Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Nets Not Caskets

This is my friends Tamara and Jeremy's latest blog (it relates to the Nets Not Caskets)....

"We keep a receipt as a bookmark in our Bible to remind us of Peter. It’s for the cost of his casket.
Peter was a young man, maybe 25, who worked in the furnace of the local steel plant. It’s a tough and dangerous job. His body evidenced this fact, pock-marked with bloated scars where molten steel had exploded onto his skin. And he was as strong as an ox. All those days working the mill gave him rock solid arms. We remember them well because we had to wrestle with him for hours. Out of the church, into the van, across town, through the clinic, strapping him to a ‘hospital’ bed. Then again we wrestled so nurses could test his blood, administer his IV and other medications. Peter didn’t know we were trying to help so he fought against us. In his mind we had bewitched him.
The night before, Peter had stumbled to church from the factory where he slept outside, on the ground, exposed to the elements. He came for healing. By then he was really sick. Sick enough to die. And that’s how we found him. He was face down on the church alter, writhing in pain, sweat pouring from his brow, eyes bulging, legs paralyzed, his saliva making a paste of the dirt floor underneath him. He spoke to people who weren’t in the room, and spit on those who were. It was a terrible scene, like out of a fiction book. Having never seen anything like it we found ourselves asking, “Is this man possessed?”. Our friends replied,“We’ve been praying for him all night. He became calm and then the demon’s once again entered his head”. We knelt around him and prayed again but the chaos of his condition persisted. We assured them that God was big enough to set the man free with a single, humble prayer. Suggesting the problem was physical, we made our way to the clinic.
Not even the tranquilizers could calm Peter from the effects of cerebral malaria. But the convoluted outbursts filled with fear and anger mellowed before nightfall. We thought we’d turned the corner and sighed relief. Peter began to speak with us coherently and, for a brief moment, we began to see the young man beneath the madness of this cruel disease. He was scared, he was thankful and he wanted to live. Tragically, this was the calm before the storm. By sunrise Peter had died. “Maybe it was an aneurism or he aspirated on his own vomit” the doctor said. Either way, there was a dead body and we were responsible. We searched until we found his sister and a few friends. Together, the few of us tied his body properly, bought him a casket, loaded him into a pickup truck and returned his body to the church where he’d come for help the day before.

The slum was electric with curiosity about Peter and the church who’d fought for his life. They stopped in to take a peek at his body, mourn and thank members of the church for giving him a respectable end. That’s a lot more than people typically get in Masese Slum. Often, with no money for caskets and no land, families don’t know what to do with the bodies.
But can’t we do better than this? Better than a respectable end? Better than caskets?

We think so. We know so. That’s why we keep Peter’s receipt. To remind us, not only that we can do better, but that we are called by Christ to do better. According to Philippians 1:10, the love of Christ ‘approves the things that are excellent’. Likewise, the love of Christ disapproves of things that aren’t excellent. Plain and simple, love disapproves of merely buying caskets for those who’ve died when there’s a more excellent way.

Of course, we all want to ACT NOW. But it’s important to note that the answer isn’t plain and simple and that our action must be more than just passionate. The same passage in Philippians tells us that love is filled with ‘true knowledge’ and ‘all discernment’. Our response must be girded with wisdom if it’s going to be loving. A loving response takes the time to understand and find the most excellent way.

There’s a more excellent way than white people buying 1,500 mosquito nets, giving them away and leaving. The people who live in Masese Slum wouldn’t see their value, they’d sell them for food, they may not even know how to use them and we’d miss out on bigger opportunities to effect sustainable change. To do this right people need awareness of the issue, ownership of the solution, training and follow-up to give them the best chance of malaria prevention long-term. And this project could be the right platform for the church to begin doing what it was intended to do. While it’s certain to be a drawn out, messy process, every step of the way is an opportunity to engage the people of Masese with the message of Christ’s excellent love.
Peter came to the church for is the time for the church to take healing to Peter."

