursday of last week,I went to check on Michael, a sweet little boy from the Karamajong village that we took care of a few weeks ago. I found him with open sores all over his body. As a result of severe malnutrition, Michael weighs just ten kilos at 6 years old. He is no taller than Jane (my two and a half year old). His skin is breaking and unable to repair itself because his immune system is so weak. His hair is white as snow and his skin is yellow and splotchy and his smile and little bug out eyes can melt your heart and light up the room. Michael is fearfully and wonderfully made, created in the image of my Savior.

I have warned myself over and over that I must NOT start bring home children from the Karamajong village. We feed them lunch and supper every day and twice a week I drive my van, the trunk loaded with a mini pharmacy, into the middle of their village and treat anything I can. And I told myself and told myself that I would not bring them home for treatment, that twice a week visits were all I could handle right now. I wanted so badly to guard my heart because here's the thing: once you take one, you may end up with 13. I knew that once I had taken one sick child from this village home for rehab, there would be not stopping point because these children are ALL ALWAYS sick.

But as I looked at Michael, I saw no alternative. He needed to be bathed in warm water every day. He needed milk and eggs and ORS and multivitamins and fresh fruits and vegetables and there was no way I could get him all those things regularly where he was. Even if I did, there was no guarantee that his parents would not sell these things and continue only feeding him posho (corn flour). So he came home. He tested negative for HIV, TB and typhoid and we began a pretty rigid deworming routine as well as a highly caloric, protein packed diet. In the last 5 days he has gained 2.5 pounds (that's a lot if you only weigh 20!) but he has gained more than that. I have watched him transform from a lifeless, expressionless little boy who slept all day and was unresponsive to a over-the-top cheerful, sometimes down right ornery little boy who hardly ever stops smiling and loves playing games with other children. The transformation has been remarkable.

I will keep him for about another week as I begin counseling his father and step mother (this is the biggest issue, often second wives do not want to care for their husband's other children and sometimes even write them off as cursed or not worthy of food and provision...) about the most nutritious foods for him, frequent meals, bathing, ect. My heart will break to take him back and yet I will know that it is what is best for him and his family.

Wednesday as I met with the Karamjong children for Bible study a woman walked up to me and handed me a baby that I presumed to be dead. And then she breathed.

The mother told me that she was quite positive that she (the mother) had HIV and therefore was not breastfeeding her 10 pound, 9 month old little girl. I asked, quite obviously, what she had been feeding her then? And this was the response that awaited me, "Nothing. We have no food." Um. NO wonder the baby looked dead. She almost was. I pleaded the mother to let me take her with me, to be tested for HIV and be fed. The mother instanly agreed but fist wanted to show me her house.

I think I have seen it all. And then this happens. Thier house was made of cardboard and was smaller than the bed I sleep in at night. On the floor lay filthy old rags on which they slept and a pile of charcoal which they cooked on (when they did have food, I guess). I almost dropped on my knees right there. It was one of those I-just-don't-have-a-clue-what-to-do-next moments. So I did the only thing that comes naturally to me. I scooped her up. I prayed for her mother and the 6 other children living in the house/box and promised to return. I drove as fast as I safely could to the nearest semi-good hospital and then to get some high energy formula.

For the first 24 hours, I could hardly stand to look at sweet baby Patricia (her parents had not named her for fear she would die, and I could think of no one better to name her after than my precious Mommy). The hurt and the hunger in her lifeless little eyes was simply unbearable. Every time I changed her diaper, more big fat worms (we are talking really large, earth worm sized) had come out. I cried for the things this child has had to endue for so long. And I cried to know that though I deworm her now, the minute I take her back to her mother, the worms will return. Her HIV test came back negative and I am praising Jesus for that. She was diagnosed with severe pnemonia and malnutrition. She can hardly sleep at night for coughing so much.

Friends, I ask for prayer. For these children and for my heart. I have fallen in love with Michael and Patricia. Their sweet faces that arer Jesus. The tear stream down as I write this and have to think about taking them back to their parents, who I will try to help as much as possible, but still have such fear in my heart about. I look at their surroundings and simply wonder how children survive in this harsh world.

