The setting sun..

I am sitting in the house listening to the gates clank as the watchmen come to work, and watching a brilliant display of colors as the sun sets for the day. How ordinary, yet extraordinary at the same time?!

I have been here in this place for about 15 months, and the day of my return home for a visit is rapidly approaching. In looking back on the past year, I am so amazed! I see the joys, the challenges, the sorrows, the excitement, the ordinary, the extraordinary, and I wonder how I am supposed to capture all of it and carry it with me.

There is an expected and unexpected component to everyday. For example, I wake up in the morning. That is expected :) I walk to the clinic and see people bathing in the "river". That is expected. I hear gunshots in the night. That is an expected yet unexpected component. You see the cattle are a valuable and coveted commodity, and so it is common to have cattle raids as one tribe attempts to take another tribe's cattle. Our area has been disarmed for the most part, but there is a military presence and there are still some few guns around. When a raid is caught in process, you can almost guarantee gunshots. I go to the clinic Monday through Friday. That is expected. I see wounds that astonish me. That is unexpected. I hear crickets chirping in the night air. That is expected. It rains. That is expected. It doesn't rain. That is unexpected (these days anyhow, soon the dry season will come and rain will be the unexpected component).

How do I capture the life I live? How to I bottle up the last 15 months and carry them home? How do I bottle up the coming two months and bring them back here? How to I live in two worlds that sometimes align and sometimes collide? How do I feel so at home in two very different places?

I don't have answers to all these questions, but one thing I know. I serve a loving God who will carry me through, and these feelings of belonging yet not belonging only make me all the more eager for my heavenly home. I am truly not a citizen of this world. I am a citizen of Heaven!

A chance to fix broken smiles...

This experience occurred a few weeks ago, and I am just now taking time to write about it.

It was time for my second rotation at the hospital, and I wasn't sure what to expect. Students who had been on the medical ward with me warned me that the nurse in charge was strict, but I wasn't convinced that was a bad thing. Nonetheless, I walked in to the surgical ward with mixed feelings. I wasn't sure what to expect. As I walked into the ward my heart sank. This ward already felt worse than the medical ward. The paint on the building was peeling and chipping. The doors were so warped they didn't even close. It felt dark, dreary and dismal as I walked inside. "Lord, give me grace," I prayed. I went in search of the nurses' office, and found it unattended. I looked through the wards and found a nurse who told me to sit in the office and wait for the nurse in charge to arrive. A few minutes later the nurse in charge appeared, and I introduced myself. She told me that she needed to go greet some visitors, but that I should come with her. These visitors were doctors and nurses from other parts of Uganda who had come to do a surgical camp at the hospital. Their mission: to fix broken smiles. They were here to do cleft lip and palate repairs.

I greeted the doctors and nurses, and in the process got an invitation to join them for the week! I was astounded! A week in the operating theatre?! I had been praying for God to give me grace for this new experience, but I had no idea that He was going to give me a completely unexpected experience.

The operating theatre resembled an operating room in the USA, but so different. They strive for sterility, but probably really only accomplish cleanliness. I must say, this cleanliness is a huge improvement over the state of the rest of the hospital though. Thankfully, they do put the patients on antibiotics following surgery so hopefully that helps to cut down on post-op infections.

Here is a break down of things that remind me of the USA:
Large, bright operating lights
Adjustable operating tables
Sterile gloves
Masks and hair nets
The smell: a clean, sterile smell

Things I've never seen in an OR in the USA:
The use of normal saline to prep the skin
Cloth drapes
Reusing IV fluids with new IV tubing

Oh I am sure there are more, but memories are fading and I can't remember it all.
What an experience! It was so cool to see them work, to assist them, and to just experience an OR in Uganda from a "non-patient" perspective. I'd do it again, and the Doctors said they'd call me next time they're through to come assist! We'll see :) An added bonus: I got tea (soda and chapati) and lunch everyday for free! Incredible!

Imagine this...

Imagine a hospital where the electricity was not dependable. You may expect that hospitals always have power, but not here. Power is an occasional perk. So how does a hospital operate without power? Well, there are no computers to chart treatment on, there are no IV pumps to regulate IV medications, there are no TV’s to entertain the patients, there are luxury hospital beds that adjust at the touch of a button, and there are no alarms to sound to call for your nurse. In fact the most common use for the unpredictable power source is lighting or charging for phones. There isn’t much else in this hospital that uses power on a regular basis. Can you imagine such a place?