Don't forget to come on Sunday evening... this is what you'll be supporting.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Preemie Project

How would you feel if your 2 lb baby was being heated over a charcoal stove or wrapped in a urine soaked blanket? This is the reality of life for premature babies in Uganda. I'm guessing that most of you know instictively that the smoke from a fire would not be good for immature lungs and that lying in one's own filth does not promote a health immune system. Now stop and think about why you know that.

Figure it out yet?

It's because you're educated. Because you grew up in a world where those kinds of things are basic knowledge, where you could flip on TLC and watch a show about babies or see something on the news about new medical technology.

Now here's the shocker... they don't know that in Uganda. Why? Because nobody ever told them!

The Preemie Project is seeking to provide a few basic things to one small community to help them care for the premature babies in their village and to equipt the people there with the education to teach the villagers these simple facts and save the lives of babies like Lokute.

There are 2 things that you can do for the Preemie Project...
1. Buy a hot water bottle
2. Make a cloth diaper

My favorite is the first link with a pattern for a cloth diaper made out of recycled shirts. So get out your sewing machine and start stiching. It's OK if it's not the most attractive diaper... the babies won't mind.

And don't forget... Feb. 28 @ 7:30 pm. PCC Fireside Room.
Be there!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Stories From Uganda - The Event

So, I mentioned before that I was working on something. Well, here's part of it. After talking to Tamara, I was informed that the biggest project they're working on in Masesee right now is providing mosquito nets for the entire village, that's 1,500 people.

Here's what you can do:
1. Visit these two links: Stories from Uganda Event and Boones in Africa
2. Come to the event on Feb. 28 (info below)
3. Donate $ - via PCC (make sure it says Uganda in the byline) or directly through the Boone's website (make sure that it goes to Tamara and Jeremy Boone for Nets Not Caskets)
4. Get involved in the Preemie Project - Go to this link for diaper patterns (More on this project coming soom)
5. Spread the Word!! You can share this blog by posting this link: or the Event page by posting this one: Please post these to your own blogs, e-mail them out (especially to PCC people), tell your friends!
6. Pray!

Stories from Uganda

Feb. 28, 2010
7:30 pm
Fireside Room @PCC
3560 Farm Hill Blvd., RWC
Come and hear stories, see pictures and videos, and learn about how you can help to supply an entire community with mosquito nets and provide basic teaching and supplies to care for premature babies. And have some cookies!
*Even if you can't come, please come visit the table in the back of church after any of the services... there will be information and ways to get involved. And please PASS THIS ON, especially those of you from PCC! AND... visit if you'd like to donate anyway... just be sure it goes to Jeremy and Tamara Boone for Nets Not Caskets.*

Goal 1: I'm asking God for something big, something really big! $9,000. $9,000 will purchase 1,500 treated mosquito nets, providing every resident of Masese III with protection from Malaria. (click on the link: Nets Not Caskets)

Goal 2: The Preemie Project - Provide the basic supplies that will allow premature babies in Masese to be cared for and cloth diapers to promote hygiene.
    - Needs: Hot water bottles, reflective emergency blankets, preemie cloth diapers (patterns available)

Most of you know that I have traveled to Uganda twice in the past 2 years. During this most recent trip I got involved in a slum called Masese III (read below for a brief history of this place). While I was there I there I was introduced to a fantastic couple who are working in Masese, trying to provide the people there with sustainable changes that will radically change the way they live.

Upon my return I decided that even though I can't physically be there, I can still help to change this community. And so I am inviting you to come listen, to hear the stories of these people.