I am sad and I am angry. Between no sleep and a million doctors appointments (imagine that in Uganda you wait even LONGER in the hospital than you do in the US...) and Bible club on Thursday and Saturday program tomorrow and trying to raise 13 children and spend enough time with each of them, maybe you will right my saddess and anger of as the rantings of an exhausted mother and maybe they are, but this is my blog and I am going to say what I feel like. I am MAD. I have been sad and broken for these children for so long and it has finally turned into a hardened anger. I am angry that this culture so lies to women that Michael's stepmother believes that she does not have to care for this child who is not biologically hers, though she has ample means to. I am angry that in the "Pearl of Africa" and the most fertile region of it at that, a mother has litteraly NO food to feed her baby, not to mention herself or 6 other kids. I am angry that the result of this is that these sweet ones suffer in their innocence. I have said it before and it still holds true: I DO NOT BELIEVE that the God of the universe created too many children in His image and not enough love or food or care to go around. In fact I believe that He created the Body of Christ for just that, to help these little ones, the least of these. And I believe that except for a handful, the Body of Christ is failing. And its not just me who thinks this. When I'm angry, I like to research so that I can at least feel a bit justified in my rage ;) According to several differnt resources, there are an average of 147 million orphaned children in the world today (this statistic includes children who have lost only one parent as well), 11 million children starve to death each year or die from preventable, treatable illness. 8.5 million children work as child slaves, prostitutes, or in other horrific conditions (making things like that cute baby Gap dress Jane wore today...) 2.3 million children world wide are living with HIV.

That is 168.8 million needy children like Michael and Patricia. Seems like a big number, huh? It shouldn't, because there are 2.1 BILLION people on this earth who profess to be Christians. Jesus followers. Servants. Gospel live-ers. And id only 8 percent of those Christians would care for just ONE of these needy children, they would all be taken care of.

And now I'm just sad again. And I want to take care of all 169 million. But as I look into Patricia's eyes, that since just 48 hours ago have turned bright and smiley, as I smell her hair freshly washed with baby shampoo and snuggle her into her new footie pajamas (side note: is their ANYTHING cuter than a baby in soft cotton footie pajamas?!) God tells me that this one is enough. That He will hold the others while they wait for someone to come along and hold them tight and give them their milk and their medicine. That He doesn't ask me to take them all but to stop for the ONE because that one is Jesus, His son. Stop for the little boy with white haid and scabs covering his body, stop for the baby with feces covering her dress, so weak she can't hold up her hear. Stop and take the ones right in front of me any trust Him with the rest. He whispers that it will be ok and that I can smile because tonight 2 less children are hungry and that is good for today.

My anger is gone and I am just a mom who is tired and going to make another bottle and tuck her children into bed and love them the best that I can, as we as a family love the ones God has entrusted us with. Tomorrow I will brainstorm and pray and come up with the best way to take Michael and Patricia back to their homes, possibly find their parents jobs, or supply them with food and medicine. Tomorrow I will remember that they were never mine to begin with, that they are HIS and He will go with them where I cannot. But tonight I will just be. I will just sit with my Father in my sadness and brokeness and anger and ask Him why His innocent children must suffer and beg Him to move people to action and let Him hold me as I hold the baby He has blessed me with for today.

Friday, August 14, 2009

It is my 16th Birthday and I am eating sushi at my favorite restaurant with my parents when I tell them that I would like to explore the possibility of taking a year in between high school and college to do mission work. This is unheard of in my family and they say they are not sure and will think about it. I am nervous, but somehow I know it is right. He changes their hearts.

I have just turned 18 and find an orphanage online. I beg my parents to let me visit over break, just three weeks. A month later I am on a plane. I am so excited. I am so scared of being, but I know He is going with me. I fall in love.

I graduate high school having made the commitment to teach Kindergarten for a year at a school in The Middle of Nowhere, Uganda. In August I get on the plane. I’m apprehensive and I cry most of the way because I miss my Mommy and my boyfriend. I am eager, but so uncertain. I trust Him. I teach 138 children how to speak English and to love Jesus.

