Monday, March 22, 2010


Sometimes you don’t truly value something until it is a scarcity. Or perhaps not recognize its worth until it is gone entirely.

 Heard the phrase, “Water, water everywhere, but nary a drop to drink”?

 The green, algea-covered water of Lake Victoria.

 I am living on an island on the second largest lake on the world. Yet, you couldn’t pay me enough money for me to drink straight from Lake Victoria. As you can see in the above photo, the water has a lot of algae, as well as many other bacteria and other “cooties” that can cause a plethora of diseases.

 I am very thankful for Duvon McGuire, the founder of New Life International, a Christian outreach organization. While as a missionary kid in Ecuador, Duvon became very ill when he drank contaminated water. Motivated by his own brush with death, he developed a water filtration system, using common table salt and a 12-volt battery to make chlorine, in his garage and eventually patented the machine and started New Life to share his design with the rest of the world, specifically those who do not have access to clean water. We have been using this particular system on the islands for about five years. We can take the filthy water and purify it enough for safe drinking water. Remarkable, huh?

The type of jerrican where we store our purified water - safe for drinking.

 For the last two weeks, the water and sanitation team of Shepherd’s Heart has been conducting follow-up meetings on various islands that have received these filtration systems. This remarkable machine costs several thousand dollars, yet they are freely shared with needy communities, but with several conditions. They must form an oversight committee, develop a safe place for the system to operate, take care of it, and formulate a way of collecting the water, purifying it and then redistributing it. Unfortunately, the team has encountered many camps or villages that seem unable to meet these conditions. Some have abused the equipment, using it for other purposes and damaging it.

 Other communities refuse to work together, saying they do not want to contribute to something that might benefit another – someone from a different tribe, language or country – people they dislike or even hate. Some sites have had their systems recently removed because they could not follow through with what was expected.

 We find it baffling how the people do not value such a gift enough to use it and benefit from it. While trying to “hurt” others by not helping them, they are actually harming themselves. So many people are sick and some die on the islands simply because they are drinking dirty water. But, clean water is within their grasp. So, why do they refuse such an essential gift?

 My primary conclusion to this question is that they are blinded by Satan. As we know, Satan’s only purposes are to steal, kill and destroy. He has long had a stronghold on this great continent and kept people under bondage in so many areas. He does not want them to succeed, nor even be healthy. He wants them forever under his cruel dominance.

 This week I have been memorizing John 6:35. “Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me shall not hunger and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.’” (Emphasis mine.)

 I find it amazing that we can find in Jesus the “water” to satisfy our spiritual thirst, not just for today or for a week or a month, but forever. He says when we “drink” of Him, we will never, ever thirst again. Incredible!! And, I can guarantee that He offers the purest, cleanest, most refreshing water anywhere!

 Yet why I don’t drink more often and deeply of Him? Why don’t I remain at the thirst-quenching pool of His Word? Why do I try to swallow what I think will satisfy my soul, when those things only leave me more parched than before I drank of them? Am I more concerned for my physical thirst than my spiritual thirst?

 So, what is the answer for me and the people of the islands? Jesus said “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31b-32)

 It is my prayer that the people of the islands will come to know the Living Water – Jesus – and will be set free.

 “Thus says the Lord: ‘In a time of favor I have answered you; in a day of salvation I have helped you; I will keep you and give you as a covenant to the people, to establish the land, to apportion the desolate heritages, saying to the prisoners, ‘Come out,’ to those who are in darkness, ‘Appear.’ They shall feed along the ways; on all bare heights shall be their pasture; they shall not hunger or thirst, neither scorching wind nor sun shall strike them, for he who has pity on them will lead them, and by springs of water will guide them.” – Isaiah 50:8-10 (Emphasis mine)

Note: According to New Life’s website,, approximately 25,000 people die each day from waterborne diseases.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Blessing of Friendship

The foursome - Amanda, Ruthie, Shanna and Katie

 I marvel at the miracle of friendship.

