Thursday, January 28, 2010


This has nothing to do with Uganda, but since coming back I've had no luck in finding a nursing job, so in the meantime I'm starting up a small photography business. If anyone needs portraits taken, let me know!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Why Uganda?

People ask me all the time, why Africa? Why Uganda? Why would you go so far to a place like that to help those people when you could do plenty of helpful things right here? This is what I want to tell you...

It's because I've met those people. Because I know those people. I know their stories. I've shared life with them. We've eaten meals together, We've run together. We've swam together. We've read books and drawn pictures. We've laughed. We've danced. They are part of me and I am part of them.

People always say that Africa gets in your blood. That once you've been, it changes you. They're right.

When I think about Uganda, I don't just think about a place. I see faces. I see these faces, and I can't walk away from them.

The reality of their world doesn't just go away because I do. Diana still wakes up every morning and has HIV. Lokute's mom still is without her son because there was nobody there to take care of him. And I can't live in my comfy house with my nice things and know their reality at the same time. The two cannot exist side by side.

As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. "Good teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" "Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: 'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.'" "Teacher," he declared, "all these I have kept since I was a boy." Jesus looked at him and loved him. "One thing you lack," he said. "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me...."
"I tell you the truth," Jesus replied, "no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first." -Matthew 10:17-21,29-30

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Then and Now: Amani

A year and a half ago I flew to Uganda, alone, to work at Amani Baby Cottage, an orphanage I knew little about. I spent 2 months there living with, caring for, and falling in love with these babies. Since then I have been able to visit 2 of the kids in America, share stories of their kids with families who have since adopted, brought one of the kids home to America, and been priveledged enough to get to see so many of my babies again. When I left last time I wasn't sure I'd be back in time to see the same kids again. But I did. And seeing how these kids have grown and changed and to be greeted by their smiling faces was worth the trip.

So here they are, then and now....

I would like you to meet my sweet Ugandan babies...

This is Benjamin. My sweet, cuddly Benja. Once one of my baby "B's," Benja has moved all the way up to the toddler house. Benjamin is waiting to go home to his forever family in Texas.

Meet Patrick. Last year I picked Patrick up from Watoto, a children's home in Kampala, to bring him to Amani. Patrick had been found, abandon, in a plastic bag. When they saw that he wasn't dead, they brought him to the athorities and in the end, he came to live at Amani. He is all smiles these days. Running up to me yelling, "Auntie, Auntie" in hopes of getting a snuggle.

Daniel, now known as "Fat Dan" came to Amani last year. In the first picture he was about 7 months old, but the size of a newborn. He is now king of the Baby B's.

Dan. He hasn't changed a bit.

My sweet Gift. She was my baby, my special one, the one I would have brought home with me if it was legal. She's now running and laughing and talking, and a little bit of a terror.

Mebra, twin of Isaac.


Monica is the little girl I brought back to the states with me. What an adventure that was! But that's a story for another time.

Ditte was our sweet, shy, beautiful little girl. She was a skinny little runt before, but she's thriving now, and quite the little pudge!

Matthew was another one of my Baby B's who is now a toddler. And he hasn't changed a bit. He's still whiney and fussy, but I still love him dearly.


Friday, January 22, 2010

Excerpt from Katie's Blog...

Matthew 25 says... "Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'

Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'

The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'

They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?' He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for the least of these brother’s of mine, you did not do for me.’"

This is from my friend Katie's blog. I recommend you go and read it!.
I BELIEVE that when Jesus said, “I tell you the TRUTH,” He meant just that, that His words were true and He wasn’t kidding. YES, I believe that I am saved by faith through GRACE. Grace that is freely given and cannot be earned by anything I do. But I also believe that sometimes we rely so heavily on the Grace of God to cover our sins that we blatantly disobey His word and feel ok about it. “Depart from me you who are cursed into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” THAT is what Jesus will say to those of us who do not care for the least of these. I believe this is true because I believe His word is true, EVERY word is true, plain and simple. That is a heavy, heartbreaking thought. How often have we neglected you, Lord?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The thing about Uganda is...

It's ok to fall asleep wherever you want.

Hanging your socks on the wall is totally normal.

You can dance while you clean if you feel like it.

You're never to old to play in a box.

If you want to eat grasshoppers, eat grasshoppers.

If you want to be naked, that's OK too.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Come to the front for your wounds...

As you know, after our night of staying up all night watching Lokute, we were due to teach our health class in Masese. When Tamara and Jeremy came to pick us up at the hospital, I was on the verge of collapse, sprawled across the floor nearly asleep. I dragged myself up from the floor and flung myself across the birthing table where a sadly dry muffin awaited me. After a short discussion on who would watch Lokute, we decided to text Emma to see if she could come.