It is October and I am just not sure I can do it anymore. I live in the smallest room I have ever seen in the back of a pastor’s house. I am more uncomfortable than I had bargained for. No one understands, not people here, not people at home. I am tired. But I am prideful and I am not going to quit. I don’t like this. But I know He has a plan. I learn, I grow, He is there.

It is December and God has spoken very clearly about opening a ministry that sponsors 40 of the orphaned children in the village where I am working. This involves moving into a different house, ALONE. It is big and I cannot imagine how God will fill it up. I am lonely and I am anxious. But I am still trusting. He fills the house, and we now have 400 children sponsored.

It is January and I am looking at a little girl, crushed under a brick wall with no one to care for her or her younger siblings. I offer to take the three home with me until we find them a better placement. I am not really sure what to do with them, but I know they are God’s children. They stay.

It is three days later and the littlest looks at me and calls me mommy. My heart might break in two. Something clicks. I am even more scared than I was the day I stepped on that plane, but I KNOW. Today I have 13.

I have to deliver a baby, give a boy stitches, pull a tooth, give and injection. I am petrified. But no one will do it if I do not. He is present, He holds my hand, they are all fine.

It is August and I must get on a plane back to America to go to college, as I have promised my father. I do not remember how to be a teenager or what it is to be normal Brentwood, Tennessee. I will have to leave my babies. I will have to make new friends. I am sad and I am terrified. He wraps His arms around me. He puts just the right people in just the right places, and they help me and they make me feel at home.

First semester is over and He speaks clearly to me that I cannot serve two masters. “Go HOME,” He says, “and stay.” I am uncertain, but I want to be obedient. He squeezes tighter. I am thankful.

I have to look at my loving parents who have given me everything and tell them that I will not go to college right now, because I feel God wants me to be in Uganda. I know how disappointed and how angry they will be. I am more scared than I was when I got on the plane and more scared than I was when I took my first children. But I know that this IS the Plan. They love me anyway.

It is February and my daughter’s biological father comes to take her away. My heart breaks in half, and I am not sure I will ever be able to get out of my bed again, let alone foster another child. I am more than devastated, but I want what is best for her, what He wants for her. She comes back and her biological father learns about Jesus.

It is March and a lame little girl is brought to my gate. She is undoubtedly mine, but I am still anxious. What if I can’t do it? I don’t know what to do with a special needs child, especially as my 13th child. I am criticized and ridiculed. I wonder. I trust and praise God for her sweet little life. She starts to walk.

I find myself in a village full of starving people that for some reason seem to want to kill me. God says to serve them anyway. I am not sure how it is going to work, or if it is safe. I can’t figure it out, but I know He can. 1,200 Karamajongs, the poorest of Uganda’s poor, are now served hot meals daily.

We keep taking in more children until there are 400 in our program. There is no way we will raise enough funds, but by now I have stopped worrying. He has always provided. Blessings rain from the sky, and all 400 children go to school.

I am 20 years old and have 13 children and 400 more who all depend on me for their care. Who are all learning to love Jesus and be responsible adults and looking up to me. The reality of it all can be a bit overwhelming at times. However, it is always pure joy. There is a common misconception that I am courageous. I will be the first to tell you that this is not actually true. Most of the time, I am not brave. I just believe in a God who will use me even though I am not. Most mornings, before I even get out of bed I am overwhelmed with His goodness, with His plan for my life; I stand in awe of the fact that He could entrust me with so much. Most days, I don’t have much of a plan. I don’t always know where this is going. I can’t see the end of the road, but here is the great part: Courage is not about knowing the path. It is about taking the first step. It is about Peter, getting out of the boat. I do not know my five year plan; even tomorrow will probably not go as I have planned. I am thrilled and I am terrified, in a good way. So some call it courage, some call it foolish, I call it Faith. I choose to get out of the boat. To take the next step. Sometimes I walk straight into His arms. More often, I get scared and look down and stumble. Sometimes I almost completely drown. And through it all, He never lets go of my hand.

Monday, August 10, 2009

warning, this is going to be a long one...

I have 4 kiddos with malaria and all 14 of us have an awful cold, tis the season in Uganda.
so I decided it was a perfect day to send Christine to her sister's (she is the only one of us that isn't sick and I would like to keep it that way), stay in our pj's, make some fresh squeezed orange juice, and pop in High School Musical for the kids while I cleaned my whole house top to bottom.