Imagine a hospital where there is only one wing out of the several wards in the hospital that offers semi-private rooms. These semi-private rooms are only for those who can afford to pay for their care. Can you imagine privacy being a luxury not a right? The rest of the patients stay in the wards. The wards are divided into a female side and a male side that are separated by a hallway where the nurses’ station or “duty room”, staff toilets, doctors’ room, and an exam room are located. There are 36 beds on each side, and there are several times throughout the week where patients are lying on mats on the floor waiting for a bed. The ward is wide open with little half walls dividing it into sixths. So if you become sick while you are in this place, and you are going to be a patient at this hospital there are a few things you should know. Make sure to bring your attendant (family member) with you to care for you. Also, make sure they bring a mat to sleep on, sheets for you, and money to provide for all your needs. Prepare to lose your dignity, as people are always around, and the privacy screens (for changing clothes or relieving yourself) are few and in high demand.

Imagine a hospital that has very few drugs and supplies. The medicine cart consists of a metal tray on wheels with about 5 or 10 different injectable medications, 8 tins of tablets that may or may not be full, a handful of giving sets, and a few pairs of gloves. If you, the patient, need anything that is not on the cart you must send your attendant to town to buy what you need. You have to buy everything from IV canulas, IV medications, syringes, needles, or anything else you can think of that you might need. Oh, and yes don’t worry these things are available in the local drug stores for anyone to buy. No license needed. No ID needed. No prescription needed.

Can you imagine a hospital like this?! I don’t know if I could have before I came here, but today I get an inside look at this very hospital. An inside look for two months. Oh the adventures we’ll have. Two weeks down. Six weeks to go.

Rice to the rescue

So... this past week hasn't been my shining moment that's for sure. I have my fair share of clutzy moments, and a couple of those clutzy moments involve electronics and water. Last time I checked, you are NOT supposed to mix those two. Apparently I forgot that fact of life.

Incident #1: I was heading to the bathroom, pulled down my gauchos and heard a caplunk. Ipod in toilet! Ahhh. (Clean toilet, don't worry.) Grab Ipod out, take off case, shake, shake, shake... pray it still works. Shake head at self while trying to dry out Ipod. Finish using the toilet. Inspect Ipod closer, and discover ... IT WORKS! Phew. Apparently that case is good for more than I realized. Water damage, nil!

Incident #2: Cooking in the kitchen with Leah. Chatting it up. Kitchen is a bit of a dead zone for cell reception, so I propped my phone in the window. Normal, but chose a bad window this time. You know, the window over the sink... full of water. Go on with dinner prep, phone rings and vibrates itself off the window! CaPLUNK. It fell directly into the soapy water. Not good. Disassemble phone. Shake. Shake. Shake. Remember that rice withdraws moisture. Prepare cup of rice, and "immerse" phone in rice. Leave overnight. VICTORY! Phone works once again! Phew.

Moral of the story: Beware of water when using electronic devices, and if you find your electronics encountering water... try rice. It works!
Oh and try not to be a clutz like me ;)

When I wake...

I do not expect to hear people shouting outside my banda. It's true.

This morning, however, I awoke to the unexpected: the watchmen shouting, the dogs running, and quite the ruckus being raised just outside my banda. It was a full moon, so there was some dim lighting in the banda. I saw shadows moving outside, and I heard the noise punctuated with horrific shrieking sounds. Wide awake and curious, I lay in my bed wondering what kind of animal had invaded our compound. I heard the animal shriek, and one of the dogs shriek in response. A few moments later, the noises drifted away, and the shrieking stopped. Heather and I were wide awake now, but there was no what to do. It was 2:30 in the morning, and our watchmen had done their job. We would have to wait a few more hours until morning to find out what had happened. Heather and I speculated about what it could have been, and then eventually fell back to sleep. Our alarms woke us to a much quieter tone and more peaceful environment. Unfortunately it was raining outside, and our poor Ugandan blood was far to cold to get out from under the covers. We finally worked up the courage, got dressed, and headed to the house for breakfast. The watchman came running towards us, and we both wondered "Oh no, did something go terribly wrong in the hunt last night?" We greeted him, and asked if everything was ok. "Yes" He replied, "Everything is fine. Can you assist me with some few matches?" We agreed and asked what they had found last night. "We killed a wild animal." "What wild animal?" I asked. "A wild animal. The enemy of the chickens" He replied. We got the matches, and followed him towards the outdoor kitchen. They drug out the kill for us to see: A badger. We were all happy. The badger had been stopped in his crime: Attacking the chickens. The watchmen had an unexpected breakfast! :)

It isn't every morning you wake up like that!

It is Finished

Christ came to earth. He stooped to our level from the heavenly places, and lived among us. He humbled Himself. He faced temptations. He faced rejection. He suffered. He lived among us and was without sin so that He could be the spotless lamb, the perfect sacrifice for sin. The promises of the ages were fulfilled in Christ. He really lived and He really died. He hung on the cross, he bled, and he died in my place. He was the final sacrifice. In Him “It is finished.” He defeated sin, and He redeemed His people.

