Friday, January 28, 2011

"Where There is No Doctor"

Imagine traveling hours by boat to visit a medical clinic for a persisting condition.

Imagine traveling over the water when you are terribly sick, with the flu, malaria or worse.

Imagine hiking over rocks and on dusty, narrow paths under the intense tropical sun to reach a place where you can purchase medicine for your sick child, if you happen to have the money, if the personnel are on duty, and if they have the right medicine in stock.

Imagine you are in incredible labor, but the only person available to help you, has received no formal medical training. And, the nearest qualified personnel can only be reached by crossing a large, sometimes unforgiving lake.

The incredible healthcare needs of the islands really hit home yesterday.

As Mama O and I waited in the boat to make the trip to Lingira from Jinja, the woman behind us seriously cut her finger. As usual, there were several other boats anchored at the port, and the choppy water kept knocking the vessels together. Not being a customary traveler of the water, the woman had inadvertantly held on to the side of our boat, just before a neighboring one hit ours, deeply cutting her finger.

I remembered I had bandaids in my backpack (which I had only recently put there) and also "happened" to find an eyeglass cleaning cloth, which had alcohol on it and I thought might help to clean the wound. With the help of Mama O, the woman tried cleaning her bleeding finger, initially washing it in the dirty lake water in the bottom of the boat, before we gasped and pursuaded her otherwise. The bandaids were too small, but they helped to slow the bleeding and protect her finger for the hour and a half boat ride ahead.

As we crossed the choppy lake to Lingira, I commented to Mama O that I hoped the woman lived near the island clinic, so she could get her finger properly treated. I was concerned that it could be easily infected.

As we landed sometime later, we learned the woman was only briefly stopping in Lingira, before continuing on to another island to visit her sister. Before catching the next boat, Mama O invited the woman to come to Shepherd's Heart where we had adequate medical supplies to better dress her finger. (On a side note, we learned the woman was a believer and may be from the same tribe as Papa O.)

Yesterday evening, I also heard of a woman in one of the local island camps who recently delivered twins. However, because the person attending her was not properly trained, both babies died shortly after birth. And, in the days following, the mother continues to be in intense pain.

Bearing children on the islands can be a definite challenge. Many women do give birth here. But if they encounter complications they are subject to the once-a-day-to-mainland schedules of the public boats. As you know, babies usually don't arrive on a schedule. A couple of years ago, one local island mother did give birth to her son in the SHIM boat on the lake at night. She named him Moses since he was born on the water. : )

Pastor Waboka and his wife Susan welcomed a healthy baby girl, Esther, last September. She was delivered safely and without complications on the island. 

YWAM (Youth With a Mission) has operated a clinic in Lingira camp (about a 20-minute walk from SHIM's base) for a number of years. But, it has struggled with retaining staff, getting adequate funding and supplies from the government, and having those who receive services actually pay for them.

We at SHIM are fairly well stocked and I am so grateful for Karina and Mama O, who are trained nurses and have seen and treated many patients over the years. I feel much safer knowing they are around.

On Lingira healthcare is a challenge, but nothing in comparison to those who live even further into the lake.

Earlier this year, YWAM Uganda requested SHIM to take over operations of the clinic and base on Namiti Island, located about two hours beyond Lingira and a total of almost four hours from the mainland. This clinic was established in 1998, but around 2006 it closed due to staffing and funding issues. For nearly five years, the people of Namiti and the surrounding islands have had no healthcare, except for limited services and consultation by a few community health workers, who are trained in a limited capacity.

The Namiti base and clinic, before renovations began this month.

Because of God's gracious provision so SHIM, renovations are underway at the base and clinic. We are now earnestly praying for qualified and faithful health workers who would live and work at the clinic. It takes special people to be willing to stay in a remote and rustic location. Our desire is also for people who have a heart for the islands, and who love God. We are continuing to trust God as we know He is not only the Great Physician, but the Great Provider as well.

As far as we know, there only a handful of medical clinics, if not less, serving the 52 Buvuma islands, and the thousands of people living on them.
Encountering health needs and hearing heartbreaking stories like those of yesterday, make the great urgency for medical services on the islands a very stark reality. It is difficult to adequately describe this reality.