Funny, cleaning my whole house can actually make me feel BETTER. (yes, I inherited this from my own mother!) Its nap time now and I figured I better check in on you all and let you know what has been going on with us.

At first I wasn't really going to share a whole lot in this blog, but I decided that in order to be real, one must be vulnerable... so here goes. Tuesday, Ben left. Friday, my dad and my brother left. This morning, my best friends for the last 8 months, Joe and Melissa Terranova, moved back to America. This weekend, I thought my heart may literally break in half. It hurt physically.

Watching the man I love interact with my children and participate in my life was such a wonderful blessing. Watching him leave was much harder than I expected. I emailed a sweet friend this note a few days after he left:

"Ben left Tuesday. I am trying and trying and trying to praise the Father for the sweet time He allowed Ben to but honestly, my heart is just broken. In moments where I never before would have thought about him, driving to town, bandaging wounds, cooking dinner, reading at night, I now miss His presence. It hurts. I want for him to be happy. I want for him to use the talents God has given him! But selfishly I just want him to be here with me, to help me. I never before felt incomplete in my life here. His absence makes my life feel that way a little. I know that I need to cling to the promise that God is all I need to be complete but sometimes it is easier to talk the talk than to walk the walk. My dad and brother are leaving today, and Joe and Melissa, my best friends here are leaving Sunday. It feels incredibly lonely. I know though, that I wouldn't trade this lonely feeling for the days that Ben, Brad and Brad were able to spend here. It was undoubtedly more than I could have asked or imagined (look at their words on my blog!) and I know that their eyes were opened so much more to my work and my life and I am so thankful. SO thankful. He is GOOD."

It was a dark place there for a few days.

In some wonderful quiet time over the last few days, in praising while cleaning my beautiful, wonderful little Ugandan home, God has spoken an immense Peace to my heart. I am just so in love with Him, My Savior. He always has just the right words. Saturday He took me through my relationship with Ben, showing me how He has used Ben's awesome athletic talent to take Ben to the most perfect places, put him in the lives of the most perfect people, grow him in his patience and courage and strength, and ultimately create him as the Ben that I love. For the first time I didn't question how Ben would use his athletic talent for God's glory and saw how God had used that talent for His own glory in Ben's life. Why did that take me so long? He also spoke clearly to me that (of course) it IS His perfect plan that there is not a man in my life right now. I know in this stressful, sometimes just down-right hard life how easy it would be for me to quickly turn my dependence to a person, rely on him for my happiness and advice. Surely that is the last thing God desires for my heart! HE wants to be my lover, my happiness, my source of comfort and strength and wisdom. He has me right here without other adults who could ever take His place while He cements in me my full reliance on Him. Again, duh. So that's the Ben thing, for all those who were wondering ;) I will continue to support Him as much as I can from here and I know he will do the same for me. And we will just continue to trust in God's perfect plan.

Then there is the family. OH, how beautiful it is to see my American family and my Ugandan family under the same roof (come quick Mom!!). But there is always such a great sadness as they leave, that in my heart I know that my WHOLE family will never live on the same continent, will very seldom be TOGETHER in this life. I cannot begin to put into words the gratitude I have for my American family. I am not the only person who has laid down dreams for this ministry to be successful and for my baby girls to have a mother. As much as I have laid down dreams of living down the street from my parents, raising my children near their awesome grandparents, hanging out with my family, they have laid down their dreams for me and our live together. I saw the sacrifice in my dad's eyes as he kissed me good bye (tears flowing just thinking about his love for me!) My parents are the reason that I know what a Heavenly Father's love feels like. My family is the reason that I know how to love. I think of Abraham when God asked him to sacrifice Isaac. He must have had so many questions. Look what God gave him back though. Not just his son, but he continues to make him the father of so many nations. My parents and my brother did the ultimate. They loved me so much, they loved the Lord so much, that they let me go where His plan took me. I cannot imagine their great reward in eternity when they meet all the children, all the families, whose lives were touched because they listened.