 It is amazing to me how two people, who begin as complete strangers, can through shared experiences, shared beliefs, shared thoughts and/or shared environments, find themselves transported into the realm of friendship, with hearts united.

  This week I saw two dear friends off as they returned to America. I have had the joy of their company for the last two months as they visited Uganda for different reasons. Katie arrived from South Carolina in late January to conduct her practicum in Uganda - a big step in earning her master's degree in public health this May.

 Katie with students from the Lingira Primary School.

 Katie doesn't know this, but when I first began communicating with her by e-mail, prior to her arrival, I pictured her as a shy, sophisticated blonde. Boy, was I wrong! Katie has dark, curly hair and is Italian, which means she is very expressive. : ) She is not shy and quiet, but very outgoing.

  Katie and I are actually opposite in a lot of ways. Yet, through conversations over coffee, washing dishes together, shopping together, sharing a room and other shared experiences, we moved from being strangers to being friends - almost without noticing. Katie is very personable, loving and loves quality time, including "tea time." : ) I enjoyed watching her learn more about God and His care and desires for her. She was certainly a blessing to me during her stay here!

 I know Shanna because we are both from Clatskanie and attended the same church at one time. She is 13 years younger than I and we really didn't see each other so often - until she came to Uganda. She came to minister and to observe missionaries to see if missions work might be in God's future plans for her.

 At first I had a hard time reading Shanna because she was so quiet and shy, but the longer she stayed, the more comfortable she became and the more I saw of her true personality. I so admire her spirit and perseverance, which shone through a number of challenges, including several health difficulties while she was here. Through her entire stay in Uganda, her main desire was to receive all that God had for her. And, because of her desire and thirst for God's best, I believe she received and learned much during her stay here.

Shanna with a few of her young island friends.
 Shanna also blessed and touched the lives of many while in Uganda - the young Muslim mother who recommitted her life to Christ, the young Muslim boy who claimed ownership of Shanna's hand whenever she was nearby, the secondary students who were blessed by her example and her sharing of God's Word with them, and those of us at SHIM, who enjoyed her smile, humor, wisdom and her artistic talent. (Thank you, Shanna, for the beautiful mural - her first ever!)

Shanna and her mural - to remind us that God is our refuge and fortress, based on Psalm 91.

 I marvel at the miracle of friendship and how God uses people in our lives - to bless us, to grow us, to challenge us, to cause us to look to Him.

 Thank you, Lord, for the blessing of friendship, and thank you for the blessing of Katie and Shanna. May you richly bless them as they return to the U.S. Uganda won't be the same because of them.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Counting Your Way Through the Day

For those who think I may have retired from the blogging business, let me assure you that I haven’t, but I have been “away” for a bit. : ) The pace of my work here in Uganda has picked up in the past few weeks and the days seem to be flying by. I can hardly believe it is March and I am nearing two months since my arrival.

I am becoming more and more accustomed to life here and definitely feeling at home. Sometimes I have to remind myself how blessed I am to be here, to be working where I am, with the people I am privileged to join. There are times, like this evening, when I need to stop and look around at the beauty surrounding me, in the foliage, the fauna, the sunsets, the sky and the people.

I want my experiences to remain fresh and new, like the dawning of each new day. I don’t want to take for granted the incredible privilege I have in being here. I don’t want to miss the small and large blessings that occur, on a daily basis.

Every day God showers us with His blessings, beginning with the rising of the sun at night, sustaining us through the day and closing out each day with a sunset as His closing signature. Whether you are in Uganda, in northwest Oregon, elsewhere in the U.S., or in another foreign country, there are blessings to be found. I believe as we approach God daily with a thankful heart, He will give us eyes to see His daily blessings.

Like the hymn says, “Count your blessings, name them one by one. Count your blessings, see what God has done. Count your blessings, name them one by one. Count your many blessings, see what God has done.”

What blessings can you count today?