I was sitting in worship this morning hearing how my savior lived, died and rose again to bring me into fellowship with the Father. That day on the cross He put my sin to death. God looks on me and sees perfect righteousness, and that is not of my own. Yesterday I struggled with sin. Today I struggle with sin. Tomorrow I will struggle with sin. The beauty of the redemption of Christ is that all of my sins are covered. Does this give me an excuse to live in sin? May it never be (as Paul the apostle says)! It gives me peace and assurance. It lets me rest in the hope that I am safe in Christ. No one can snatch me out of the Father’s hand. He has redeemed every aspect of my life. Lord, let me be more like you day by day!

What a blessing! Praise be to God!

Dinner Party... Karimojong style

The doctor has moved into his new house and the staffs (yes I said staffs…. that is what you say here in Uganda) were eagerly waiting to see his new place. It was decided after much discussion to have dinner together on Thursday night. The menu was planned with care, the cost was determined, the food was bought, and finally the day arrived. The staffs agreed to prepare the food, and the medical students eagerly awaited the adventure of preparing a traditional meal.

We finished up with work at the clinic by three, and the preparations began. Seeing how our main dish was still alive… we probably should have gotten an early start, but there was no what to do now. So we began with the main dish: the goat. This meal preparation was not for the weak of heart or the squeamish (or the vegetarians or the animal lovers, sorry). We recruited our mighty watchman and watched as he expertly slit the goat’s throat, drained the blood and then went directly at the task of skinning the animal. I decided to be a vegetarian for the evening. I don’t mind assisting in the meal preparation, but I have yet to be able to eat meat that I helped prepare in this fashion. Finally we got started on the other aspects of the meal: frying the beans, frying the greens, mixing chapatti dough, frying chapatti’s, etc. I lent my hand and made the chapatti dough, and was told that I am well on my way to becoming a “senior” (aka a pro). There was a general buzz of activity and the food was well its way. We had to shuffle pots a bit to fit all the food, but all in all it worked out. Several hours later as my eyelids were turning to lead, they declared that the food was ready. However, they themselves were not ready. Thirty minutes later everyone is bathed and dressed smart except for me J. I am still in my work clothes and have chapatti all over my shirt. Ahh well, what to do?

We load up the food and the people into the vehicle and proceed to Doctor’s house. I am warned to drive carefully and not hit the bumps so as to not spill the food. I just laugh. If you have driven on our roads you know it is impossible to not hit the bumps even on the less than 1-kilometer stretch between the clinic and Doctor’s house.

Arriving at Doctor’s house we carry the food in, arrange ourselves and get the party started. Here in Uganda it the custom to wash your guests hands before the meal, but seeing how we have running water we asked them all to use the bathroom and wash their hands. The other custom is for the hosts to serve food to the guests, so Jim and I got to work dishing up the food. We piled rice, meat, beans, greens, and chapatti on everyone’s plate. The plates were overflowing with food! It was so fun to fill their plates, and watch them come back for more. The most impressive eaters were Lotee and Lomuria. They are our slashers (grounds crew) and they speak almost no English. Although we did discover Lomuria’s new phrase is “It’s ok” which he said about 20 times throughout the night. J Anyway, back to their eating abilities, WOW! Those guys can pack it away! Of course they “couldn’t” serve themselves so I would sit down to start eating, and one of them would come back for more. I think they must have filled their plates four or five times! They promised they would have plenty of strength for slashing the next day! ;)

We were finishing dinner, and enjoying one another’s company when Leah and I looked at each other aghast as we realized we were getting front row auditory privileges we didn’t want. You see we thought people were just going to wash their hands in the bathroom again, but no they were relieving themselves and somehow did not realize it would be proper etiquette to close the door. Oh my. Note to self: Teach our friends to close the door behind them.

All in all it was a lovely evening despite my otherwise exhausted state of being. The doctor was welcomed to his house, and good food was enjoyed by all!

Small encounters

A smile breaks across his face, and he claps his hands. It is as if he has won the lottery, but it is so much better than that. I ask what it is he has read to give him such joy. He is reading the Bible, and is exclaiming with incredible joy and energy how sin is still living inside of us but through Christ we have the power to overcome! How encouraging?! The excitement he finds in reading the word of God is invigorating and inspiring.

Her laughter is infectious. I start laughing. It doesn’t matter I am around the corner in the office, and I have no idea what she is laughing about. Her laughter bounces off the walls of the clinic and lets me know it is going to be a good day.