It is undoubtedly the "thorn in my flesh" that I cannot be with my whole family at one time. It is my daily reminder that perfect happiness will come only from HIM and it will only come in Heaven. So I, we as a family, will continue to rejoice in His promises and the day that we all sit together at His feet.

Christine said to me Saturday, "Wow, they all loved you so much." It's true. Sometimes I wonder, "Why me?" Why did He chose me to be so abnormal? Why don't I just go to college and get married and you know... have a regular life? I could still love Jesus. Why this? And I am sure my parents and my brother and Ben wonder why, of all the 20 year old girls in the world, God would choose this one to move to the other side of the world. But I know why. I am probably the most well loved little girl in the whole entire world. That's why I am here. From those to whom much has been given, so much more will be expected. I am loved SO well. By Ben. By my parents. By my children. By my sweet friends. By all of you. It only makes sense that God would ask me to share that love across the globe, with children who don't know what that feels like, and I feel so incredibly blessed to do so.

The Peace that surpasses all understanding. Right here in my home, right here in my heart. No doubt it is pushed along because of your prayers. Thank you, thank you.

One more request: On Saturday on her way home from program, little Angela was in a bicycle accident. I happened to already be at the clinic with a few other sickies, when they carried her in covered in blood (she had cut her mouth. why is it that a mouth always seems to bleed so much more than necessary?) She has a few deep cuts on her face and lip, several broken teeth, and a very large wound on her leg. She is staying with us while we inject her with penicillin and pain killers (poor thing) and seems to be improving rapidly. Please continue to keep her little body in your prayers. Oh, and you can pray that we would get over our colds, although I really wouldn't mind one more day of cleaning... :)

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Hello Journey followers! The good news is you get a blog, the not so good news; it's not from Katie. This is PAPA, formerly known as Scott and Dad. Katie's girlsasked what she called her grandfather and she said PAPA, so guess what? PAPA it is, and I must say after spending the week with these 13 beautiful girls,I hope I am their PAPA forever.

If you are looking to read an unbiased story about Katie, you should probably not go on. The Dad in me just can't be unbiased, especially after what I've seen and expereincedthis week. What I want to tell each of you is THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart. Each of you through your prayers, donations, words of encouragement, etcmake a difference EVERY DAY! Yes, it is physically through Katie as she touches these people, but Amazima is not possible without you. What I can assure you is; it's not just one life you touch every day, it is literally hundreds. Allow me to share with you a week in the life of Katie as seen through the eyes of herearthly father.
To set the stage realize that I brought Katie to Uganda in 2007 as a 18 year old. I left her at the baby cottage which certainly was a safe haven with other North Americanvolunteers. While hard to part with her I had a sense of her safety. Of course I didn't realize that in a very short time she would venture out from the safety of the baby cottage to the village of Canaan where the real life of Amzima began.

Brad and I arrived Friday near midnight to Kate's house in Bukaya. I don't know what I expected, but I can tell you this; there is not much I'm going to complainabout from this point forward! At 6:00am Saturday the first child came through the gate for worship, play and food. Over the next few hours over 300 children filled Katie's small yard, first greeted with a single boiled egg (you ever seen 350 boiled eggs in a pot?). Then play and worship led by Katie and Raoul, a terrific young man giftedwith beutiful music and words. This was followed by lunch where all 300+ children formed and orderly line to be served rice, beans and CHICKEN! You can't imagine thelooks on their faces when first biting into the chicken. I don't have the words to express the satisfaction. It's at that point a young girl came crying to Katie. She had fallen from a tree and her head was bleeding. We watched Katie magically perform minor surgery, patch the girl up and send her back on her way. I promise youI've never seen anything like it. Then Bashir came in the house only for Katie to say; "I think he has scabbies, I have to run him to the clinic". Off to the clinic she and Bashir went as Katie's girls handed out bags of food to each child filled with flour, beans and rice (bags they had filled that morning separating by hand each ingredient. Enough for each child a week's worth of meals, although I'm quite sure it actually fed the children's family. Katie and Bashir return, and the diagnosis is scabbies. Katie announced that Bashir would be staying with us for a few days while she treated him. You should have seen the look on the faces of me, Brad and Ben!!. .Surely she was kidding, Nope! The day was not to the Karamonjongs for Katie and Ben to check on little Michael, You've read that story.