A Brief History of Masese (from

Just outside of Jinja, Uganda, there’s a hill. On one side you’ll find Jinja’s land-field. On the other, a slum called Masese III. The stunning view of Lake Victoria and the bustle of town nearly cause you to forget where you are at times. This place has earned a reputation as the shame of Jinja. Masese Slum is the home of around 2,000 men, women and children - mostly Karimojong. 50 years ago, Karimojong families fled to this area in the Southern part of Uganda to escape war and famine. Many imagined a life near the prospering town of Jinja. But over the years, the refugee camp that offered a ray of hope became an urban slum filled with hopelessness. Masese Slum holds the worst of village and city life and the combination is deadly. Unthinkable poverty, hunger, tropical disease, inadequate health care, and lack of infrastructure combine with population density, unemployment, landlessness, every kind of communicable diseases (AIDS, etc) as well as rampant alcohol addiction and prostitution. Because there’s no land, few can farm to feed themselves. The majority depend on brewing alcohol, and picking trash from the land-field and local rubbish bins. Diseases like cerebral malaria often leave people brain damaged or dead, yet hardly anyone has much needed mosquito nets much less the money to pay for proper care. Very few latrines means a majority of the people leave their waste laying in public areas. Children are covered in sores, worms, funguses and severely infected wounds. Not too many years ago, the rainy seasons came and a cholera outbreak killed dozens.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Travels with Monica: The Conclusion

And then, we reached the end of the road. The final two to wheel through the doors to be greeted by our moms.

A sweet reunion.

And a smile.

And a good-bye.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Travels with Monica: Part 5

One thinks that when you get off the plane the journey is over, that the exhaustion will end, that the crying will cease, that you will stroll down the aisle to be met by the freedom of handing your temperamental two year old over to her mother.

It's a lie.

We were the last people to get off the plane because trying to collect all of our things and set up the stroller was harder than it looked. I had to wake Monica to put her in the stroller so we could wheel our way to freedom and by the recommendation of a flight attendant, we backed off the plane (apparently you get caught on less things that way). Of course, this caused an uproar because Monica had to look at said flight attendant who followed us off. We also lost a wheel half way down the aisle. That's what I get for buying a cheap stroller: One that periodically loses its wheels.

We finally reached solid ground. Smooth sailing from here, I thought. Until we hit the line. Yes, the customs line that wrapped itself around the room a million times and all the way down the sterile hallway where we placed ourselves at the very, very end. I'm pretty sure there were at least 500 people in front of us and that is not an exaggeration. 500 people, and then me, the one with the screaming child. We were out of food. All airplane food had been rejected. The sandwiches were thrown aside. The granola bar evoked louder screams. There was nothing left.

Thank God for the first kind soul I'd met on my entire journey. The woman in line in front of me was traveling alone with 2 kids and kindly pulled out some alphabet cookies, which miraculously soothed my screaming child.

It was about 20 minutes later when we finally made it into the actual room where customs was and that is when I saw the small line off to the side marked "immigration." It hadn't occurred to me before that this child was immigrating into the U.S. My dear friend in front of me offered to hold my place in line while I went to investigate. The flight attendants in the line next to immigration looked apologetically at me as I wheeled myself to the front to inquire about where exactly I was supposed to be.

The man I asked quickly shuffled me forward, taking my paperwork and asking me questions. Freedom at last! Someone was finally going to give me a break. I was going to the front of the line! Take that 500 people who don't have screaming children! I'm going first!

Then he handed me back my papers. I've put you in the system, now go back to the end of the line.

What!?!? Are you kidding me? Please say this is some cruel joke.

No. It wasn't. Back to the end of the immigration line I went, walking past the flight attendants who questioned me as to why I was returning (You see, they were on my side. They thought I should get to go first too). So there we stood, at the back of the line once again. The screaming had died down... temporarily. But soon they started up again.
Fine. Cry as loud as you want. If you want to scream a little louder, that's fine with me too. Come on, let them hear you Monica. If they're going to make my pour, exhausted, hungry child wait, they'll at least have to listen to her scream.

I was hoping that our little melt down would get us bumped forward, if only for the sake of shutting us up. Then another lady with a cracker showed up. I was slightly less thankful this time because the cracker caused quietness, which completely ruined our chance of getting to the front of the line.

So there we stood for another hour while all 500 people passed through and the 20 of us in the immigration stood, waiting. After a while I whipped out my phone and turned on some music. I figured if we all had to wait, we might as well have something nice to listen to. The music played and the line dwindled, and finally it was our turn. The last of the last. I once again pulled out our stack of papers and presented them to the far too chatty man at the desk who insisted on telling me of his cousin's story of adoption and discussing Monica's future. How I kept from grabbing him by the throat and yelling that he had better hurry up so I could go home and sleep, I don't know.