Attending to the people's physical needs was one way Jesus also touched their spiritual needs. As people have been treated at SHIM, Karina and Mama O have also had opportunity to share the love and salvation of Jesus, as they serve in this very practical way.

Day by day, the island people are suffering, and even dying.

Will you join me in prayer for this great need on the islands?

On top of Lingira Island - looking beyond
Note: The post's title, "Where There is No Doctor," is the same title of a book that Karina has, which contains valuable medical advice for those living in places like the islands.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Hard Feet, Soft Heart

I need a pedicure.

When I say "need," I don't mean I am hankering for some pampering or dreaming about having my toenails painted some flashy color. No, I mean I need it, well, more specifically, my heels could sorely use some attention.

Uganda is tough on the feet. One of the downsides of wearing sandals all the time is the armor-like hardened skin that has formed over my heels. It is not pretty. It is hard. It has funny lines. And, no matter how much I scrub, it still remains. (On a side note, mosquitos' favorite dining spot are feet. I still have scars from bites from my first visit four years ago.)

My feet. Yes, those are tan lines, not dirt. :)

I enjoyed my first-ever pedicure on my birthday in July. Why, you may ask, did it take me 30 years to get one? Well, I am terribly ticklish, to put it mildly. I was afraid I could not handle someone touching my feet, and I could picture myself squirming in my chair, trying to hold still and not kick the kind person performing the service.

But, that wasn't my experience at all in July. I really enjoyed it and found it very relaxing. Afterward, I marveled at how soft and clean my feet felt. And, the royal blue toenail polish, to match my new dress, didn't look bad either.
One of my "armored" feet. (By the way, this is after I showered.) On the left is a healing wound from when I wore shoes with a back, more than a month ago.

However, within a week, my poor feet reverted back - they had become hard and calloused again. : (  So, I have been thinking about getting another pedicure soon.

As I pondered this this evening, I thought about one of my favorite scriptures,

"And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God." - Ezekiel 11:19-20
You may wonder what feet and hearts have in common, but I am focusing more on hard and soft here.
I have prayed at various times that God would remove my "heart of stone" and replace it with a "heart of flesh." Truly, He is the only who can perform the heart surgery. Honestly, have you ever seen a heart surgeon perform a delicate procedure on himself? I am in no way a heart surgeon - of the physical nor spiritual kind.
A heart that is hardened by sin, indifference, rebellion, hurt, bitterness, and other hardening elements, can only be taken care of by its Original Designer and the Chief of All Heart Surgeons - our Heavenly Father.
I like Adam Clarke's simple, but deep, commentary on these verses:
"And I will give them one heart - A whole system of renewed affections.

And I will put a new spirit within you - To direct and influence these new affections.
And I will take the stony heart out of their flesh - That which would not receive the impressions of my Spirit.

And will give them a heart of flesh - One that is capable of receiving and retaining these impressions."

Think about a trying to press a pattern into a stone. Not likely nor possible. Now think about pressing a pattern into soft clay - very possible.

I am just coming out of a season where I felt my heart was becoming hard. But, through time in God's Word and in His presence, He is softening it again.

Truthfully, I don't mind so much having hard heels, though I still think I need a pedicure. I can look at them and they reminds me of what I have been doing for the past year and where and Whom I am serving.

But, a hard heart is just not healthy nor the trademark of a loving, living-for-Jesus Christian.

Need a transplant? Talk to the Heavenly Heart Surgeon.

Monday, January 17, 2011

"When I in awesome wonder..."

Shortly before Christmas, Amanda and I joined the Smiths - Andy, Keeky and David, as well as Mom and Dad Smith, and Andy's sister Sarah, who were visiting from Oregon - in trekking to beautiful western Uganda. Our purpose was to spend a couple of days in Queen Elizabeth National Park, one of Uganda's 10 parks. The park's more than 763 square miles contains over 500 different bird species and about 100 mammal species.

As I gazed upon elephants, lions, hippos, water buffalo (at right) and more, I couldn't help but stand in speechless awe of my Awesome and Mighty Creator, who designed and brought into being such majestic and interesting creatures. I took more than 600 photos and videos, but I will share just a few photos from our trip. Enjoy!