Did I say it was still Saturday, day 1 of our visit?

I won't bore you with a day by day account, but thought day 1 would set the tone.
On day 3 it was determined Katie has solved the age old marital problem of raising and lowering the toilet seats. Hers are broken and she simply removed them.When I suggested I would buy her new ones she looked at me like I had three heads. She asked if I knew how many children she could feed for the costof toilet seats? I looked at her like she was nuts, but I can tell you that you can adjust to life without toilet seats when all you can think about isfeeding another one of these children.

The week has continued with more of the same. Today is Thursday and I believe it is the first night Katie has not hosted another sick child spend the night. The power has been outsince last night, but it didnt not stop us from attending a meeting at the school where Katie feeds the Karamonjongs. I watched my daugter masterfullycontrol a meeting with 7 school administrators and determine solutions for arrising conflict. PRIDE moment. Then down the hill to Karamonjongs. You simply can't imagine the poverty unless you see it. The smell is undescribeable. The looks on the faces. I cannot get the pictures out of my head. Walking up the hillKatie, Brad and I had as many hands touching us on each arm and our waists as humanly possible. From our elbows down you could see nothing other than brown little fingers just doing anything to touch our white skin as we headed up the hill for lunch.

To finish our week Katie wanted to take us to Sumini's village; how she ever found this place is beyond my wildest imagination. After a 3 mile walk down railrod track, into the jungle, turn right at the dirt path we came upon this tiny little village. Sumini's biological parents greeted Katie with the joy and enthusiasm I've seldom seen. I had no idea what they were saying so I just smiled and nodded until the witch doctor showed up appearing drunk and begging for us to come to his house. That was enough for me!!

Enough rambling, but I want all of you to know, to see, to smell and to feel the impact you are having on this world. Our President can come to Africa for photo opsand talk the talk, or Katie and her team can come to Africa and WALK the WALK. She and YOU are making a difference in peoples lives every single day!I can't begin to tell you the number of Ugandan people that have approached me in town this week to tell me how much they love and respect Katie. Howmuch they appreciate the impact she is having on the children of their country. It's all possible because ALL of you continue to express your love.

As Brad and I prepare to depart tomorrow I can feel the tears beginning to well up. I will leave my precious Katie for another year, a time period I have a hard time imaging. I know she is in God's hands and he will continue to watch over her and keep her safe.

Thank you dear Katie, Auntie Christine and my 13 beautiful grandaughters for sharing your home, your lives and your love. You have changed my life forever when I didn'tthink that was possible. I will miss you everyday!!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

update at 8:30 pm, wednesday: Sumini has severe malaria, please pray for her! Seein her so sick brings back many emotional memories for Momma...

Friends and Family (and stalkers, just kidding!),

This week has been a wonderful, hard, emotional roller coaster for me. I was hesitant to mention in my writing before that this week my brother, my dad and Ben will be here. Some of you know and some of you don't... Ben was my highschool boyfriend and though I am absolutely still in love with him, the fact that I have decided to live in Uganda permanently complicates things a little. I know people who follow my life closely are probably shocked to hear this, it is just not something I felt comfortable sharing. I have not blogged about this because when your life is an open book like mine, people sometimes feel entitled to say things that are unnecessary or far too personal. I was apprehensive about his trip here (he has been here before, but that was before I had children) and mostly I just wanted it to be a private thing between he and I and the Lord. As God would have it, Ben's time here has been more wonderful than I could have ever asked or imagined. I am so grateful for this time and will continue to trust the Lord with our relationship. I know that His plan is far better than my desires, and I am thankful for that. Thanks for your prayers. Anyway, since I am all a jumble of emotions, I decided to let Ben write this one himself...

I am sure that everyone who reads Katie’s blog has their own picture of what Uganda is, the work Katie does, and the people’s lives that are changed. My own picture of Uganda was filled with many mixed emotions. A part of me was thrilled that I could even have a part in this amazing girls life and could hear firsthand the fantastic works that God has done through Katie. However there was always another part of me that never could get a clear picture, it almost seemed National Geographic, it did not seem real. Now one reason was probably because of the history Katie and I share and how hard it is to be so far away from someone you love and admire so much. Maybe that’s what kept me from really understanding what she does and what drives her. Regardless of my lack of understanding in the past this week I have spent in Uganda has truly opened my eyes to the picture of Gods work here. It is Real.