But we made it through. We had a U.S. visa in hand and only one last obstacle to tackle. Baggage claim. Once again it was me, a child, a stroller, and a cart full of luggage, struggling through our final steps of the journey until....

(to be continued)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Travels with Monica: Part 4

We shuffled down the aisle to the back of the overcrowded plane where we took our seats in a 2-seat row. Monica began howling moments after we sat down... she was both starving and exhausted. There was no quick fix for this one though. We had run out of our stash of food and thus had to wait until the plane food was served, of course this takes ages because we had to wait until we had safely been in the air for at least a good hour. And remember, we were at the very back of the plane, which meant we got served last.

The exhausted and frustrated cries of my 2 year old were heard loud and clear by all of those around us. Thank goodness for the girl sitting across the aisle who was able to entertain Monica for at least a little while, because there was nothing I could do to pacify her at this point.

At last our food came. Feeding a 2 year old Uganda child is a lot harder than I had ever guessed though and finding suitable foods on the tray was a challenge and was met with more screams as each offer was rejected. I think she finally settled on some strawberry yogurt and a roll. (P.S. Jody... Monica might have a slight allergy to strawberries because after that she started compulsively scratching herself and rubbing her nose) I of course felt a sudden panic, thinking that she was going to go into anaphylactic shock right there on the plane. Thank goodness I had some Benadryl just in case. Did I mention how handy that sleep-inducing drug was?
When the food was finished and I was finally ready to get Monica to sleep (a good 2+ hours into the flight) the flight attendants disappeared and we were stuck with her tray, making it impossible for me to get her comfortable in her seat. After hitting the call button and nearly screaming for someone to come and help me, I finally collected all of our things and trudged down the aisle to hand them over.

Then the challenge of sleep began. I've picked up a few techniques for getting kids to sleep over the years so I implemented my favorite. My friend Genevive calls it "beating the baby to sleep" because it involves laying the baby on their tummy and patting their bottom in a somewhat aggressive way. Works like a charm... usually. Of course, Monica made it more difficult and fought me every step of the way. So there I was, pinning her to the seat, patting her bum, and pushing her head back down every time she tried to sit up. I'm sure it looked terrible, but I'm telling you, best sleep technique I've ever learned. Eventually she fell asleep, stretched out across her seat and about 70% of mine. For fear of lights waking her up I created a tent out of blankets that stretched from the top of the seat and into the tray and then over to my seat.
Of course, this left me precariously balanced on the edge of my seat, at the point of absolute exhaustion (having now not slept for 2 days) but unable to sleep due to my lack of space. At one point I nearly climbed down to the floor to sleep, but figured I'd get yelled at for not having my seat belt on. I tried to lean my seat back a little bit but got cursed out by the guy behind me for the inch I'd moved it. I should have punched him. Instead I sunk down into my seat to endure the miserable 8 hours left before we landed.

The story of this flight continues very much the same as the paragraph above and consisted of me trying to find a comfortable position for 8 hours while not waking the sleeping child next to me.

Our trip was not over though. We still have to make it off the plane and through Immigration.

(to be continued...)

Friday, February 5, 2010

Travels with Monica: Part 3

And so the story continues, because remember, we are only just arriving in London and there are a long 18 hours to go. When we got to London it was cold. We had to walk off the plane onto the ground, which is no fun when you're toting a child, an unopened stroller, and 2 bags. I'm lucky we didn't face plant on the way down the stairs. Out into the icy air we went... Monica's first taste of a true winter.

Upon walking into the airport they were checking passports, which of course means we got stopped. I informed the security guard that he was going to have to let me get Monica settled into her stroller before I could show him our papers. The second Monica's toes brushed the stroller, the screaming began. Top of the lungs, piercing screams. I'm sure everyone there was thinking I must have kidnapped this child or something.

