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Recently, in my own heart search for purpose and identity, Jesus has been saying to me “I am. I am your Creator. I am in you and you are in Me, Melanie Joy. I am the friend of sinners, your friend. I am your Savior, your Redeemer. I loved you so much that I gave up everything including my life for YOU. I am your husband. I am so much more than you can imagine…search me out and receive me for who I am and what I offer you.”
I am humbled by how quickly I am “prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love” in search of identity, love, purpose in all but the One who stands before me with His arms open and life laid down for ME. I am only thankful that Jesus in His love and mercy cannot let me wander too far. He’s graciously teaching me His grace is sufficient for ME in ALL things, by reminding me of His grace moment by moment.
As I was asking myself, and God, “what is it that I am really doing here in Uganda? I LOVE it here, but the ‘island ministry’ I am involved in is such a stretch and seems so far from the Melanie I know… ” (I recognize that I was believing lies from Satan and am now pounding God’s truth into me)…God decided to start showing me what life and ministry really means…It is daily and it is off the program of what we define as ‘ministry’. Life is ministry. It is not about a ‘ministry’. It is about being Jesus as I walk around Kampala, sit for a coffee and befriend those serving and sitting nearby, open my home for the kids around, feed the hungry, talk to anyone in their mother tongue as I learn and share in their joys and sorrows, travel far to meet someone, go to a concert to encourage and support a young aspiring artist who seeks to preach Truth through music, …Jesus didn’t minister only in a defined place, most of His ministry I’m learning was outside of that in His daily life to and from by stopping along the way investing in relationships that He encountered.
I want to draw you into my mind and experience this past week by sharing a few stories of God’s grace as I see it…
Sunday—Returned after church to open my home to some of the kids in my neighborhood who I had promised could come bake with me and play. Not even two minutes passed after entering my home before I heard little knocks on my door and wee footsteps and big grins coming through my door 🙂 The next few hours were spent baking cookies, popping popcorn, driving matchbox cars around the house, drawing pictures, playing in Luganda, and the moment at which I zoomed out and saw my heart smiling was when we were sitting the four of us on my kitchen floor with a pile of books translating stories from my childhood into Luganda together 🙂 This is life. This is ministry. This is Jesus shining through…
Monday—A morning at the salon laughing, talking, joking, and learning Luganda while some dear friends pampered me and then my friend there offered to give up his only off day to come help me paint my flat…wha?! The fact that I cannot walk by the salon with out greeting and visiting or being called out to do so tells me something. It is not Melanie or Joy or Musawo or Nabagereka or Nantongo…It is Jesus they see. When I reached home I answered a knock at the door to find my friend who brought his baby (who knows me well now at 5 months) who he had taken to the clinic today for ear pain. I had the opportunity to do what I love in my own home…assess the baby of a friend, diagnose, assure and educate Taata (daddy) about the treatment and watching for symptoms, and provide comfort to this dear baby. This is life. This is ministry. This is Jesus shining through…
Tuesday—As I sat at a coffee shop I frequent here in Kampala and have grown to know and love the staff one of them came to talk with me in Luganda with a giant smile for about 15 minutes. A few minutes into the conversation they said about a friend of mine and myself, “I love speaking Luganda with you! I don’t know what it is Joy, but there is something about you two. You love people so much you really love them. I mean people love others, but people change and it’s hard. But you, there’s something different and I just don’t know what it is.” To which I had the opportunity to share that it is not me it is Jesus who helps us love and keep on loving even when people change and turn away. This is life. This is ministry. This is Jesus shining through…
Wednesday—God brought my friend from the salon and my friend from the neighborhood to my house where they spent the whole day from 10am until 8pm painting with me. He used them to show me just how He has developed and blessed me with real real real friendships here. They insisted on giving me their full day because we are friends. Toward the end of the day my friend’s wife and baby wandered in and kept us company. Again, it is not Melanie that draws a Christian and three Muslim’s into my house to work, laugh, sing, and talk all day long. It is my Jesus. This is my life. This is my ministry. This is my Jesus shining through…
Thursday—I was off to revisit TASO, an HIV/AIDS initiative where I am developing relationships and learning from the work already being done here in Uganda. I went specifically to meet with the woman who is head of the children and adolescent center and programs at one of the locations. We had a good time chatting together about our love for kids and advocating for them and then had the opportunity to beginning advocating for a very malnourished baby there with the maama. While there, several of the staff who have come to recognize me came to find me and talk with me, because they love that I can speak in Luganda, eat their food, kneel to greet and in their words “other abazungu (foreigners) don’t learn to speak, we just don’t know why you do…” but they love it. This is life. This is ministry. This is Jesus shining through…