Amanda and I at a stop on our crater drive - exploring large craters (perhaps formed by the flood of Noah's day) that are now filled with hot springs, lakes or vegetation.

"I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be cut off by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth." - Genesis 9:11

The whole gang - we felt like tourists!

Crocodile in Kazinga Channel

"O Lord, how manifold are Your works! In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures." - Psalm 104:24

Hippos in Kazinga Channel

"Here is the sea, great and wide, which teems with innumerable creatures, living things both small and great." - Psalm 104:25

A heap of hippos

"Praise the LORD from the earth, you great sea creatures and all ocean depths." - Psalm 148:7

Water buffalo

"O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!" - Psalm 8:9

Elephants along the channel

"Who does great things and unsearchable, marvelous things without number." - Job 5:9

Curious birds - facing the same direction

"See the birds of the sky, that they don't sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns. Your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren't you of much more value than they?" - Matthew 6:26

Elephant eating lunch

"God said, 'Let the earth bring forth living creatures after their kind, livestock, creeping things, and animals of the earth after their kind;' and it was so." - Genesis 1:24

Ugandan fish eagles

"God created the large sea creatures, and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarmed, after their kind, and every winged bird after its kind. God saw that it was good." - Genesis 1:21

Ugandan cobb resting in the early morning on the African savannah

"But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you; or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In His hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind." - Job 12:7-10

Ugandan cobb

"But none says, 'Where is God my Maker, who gives  songs in the night, who teaches us more than the beasts of the earth and makes us wiser than the birds of the heavens?'" - Job 35:10-11

A herd of elephants - they crossed the road near our vehicle

"Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your justice like the great deep. O LORD, you preserve both man and beast." - Psalm 36:6

A baby elephant tagging along behind

"How great are your works, O LORD, how profound your thoughts!" - Psalm 92:5

Female bushbuck

"The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time. You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing." - Psalm 145:15-16

Male bushbuck

"Even the wild animals pant for you; the streams of water have dried up and fire has devoured the open pastures." - Joel 1:20

Male bushbuck

"He gives food to the wild animals and feeds the young ravens when they cry."
- Psalm 147:9

Peeking out of our matatu (van)

"What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?"
- Psalm 8:4

Some birds who joined us for lunch.

"The birds of the air nest by the waters; they sing among the branches." - Psalm 104:17

Family of elephants

"You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you." - Genesis 6:19

They were so close!

"They had with them (Noah and family) every wild animal according to its kind, all livestock according to their kinds, every creature that moves along the ground according to its kind and every bird according to its kind, everything with wings." - Genesis 7:14

Baby elephant

"Pairs of all creatures that have the breath of life in them came to Noah and entered the ark." - Genesis 7:15

A male lion

"Even the wild animals pant for you; the streams of water have dried up and fire has devoured the open pastures." - Psalm 104:21

Taking a cat nap

"Can you stalk prey for a lioness and satisfy the young lions' appetites, as they lie in their dens or crouch in the thicket?" - Job 38:39-40

He was also very close!

"This is what the LORD says to me: 'As a lion growls, a great lion over his prey--and though a whole band of shepherds is called together against him, he is not frightened by their shouts or disturbed by their clamor--so the LORD Almighty will come down to do battle on Mount Zion and on its heights.'" - Isaiah 31:4

Snoozing in the tree

The Smith Family - Andy, Keeky, David and Baby

"We will not hide these truths from our children; we will tell the next generation about the glorious deeds of the LORD, about his power and his mighty wonders." - Psalm 78:4

A view of western Uganda - green and beautiful as far as the eye can see.

"The grasslands of the wilderness become a lush pasture, and the hillsides blossom with joy. The meadows are clothed with flocks of sheep, and the valleys are carpeted with grain. They all shout and sing for joy!" - Psalm 65:12-1

"For every animal of the forest is mine, and the livestock on a thousand hills."
- Psalm 50:10

Sunrise on our last morning

 "And God saw everything that He had made, and behold,
it was very good."
- Genesis 1:31a

Monday, January 10, 2011

Celebrating One Year!