He sees me from a distance and starts bouncing in his mother’s arms waving his little hand. His name is Akol. His arms open wide, he lets me know he wants me to hold him. I can’t hold him for long because I am on my way to the clinic, and he is on his way to the mission with his mother. Moments like this can keep me going all day long.

The tears are streaming down her face as she sits in worship. She is hearing the Word of God as if it is written only for her. She wrestles in her heart as she is convicted of sin, and as sin fights for her attention. Heartache and disappointment assault her today, but as she listens she hears that God will provide. She is singing to God in personal confession of sin and basking in the affirmation of His grace. My heart breaks as I watch her from across the church. We meet up after the end of worship, and walk home arm in arm. She shares her struggles and her joys, and we bring them before the Father of light together.

His voice breaks as he shares the loss of a child. I feel the sting of tears as the reality hits me. A little person never got to take his first breath. Our friends will bury the lifeless form that they had eagerly anticipated these past nine months. In the end, I have to stop and recognize that God is sovereign over all. He is sovereign even over the heartache in this life. I have to stop and claim His promise that He will work all things together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.

The phone rings, stops, rings again and stops again. It means someone is trying to reach him, but he or she doesn’t have enough money for the call. They dialed 2 times in a row. I laugh thinking “Wow, they must really want to talk to you.” He calls back, and the look on his face brings a rush of angst to my heart. “What is it? What happened?” I wonder. The conversation on the phone comes to an end, and I find out. Our friend is going to have her baby tonight, and we didn’t leave any supplies out for emergencies at the clinic. In addition, we are 2 hours away and can’t reach anyone on the mission to help us. We are frustrated. We are angry at ourselves. Then at some point in the midst of the panic, God reminds us that He is not surprised, and He is not unprepared. One by one things fall into place, and in the end our friends made it to the hospital, and their little boy was born safely and healthy! Praise God.

We are seated on the counter drinking tea. She shares her struggles. I share mine. We get lost in conversation and tea. Two pots of tea later we decide it is time to move on with our day. Our conversation was full: convicting, funny, and encouraging. Our day is made all the more enjoyable because we had a few hours to sit on the counter and think deep thoughts together.

These are the moments that I cherish. These are the memories that will last. I am so thankful for a God who cares for all of our needs: emotional, spiritual, physical and even relational.

Early mornings bring mini-lobsters

The morning had gotten off to an early, but exciting start. Heather and I drug ourselves out of bed to talk to our missing third: our beloved sister. We had been told that between 4 and 5 am was a really good time for skype and so we decided to try it out. I know we sound crazy, but sisters are crazy and we do crazy things and it was worth it. Skype worked! We had two good 30 minute connections without getting disconnected. It was LOVELY! Who needs coffee after a boost like talking to your lovely sister (oh and her lovely friend too J) that you miss immensely and can’t seem to get align your schedules to match?

So I was going about my happy energetic morning in my dark bonda with a headlamp. The connection had gotten lousy and it was time to get ready for the day. I happened to look down by our bookcase thinking I had dropped something when I spotted it. The mini-lobster. I exclaimed some unintelligible thing, and kept going on about how big IT was. You see this it was not mini at all. It was a scorpion that happened to resemble a lobster rather than a scorpion. So my wise sister Heather advised me to kill it. I grabbed her ever ready shoe (don’t worry it was not on her foot) and smashed it. I heard juices so I figured it was probably dead. WRONG! I lifted the shoe to inspect and off he scurried RIGHT UNDER THE BOOKSHELF! I am not ok with having large stinging creatures maimed, angry and on the loose! I peer under the bookshelf and discover that it is conveniently between the wall the bookshelf and not accessible. Heather and I mull over what to do, she asked how big it was, and we came up with a second plan of attack. I donned my gum boots for added protection, and grabbed the broom for a weapon. Heather grabbed the spear (that happens to be lacking the metal parts but is still VERY pointy and deadly), and moves the bookshelf out. She spots him, exclaims over his size, and tells me to be ready to catch him if he escapes. Headlamp on, spear aimed, she thrusts it through his massive for a scorpion body. SUCCESS! She drags him out for inspection, and gives me the duty of stomping him just for good measure. Ahhhh, much better. He is much less intimidating when he is not moving! We photograph him for posterities sake, and then dispose of the body. Rest in peace Mr. Scorpion. Scorpion family take notice. We are not looking for roommates of your size and caliber.

About Me

My name is Jenny. I am a sinner that has been redeemed by the blood of Christ, and I want to share the grace and love He has shown me with others. I am a nurse living and working in Uganda, and I am praying that God would make Matthew 5:16 true of my life.
"Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven."
Enjoy snippets from my journey as I step out in faith day after day.