Friday—Two friends in the neighborhood went searching by bicycle all around Kampala to find the paint I needed to finish a room we started on Wednesday and then helped me with some painting. They rode around for an hour and a half to find it downtown and refused to come back with out it for me just because they wanted. Why? I often ask myself. When I said to them, “God’s reminding me how blessed I really am…who in all of Kampala has friends who are willing to give up their days to do things like this just because they want to help their friend?” they responded with “only YOU Musawo!” haha. Seriously…This is life. This is ministry. This is Jesus shining through…
Saturday—I visited Reach Out, another HIV/AIDS initiative here in Uganda again learning from them about their kids/adolescent programs and successes and failures. I had met some people from there and adolescents a few weeks back that I think I had mentioned and went to visit them since I had promise them I would. They remembered me and couldn’t believe I really came to see them! I’d like to make that a more regular occurrence to develop relationships with some of them. Later, a recently found friend pointed out, “When I see you I see life in you Joy…” This is not me. This is life. This is ministry. This is Jesus shining through…
I could go on and on, but there’s a taste, a glimpse I hope.
I think I’m here in Uganda because Jesus wants me to know Him and to be transformed into His image so that as I know Him well others begin to see Him walking, talking, living, laughing, caring, and loving. I think that’s true of all of us everywhere we are in life…
May we remember that Jesus walked among us…May we be the ones to keep Him walking among others.
“Because of the devastation of the afflicted, because of the groaning of the needy, Now I will arise,” says the Lord. “I will set him in the safety for which he longs.”-Psalm 12:5
Recap…Two weeks behind: Kathleen, Alice, Francis, and myself finished our rounds meeting in each of the 15 fishing camps with the Post Test Clubs (PTCs) for evaluation. After a few weeks of real struggles for each of us in different ways, this week we felt the prayers of many and the encouragement of God’s Spirit. Some wee glimpses through the lens of my eyes this side of the globe…
A taste of the laughs (joys) and cries (sorrows):
1) The brother of a young man (Peter) who works to maintain our island property and chases our rats! – A few years back was found in one of our camps nearly dead. We saw him last week and he is healthy, looking well, working, and living a positive life! A significant piece of his story and that camp is a woman we’ll call Maama R who is a wonderful advocate and voice against the stigma that so much accompanies HIV. She took him in and cared for him though not her own son!
2) We also ran into the carer for a previous patient and discovered unfortunately she had passed away soon after being helped to access health care. She had been found nearly dead with HIV, AIDS, and cancer ravaging her body on the floor of the church for over a week in one of our camps waiting for the Lord to heal her after being prophesied over by a false prophet that she was going to be healed. She refused treatment once helped to the hospital and died a few months later a very painful death still praying and waiting for treatment, but refusing to swallow medication or receive the treatment God was providing freely at her hand…
3) Seeing a boy off to school on a newly repaired bicycle empowered to be able to find jobs to help provide for his needs with the help of a new strong carrier on the back of his bicycle…joys unsearchable…
4) Walking down the road to catch a taxi off to some hospitals Monday morning only to be stabbed with the harsh fragility of life and death as I witnessed a young boy’s body being crushed and thrown sprawling lifeless by a motor car as the traffic barreled by right in front of me (just down the street from where I live) and standing paralyzed from helping due to the unsafe mob that formed around…Grief overwhelming…
The frequency of grief here has left me knowing all too well the internal agony of heartache (although not something I ever want to be sensitized to as a nurse) as well as the nearness of sorrow and joy within an hour and sometimes even a minute or seconds each day. The daily dichotomy between and yet nearness of joy and sorrow is something altogether different in my experience here in Uganda than Philadelphia. Sometimes I wonder if these new eyes are just more sensitive in their older age…
News for the Island ministry: We’ve finished our time of evaluating and noted some serious challenges along the way and in regard to what was done in the past and how that influences the way forward as we’ve been looking in that direction. Our team leader this past week had a serious meeting with the head of the region, since many changes have occurred in this particular ministry over the past year, to determine if we assess, re-strategize, and continue to push ahead in the Islands or if the door is closing. Tugenda mu maaso (we go ahead!) Was the strong affirmation we received with the full support of the AIM central region behind us as we were reminded that we’re involved in a strong spiritual battle and it is not something we can back down from or continue alone.