Today, Jan. 10, marks one year that I have been in Uganda. These 12 months seem on one hand to have really been that long, but then, on other hand, the year has seemed to fly. I am so, so grateful for God's goodness, faithfulness, protection, provision and the many, many blessings He has bestowed on me during my time here. I am not sure I could sum up what all has taken place in the past year. Perhaps, I will try in a future post. : )

But, for now, I am thanking God for this privilege and honor to be a part of His work here. : ) And, I am excited and anxious for all He has in store for 2011! : )

I was honored to recently be interviewed by a young woman from my home area in Oregon. Lucia shares the interview on her blog, which can be found at:

Have a blessed day!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Walking With the Source

I knew that within a week of the first of the year, I wanted to get away for some prayer and reflection. I have been busy this holiday season, and distracted by too many other things. So, I really felt it necessary to find a quiet spot to spend some quality time with God. Today was the day. I went to "the source" so I could meet with "the Source" - my Creator and Heavenly Father.
One of the few quiet spots I know of around Jinja, is at the source of the Nile. It is a bit spendy to get into, but the beautiful scenery is so worth it. The "source" is where Lake Victoria, the world's second largest lake, empties into the Nile River, the world's longest river. It is quite a special and beautiful area.

I wanted to sit under a tree, tucked out of sight, so I could freely talk with God and have plenty of undisturbed quiet. However, the first tree I chose was suitable for only so long. A few minutes after I settled under it, I realized it was at the edge of a golf course. And, so awhile later when a group of golfers began heading my way, I decided to vacate my tree of choice, preferring not to be beaned by a stray golf ball.

I moved to another nearby tree, this time one actually considered in the park area and out of the golf course. But, I soon discovered it was one of those "dripping" trees. There is a type of tree here that releases droplets of water - when it is not raining. I persevered, but when a big drop "splatted" on my Bible study notes, I went again searching for a more suitable location.

Finally, I settled on a bench, with a view of the river. And, that is where I spent most of my afternoon.

The view of the Nile River from my bench.

I had gone with the high hopes of receiving some profound vision for the new year, but instead I received a plain and practical message for 2011 - in "how to walk."

Spending some time in Ephesians, God impressed on me how I needed to "practically" walk in His ways in the coming year, in order to pass though 2011 with a purpose.

Here are some of my notes:
- Walk with and in a purpose - Ephesians 1:11-12
- Walk in God's good works, which He has prepared beforehand for me. - Ephesians 2:10
- Walk as a member of Christ's body. Ephesians 2:14-16, 4:3-7
- Walk in love. In Christ's surpassing love. Ephesians 3:17-19. And, in love toward others. Ephesians 5:2, 4:31-32, and 6:1-3
- Walk in a manner worthy of Christ's calling. Ephesians 4:1-3
- Walk in newness of life. Ephesians 4:21-24
- Walk in light. Ephesians 5:8-10
- Walk wisely. Ephesians 5:15-17
- Walk in God's armor. Ephesians 6:10-18
- Walk in prayer. Ephesians 6:18

God revealed how I can practically "walk" in each of the above ways, but they are more personal, so I won't share them here.

Just recently God reminded me that growth in the Christian life comes slowly and steadily, not by leaps and bounds. (Reminds me of the parable of the tortoise and the hare.) Naturally, I am not a very patient person, which is probably why I have half-read books and half-finished projects. Often when I don't see quick results or progress, I become discouraged or distracted and give up.

But through various messages over the recent days, God has been showing me that each day presents me with choices - some small, some large, but often ones that lead to other more consequential ones.

Realistically, the Christian walk can only be accomplished one step and one day at a time. God gives His manna, or grace, in quantity enough only for the present day, not enough also for tomorrow or next week. I believe past discouragement in my faith has come as I looked too far down the road, to see how much further I had to go and grow. And, I quickly became disheartened and I gave up.

I want this year to be a year of purpose - daily purposing to walk with and please God in every area and in every relationship. And, of course, it must be in God's strength and power, not in my own weak and fallible "strength."

"Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen." - Ephesians 3:20-21

Another view of the Nile.

Me near "the source," which is somewhere behind the island in the background.

Looking downriver.

These cute guys were hanging around for a bit.

This one got a bit closer.