So there i stood, rummaging through our extremely small backpack trying to find the papers I needed while she shrieked. (And remember, I was running on NO sleep) As I handed over the papers, it became clear to me that nobody in the airports know what to do with adoption. The papers went from person to person. Confused looks promptly appeared. Glances were exchanged and then they would shuffle off out of ear shot to try and figure out what to do. Eventually they would give up trying to understand and send us on our way.

So off we went, the screaming echoing through the halls, to spend the next 8 hours wandering Terminal 5 of the London airport. Monica became more adventurous and would wander around beside me as we waited in the security line (if you remember that same security line caused me to miss my flight to France). We made a few laps around the place, investigating all the possible places to hang out and finally I settled on a seating area that had semi-comfortable chairs and finally got Monica down for a nap. She didn't sleep long and when she woke up, she was in a nasty mood.

We had pancakes for breakfast. But no blueberries! If I so much as suggested trying one, the screaming began again. And of course, as soon as I put her back in the stroller, she began to wail. So there we were, walking back and forth through the airport, Monica shrieking, and me on the verge of collapse. I wanted nothing more than for her to fall asleep in the stroller so I attempted to lean it back (it had an adjustable seat), but no matter how hard I tried, I could not get the stupid thing in place. At one point I had removed Monica from the stroller and proceeded to attempt beating the stroller into submission. Eventually it worked. But the change caused more screams.

The story continues like this for another 4 or 5 hours.

Once again I finally got her to sleep on a cozy chair. It was blissful for all of 15 minutes when our gate number finally appeared on the screen and we had to move to a different part of the airport. I attempted a gentle transfer back into the stroller in hopes of keeping her asleep until we got on the plane. But no such luck. We arrived at the gate crying (her, not me), swiftly boarded the plane, as I prepared myself for the true horrors of traveling with a 2 year old.

(to be continued....)

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Travels with Monica: Part 2

I left you with us having finally relaxed into our seats, ready to fly from Uganda to London. Luckily, that route is not particularly popular, as Uganda is not exactly a booming destination, and I was able to snag us an entire middle row to ourselves. As soon as I set Monica into her seat she tipped over and fell asleep. I was able to stretch out next to her across 4 seats, using my legs to keep her from rolling off the seat, and rest. I couldn't sleep because I was worried about her falling/waking up/crying/and a number of other possible scenarios. Thus, I remained awake for the entire day and all through the night (we left uganda at 12am and flew for 9 hours). Monica slept almost the entire way and woke up just 2 hours before we landed. She sat patiently in her seat watching cartoons and munching on some crackers. We got up to wander the plane a few times. It was completely uneventful. No tears. No whining. She was perfect.

'Man I have it lucky,' I thought. 'She is so good!'

Words that were spoken too soon!

(to be continued...)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Travels with Monica: Part 1

Finally comes the story of Monica...

It was a week into my trip when I finally got a chance to check my e-mail, a rare joy in Uganda. There in my inbox was a message from Judy Kleis. There was a lady named Jody adopting Monica and she needed someone to fly back to the states with Monica. Judy thought of me.

The timing was perfect. Monica's papers would be done right around the time I was leaving (we ended up getting them the day before we left). After brief consideration, I decided there was no reason why I shouldn't bring Monica back with me, other than the obvious of course: she was 2 and we would have 30+ hours of travel!

I'll spare you all the details of what happened between me saying yes and our actual departure. The journey home is where the good stuff is.

The day we left was a sad one. I had to say good-bye to my all my kids who were spread out around Jinja. I had to say good-bye to my friends, both new and old. And then I had my final lunch at Amani with Judy, Andrea, Malia, and Monica. We sat on the clinic steps, much like we used to, while the mamas said their good-byes. And then off we went.