Two weeks of Research: The goal of last week and the coming week is to discover what is happening in Maternal Neonatal Child Health (MNCH) and Prevention of Maternal Child Transmission of HIV (PMTCT) on the mainland and at the local and district levels what is available. Starting out with the horrific accident involving the young boy, plans changed and I ended up spending my Monday on my floor grieving, praying, and interceding. I was blessed by my team leader who encouraged me and reminded me that the reason I’m a nurse, the reason I’m here in Africa, is that I care for these people this much and I need to let myself process and feel. A dear experienced nurse friend of mine in AIM here also came to visit and made a point of being by my side throughout the week. Tuesday I started to scrape myself up and meander through the day forcing myself to at least go to one of the hospitals I have not been to, the largest government referral Hospital called Mulago…By God’s divine appointment I met the son of the old director who just so happens to live in America now and was back to visit. Side note…boldness in approaching people I don’t know in high experienced positions is potentially one of my greatest fears. Praying for God’s confidence and an attitude of advocacy for the children as I go search out relationships and information these weeks. Also just so happened that he helped arrange for me a contact to return later in the week to sit with the executive directors for a few minutes on Friday. God graciously reminded me of Moses (See Exodus 3) as I sat waiting in the directors office wondering how I ended up in such a place and praying for God’s voice since I don’t feel as though I can speak when it comes to such circumstances…Wednesday was spent in Entebbe visiting and making an appointment at an HIV hospital health center there to return next week. They were very helpful and seemed enthusiastic to have me return and obtain information. After that I wandered my way into a maternity clinic and met with the nurse in charge to find out what’s available there and then made my way to the government hospital in Entebbe although no success there and will have to return another day.
Ahead this week: Visiting more HIV hospitals, health centers, hospitals, and maternity/paediatric clinics for research. Also this week I’ll have the opportunity to spend Wednesday with two dear friends of mine here who are also working with AIM in Kampala to celebrate one of them being a nurse here for 10 years working with street children…Praise God for her and remember her also in your prayers as her ministry is another draining but valuable blessing. The following week we’ll be back to visiting the islands and then the first week of October we’ll be meeting as a team with our leader to seek wisdom and plan the way forward…please be praying for guidance and God’s vision as we do.
Thank you so much for following the work God is doing and the ways I am stretched and blessed to be a part of it. Thank you for your prayers more valuable than gold! Please join me in praying for wisdom, opportunity, divine appointments, courage and confidence in God, an advocating spirit and mind, and the strength and encouragement of the Lord.
“He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”-Revelations 21:4
May the God of all grace and peace be with you always…
Long awaited photos from Ross and Leah’s visit! Included are some photos of things I just haven’t been able to capture for you all before of my daily life…like transportation on boda bodas for example!
My dear friends Ross and Leah have now come and gone. Ten days caught up in a beautiful whirlwind of blessing, laughter, greetings that crossed the ocean, heart felt conversation, food, water, color, sounds, scents, culture, little electricity, and many people!! They were troopers and God answered prayers for health and quality time together. It is such a blessing to have dear friends from home who are now connected and ‘in’ on the life that God has given me this side of the globe and which may words can’t properly describe. They also came with two suitcases of blessings for others and myself here from many of you! If you were a part of this, thank you thank you thank you!! The reminder of how much God has blessed me with loved ones around the globe is overwhelming and now I daily get to taste, wear, and share these gifts!!