"What hospital are we at again?" I asked Tamara.
"Al Shafa."
"Al what?"
"Al Shafa."
"How do you spell that?"
"A-l S-h-a-f-a."
"OK," I said as I attempted to type that into my phone.
"Wait, spell it again."
"Let me just do it for you," Tamara finally suggested reaching for my phone.

Exhausted. That is what I was.

After a quick trip home to take a shower we were on the road again, headed to Masese with a steaming cup of the most delicious coffee I've ever tasted. By the time we got there the caffeine was beginning to kick in and I was actually somewhat pleased to be greeted by the mob of children that had begun to climb the side of the car like monkeys.

Whenever going to Masese, my goal is to try and stay clean for as long as possible. Now, I know that cleanliness is not a reality in this place, but it's fun to see how long you can go. Of course, in my tiredness, this did not last long. Upon climbing out of the car, my leg slid along the outside and a huge streak of mud stretched out across my leg. There had also been a rainstorm the night before so the ground was covered in mud. The children walked about barefoot with inch think patties of mud caked to their feet that gave the appearance that they were wearing shoes.

About an hour after arriving we began our teaching session. I'll spare you all the details of this 5 hour lecture, but in a nutshell, we talked about hand washing, poop, worms, wounds, and malaria. I found out after 45 minutes of poop discussion that the village of Masese only has one latrine and hardly anyone uses it. There is very limited drinking water. The spout closest to the church charges a fee to retrieve clean water and it a village as poor as Masese, that's a hard fee to pay.

The lesson ended with wound care. Being the daughter of a teacher, I've picked up a few techniques over the years and knew that for people to really learn and the enjoy what they are learning, you have to have hands on teaching. Thus the creation of my fake wounds. A small container of blood made out of flour, water, and red dye and another container of pus made of foaming laundry soap, water, yellow dye, and a little dirt. We broke them up into groups of 4 and one by one they came up to receive their wounds then returned to their group where another member would have to treat the wound. This continued on for about and hour and a half while everyone got a turn to play each role. There were people running about with "blood" dripping down their faces and arms. Mangled fingers. I was running about yelling "Your patient is bleeding to death! Hurry!!" as these poor people tried to pick the right size gauze to use. It was, to say the least, hysterical. And probably even more so to me because I was so tired. But I have to say, I think that was the most fun I had the whole time I was in Uganda. (So thanks Tamara and Jeremy for asking us to teach that class!!)

We did treat one real wound as an example. It was that of a young boy that Jeremy had been telling us about. He had bumped into a stool or something about a year ago and hidden the small wound. Now, it's huge and infected and so far into the bone that he's probably going to need surgery to repair it. That right there is why we did this class. To try and prevent small little injuries from turning into huge, life-threatening ones. Because a little antiseptic and a band-aid and that boy would have been fine. Tamara and Jeremy have this great vision of being about to teach the people there how to care for each other so that they don't need people like Andrea and I to come in and treat their wounds. Instead, they will be able to help each other and in turn, preventing things so horrible you would never believe unless you'd been there to seem them.

The village of Masese has been blessed with some amazing people, both local and foreign, who are striving to make it a better place. I reccommend you check out Katie's blog too. She's been living there for a while and is currently raising 14 little girls. She has also partnered with a local medical distributer is able to get all the health care supplies for Masese for free.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Lokute's Story Continues...

Baby Lokute's story didn't end where I left off last time. That was only day one and this little guy had a life full of adventures. So let me tell you a little more about his story...

Lokute stayed at the hospital for a little over a week with his mom, Lucia. Everyday I went to check on him, giving mom a chance to bathe and me a chance to see how he was and give him some cuddles. His room was painfully hot for anyone who wasn't a 1 kg baby and it was torture to have to stay in that room for too long, but his mom faithfully stayed there day after day with the little heater on in "Lokute's Incubator."

Tamara and Jeremy took Lucia back to Masese one afternoon so she could see her family and tell them what was happening and bring back someone to translate so we could talk about what we were going to do. Lucia is Karamojong and her language is not very well known in Jinja, thus communication was a challenge. There was a lot of motions, face-making, and laughter whenever we tried to communicate and I'm pretty sure about 95% of what was being said was lost as we acted out our words. But alas, the wonderful Lillian came to translate and we were all able to sit down with the doctor and discuss what should be done to keep Lokute healthy. Because the cost of keeping them in the hospital would be too much and Lucia had another son at home, it was finally decided that they would have to go home. So we devised a plan for how to keep Lokute warm and healthy in his dirt hut.

Lokute's hut looked something like this (sorry it's not a great picture).

Lokute was doing well during his first week of life. We had him bundled in lots of sweaters and tiny onsies and sleepers that I altered to fit him. He was wrapped in blankets and tucked into a foam pouch. And he was holding his temperature relatively well. He even went on an adventure to the chapati stand next to the hospital to get some lunch. He was quite the hit with the locals who were quite curious as to what kind of baby I had tucked away in my roll of blankets. "He's a Ugandan baby," I'd explain. "Not a Mzungu."