The story I am about to tell is about a little Karomajong boy named “Michael” who we think is around 3. Before I try to explain in words the emotions and details of this experience I would like to say that this was one of the first times I have wept for someone. Katie and I were up at the school where she feeds hundreds of the hungry, neglected Karomajong children who nearly survive on the small bowl of rice and beans. Once we rounded up the mass of little faces Katie turned to me and said, “Where is that hungry little boy?” I couldn’t even begin to guess who she could have talking about. In the sea of hungry children how could there possibly be one that was so neglected he could stand out? Katie pointed to a small tree where a boy with short white hair sat. I had never seen a face like his. No emotion was in his face as Katie and I looked him over and gave him food and water. I sat next to him as his sad eyes surveyed the food in front of him. As he ate we saw small burn marks on his arm and feet so blistered and cracked I did not know how he walked. Katie told me children can only have white hair if they are deprived of almost all protein for more than 6 months. She knew he needed help and asked for his parents. Only the father came, because the mother was nearing child labor, and Katie asked if we could take him home and clean him up. Katie asked the father for the boy’s name, the father said he didn’t know it as a voice from one of the children said “His name is Michael”. He made no noise as we drove him to Katie’s house. Once there, I began talking off his clothes to wash him only to find more burn marks on his legs and back. Katie thought it was from his mother punishing him with burnt sticks. He asked to go back home, my heart broke as I saw this poor boy being washed for probably the first time in a very long time.

When I finished bathing him, Katie began to perform what seemed a small surgery on the boy’s feet. She started by cutting away the large piece of skin hanging from his heals and inner feet. Then she started to cut out his jiggers, a small bug that burrows deep in the foot, out of his feet. The boy made no noise, but tears were rolling down his face. Katie then began to cut the skin away so the rocks and mud could be dug out of the holes left by the jiggers. Michael wept silently in pain as the rocks were removed. I have never cried like I did when I saw this poor, so uncared for child going through so much pain. Once she had removed all the bugs, rocks, and egg sacs from his poor little feet, Katie ran to the bathroom and threw up. We bandaged him up, put a fresh pair of socks on his feet, and a pair of shoes to match. His face showed no emotion as I sat there holding him. I so wanted for some expression of relief or happiness to cross his face as he slowly rested his small hand on my leg. Michael’s face never changed.

Once in the car I reached into the glove compartment for some kind of treat to give my little friend. I had one sucker with a whistle in the handle. Michael watched me as I blew into the whistle “Wheeeee”. I slowly put the whistle up to his lips as the same noise came out, ”Wheeeee”. His eyes lit up and the round cheeks lifted to show his little white teeth for the first time … Michael smiled. I wish I could put in writing the emotions I felt when I saw the small glimpse of joy on his face. It was an expression I could tell had been hidden a long, long time. Everything finally made sense to me. I always knew the work Katie was doing and always was thrilled to hear about it, but the picture finally made sense. It made sense how someone could leave their family and move across the world, it made sense how someone could give their life to helping others, it made sense how Katie can wake up each day and be eager with excitement to do it again. In that one moment my life was changed. It was no longer just a story I heard, or photograph I saw… it was Real.

As Katie and I rode in the front we would hear the occasional “Wheeeee” and every time we would look back and see that precious little smile on his face. I carried Michael down to his mud hut on the back side of the mountain, to leave him with his family he was so waiting to see. His mother smiled as she saw him standing there, “He looks smart” is what she said. I so wished there was something else I could to for my new friend, I can only hope and pray that his parents will learn to appreciate and take care of him, and through that love and the love of Amazima Ministries he will learn the love that Jesus has for him.

I want to thank Katie and her family for allowing me to come take part in the Journey. This trip has truly been one I will never forget and will always be thankful for. You taught me what it truly means to serve others. You will always be in my prayers. I love you Katie.