Me with Malia and Monica

The journey to the airport was over 3 hours, thanks to lots of traffic, and Monica clung to either me or Andrea until we finally got her to sleep. Then it was another 5 hours at the airport before our plan left. I wish I had a picture of the scene that ensued after our arrival at the airport. I had my two bags plus a big bag of Monica's, her backpack, my camera bag, the stroller, and her. After tying her to my back with a scarf I managed to load everything onto a push cart (thank goodness they had them!). I then immediately had to unload it all onto the x-ray machine, which you had to go through if you wanted to go to the waiting area, and then load it all back onto the cart. By this time, Monica was getting cranky and hadn't eaten dinner, so we went in search of food. Of course there was only one place to eat and it had a limited selection. We ended up with fruit, a samosa and a juice box. Half way through the meal I realized Monica couldn't drink with a straw. After brief consideration I decided that she probably would freak out if I walked away from the table, so I scooped her up to bring her to the counter with me. Big mistake. She thought I was taking her away from her food and thus the screaming began. This was not just a regular child's cry. This was top of the lungs screeching. We were already a spectacle enough, white girl/black baby, without the screaming. At this point everyone in the airport was staring at us.

Next came the waiting game. I arranged Monica on a bench and attempted to get her to sleep. Eventually, she passed out and I was able to rest next to her, which was difficult considering I was trying to keep her from falling off the bench at the same time as making sure none of our stuff got stolen. Eventually we were able to go through security so I carefully lifted Monica and put her in the small basket on our cart. I loaded everything onto the x-ray machine again, gently lifted Monica out of the basket to walk through the metal detector.

This is where things get real good. The security guard was apparently quite fascinated by us and obviously had no idea what to do with the fact that Monica was obviously not my child. The other guard started yelling at me to get my stuff off the belt as I stood there holding Monica. In that moment I got a glimpse of what it feels like to be an overwhelmed mother. I was pissed and i would have done anything in that moment to get what I wanted. I started barking orders at the guard, instructing him on how to open the stroller so I could put her down. He, of course, had no idea what to do and couldn't follow instructions to save him. And, to make matters worse, he was trying to ask me to marry him as he did all this. Had I not been holding a sleeping child, I think I would have socked him in the face.

Eventually all of our stuff was sorted out, I got Monica into the stroller (though she was now awake), and convinced the guard to walk me to the counter because I couldn't push both the luggage and the stroller. After what felt like hours at the counter, we finally made it through customs and into the waiting area, though we couldn't go to our gate yet, which meant sitting on a hard chair while Monica whined in her stroller (I discovered quickly that she doesn't sleep in a stroller).

Two hours later we got to go to our gate. When I got to the check in counter there, the lady tried to take our strolled and check it all the way to SFO. At this point, I was running on very little sleep, and here is this woman telling me I can't take my stroller! I kept trying to explain that strollers are usually put under the plane and returned upon the plane's landing, but she just was not getting it. "Look, I have to wait 8 hours in the London airport with a 2 year old. You are not taking my stroller away from me!" After she realized that there was no way I was handing over my stroller she agreed to let me talk to the flight crew before we left.

Exhausted, I lay Monica on the floor and collapsed next to her.

"Excuse me. I need to take your stroller now."

I jumped up, grabbing onto my stroller. "You are not taking this away from me!"

Once again the struggle began with a new person, where I once again explained that I would not be handing over my stroller.

Finally, we headed for the plane. Being a person traveling with a child, I got to go first. So off I went, Monica in one arm, camera bag, backpack, and stroller in the other. No one offered to help, of course. Standing in line I saw that the woman in front of me had a stroller too. I asked her if they were letting her keep it. She had the same story as me. When we arrived at the plane door, together with our strollers in a death grip, the flight crew tried to take them away.

At this point I was nearly in tears. "You cannot take my stroller!"

I guess the lady realized that if she took it, I might seriously have to hurt someone, and agreed to let me try and find a place for it. So there we were, me, Monica, and our stroller, sitting on a plane bound for London.

Me and the stroller (sewing on a patch)

(To be continued...)

Monday, February 1, 2010


I know that a number of people have been unable to comment on my blog. I believe I have finally fixed the problem, so comment away! :) (I love to know people are actually reading this)


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