They day before I was to leave, Jeremy and I went with Lucia to the village to look at her hut and speak with her and Lokute's father about how they could care for their baby. We sat on mats on the dirt floor explaining ways to keep him warm and clean. About how much he needs to eat. We explained how to use a hot water bottle (something we were hoping to find so they could keep him warm at night... though one was never found). We explained and explained again, asking for them to repeat what we'd told them. And then the father left. And when he returned, he began snorting something out of his hand.

Masese is a dark place where alcohol production is a main source of income. The people are drunk much of the time, as was the father during our teaching session. Jeremy had to restrain me from telling off the father about his drinking, reminding me that culturally it would be better if he talked to him about it. Of course, once the snorting of drugs happened, I lost it. I'm not sure exactly what I said... something along the lines of, "You're going to kill your child if you bring that stuff in the house." It was like talking to a wall. He was too drunk to even register what I was saying to him, which was probably a good thing for my sake.

And that's when the translator spoke up. "He says he beats his woman sometimes." Right there, in front of all of us, as we're teaching him how to take care of his premature baby, he tells us that he beats his woman. Jeremy and I turned to each other. "This is not going to work," he said. There was no way we were going to turn this tiny baby over to a man who loses his temper like that. I have never in my life felt that much anger towards a person as I did in that moment. Tamara appeared in the doorway at that moment, rescuing us from what we probably would have said had we been left in there with that man any longer. We emerged into the light, me trembling with anger as we quickly relayed in hushed tones to Tamara what had happened.

We left that day frustrated and angry and at a loss for what to do. Back at the hospital I sat on the bench in the courtyard contemplating what solution there was for Lokute. Then Anna called (Anna is an amazing volunteer at the children's home I was living at). She told me that Holly and William (who run the home) might be willing to let Lucia, Lokute, and the other son to come and live at the boys house until Lokute was strong enough to safely return home.

Tamara and I sat there, exhausted and angry, discussing what we could do. Then the conversation turned to the larger picture of how many other stories just like that happen in the village of Masese. (Another time I'll talk about my dream to one to get to return there and work with those mom's and babies)

To bring this extremely long story to an end, Lucia, Lokute, and his brother moved into the children's home where Anna, Emma (another volunteer), and some of the mamas took shift watching over him and ensuring that he was doing well. I haven't heard the whole story on what happened, but he deteriorated quickly and two days ago he just stopped breathing. He was a fighter and he was loved and I believe he shook up the lives of all of us who cared for him.

Lokute William
December 11, 2009 - January 12, 2010

This is an excerpt from an e-mail Jeremy sent out that I wanted to share with you...
"We just returned from Masese after burying 2 baby boys. Of course, one was baby Lokute. The other we found in the arms of a mourning mother when we arrived. His name was Joseph, a one-year old nephew to Michael and Lillian. We dug two holes side by side on the hill, and crammed between the bushes next to a pig pen to hold the ceremony. There was no making the bodies look peaceful or concern about buying a casket. The babies were placed straight in the ground, wrapped in their everyday blankets and clothed in last nights pajamas. It was quick and functional for the most part. To us, disturbingly routine. For these families, especially the mothers, this was a proper burial and they were thankful.

There was obvious strangeness in contrast to our own 'culture of death', but It was also an unusual experience in light of Karamojong culture.
The Karamojong frequently abandon their dead, yet both of these mothers struggled for the lives of their children and carefully watched over them up until they were place in the ground.

Bodies are often discarded like refuse because families have no land and the public burial ground is full. Plots cost more money than they can afford. But today, a friend of the church came forward and gave a plot for the children to be buried properly.

And the Karamojong rarely pay respect to the dead, let alone hold a God honoring service. Of course, Pastor Joseph and other men of the church jumped at the chance to lead the service and minister to the family as well as the greater community with the love and truth of Jesus.

Contrary to our fears of how they'd receive us as we arrived with Lokute's body, the family was filled with thankfulness and asked only one thing from us.... that we not forget them and return to visit them at home. Mourning with them and the larger community brought about a rare occurrence. We felt like we were 'just part of them', and We were humbled and honored to mourn with them. Afterward, Lokute's mother thanked us profusely for trying to help her baby, and for helping ensure he was given a respectful service. We can only thank our merciful God. It's so clear how He continually works for their good, even in the midst of tragedy.

God has a history of using tragedy for His glory, to open eyes , to change hearts, to prepare and launch people into Kingdom work. We pray the tragedy of these two baby boys buried in the ground would be like seeds planted, springing up to new life.

i know this sounds heavy, and it is. But we're doing really well and have great peace in Christ. Pray for Masese."

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Yesterday baby Lokute went to be with his Jesus.

Friday, January 8, 2010

A Few of My Favorite Pictures

Just a few to keep you entertained while I think of more stories to write...


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