Ross, Leah, and I traversed a good part of the Uganda in which my life takes place these days and even beyond to explore new areas. We spent time meeting and riding with the boda boda guys (some of whom act like brothers now) around town, explored markets, visited the hospital I spent months orienting at, spent a day walking around my neighborhood and meeting the people who are a part of my every day life when I’m on the mainland at my house, learning a bit of history and language (they are champs after only ten days!!), learning to cook the traditional foods, eating the traditional foods, loving on some of the friends and kids God has blessed me with here, going on a safari to see the beautiful country and animals of God’s creation, and visiting the village I spent a week in and tasted a bit of life there. I reiterate…they were troopers…brave, passionate, generous, gracious, adventurous, and above all demonstrated their immense love for Christ and me by investing so much and expending so much effort to not only visit me, but touch into many areas of life here…not an easy endeavor in 10 months, more or less in 10 days!! It’s amazing now to have someone from home understand the little joys and frustrations of each day, each power outage, or unexpected visit !!
We were blessed with the opportunity to take a trip to the Ssese Islands for a day to meet my colleagues, experience a taste of travel there (though it was an unusually gorgeous day with calm waters!), see where I spend my nights (even witness the murder of one in the rat family that keeps us company…eeek!), and visit two of the camps in which we work (one of which I returned to this week). This was such an answer to a need I wasn’t even aware of even though we didn’t have time to see much other than a quick walk through…to have someone from home who could get first hand a wee taste and feel a wee bit of the islands and at least known the atmosphere and weight of the darkness there which words can’t express, was helpful for me to feel slightly less isolated.
All in all, as the title of this blog says, their visit was worth more than all the gold in the world!!
Since they’ve gone, I’ve jumped back in to the boat and out to the islands and ministry. I wish I could say honestly that I jumped in and swam, but in fact without the ‘boat’ these days I’d be sinking in the weight of the world in which I’m working. I’m speaking somehow figurative here. The boat being God who this week without question (even though it’s always the case) was my only floatation devise, only hope, only strength to press on and persevere… I am no less than thankful for HIM!
I wish I could put words to the WHY, but in honesty I don’t have words for it. It’s an atmosphere of darkness, evil, hopelessness, loneliness, brokenness, fear, frustration, confusion, and the list goes on. It weighs on every part of me each week physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually and I’m only really two months in at this point…In 4 days out and 6 camps visited, we come back drained and shipwrecked having been hit with one situation wave after another in desperate need of God’s saving mercy and yet which are being drawn down and away from that by everything and anything imaginable.
People running and hiding from shame behind the bottle, people gripped with greed to the core, women selling themselves for a few cents, neighbors back stabbing neighbors, tribe against tribe, religion against religion, political agenda above the wellbeing of those involved, people running from past, people gripped with fear, selfishness, abuse, hate, anger, lies lies lies, lust, rape, molestation, disease, apathy, people on their death beds with literally not a single family member or friend who knows they are there or cares to help them, people being disgraced and degraded by demons overpowering them…this is a taste of some of this weeks experiences and stories. I find myself surrounded by the worst of everything imaginable and at the end of the day what I’m reminded of is the depravity of mankind, that’s me and everyone one of us, apart from God, the Creator, the Almighty, the Redeemer, the One after whom we have been designed in His Imagine and in whom we find our worth.
All I can say is I’m on my knees before the throne and I appreciate any company there!
All this being said there’s a reason I’m here. It’s not all hopeless, as dark and weighty and lost as it appears; God’s heart yearns for these people to bow before Him. He longs for them to know Him as father and Lord and Savior. And He has made a way possible. He has conquered the grave and for this reason, I stand, I continue, I struggle, I weep, I rejoice, and I labor…it’s not in vain I know. If one day one woman, one man, one child is changed and confesses and believes in their heart that Jesus is Lord and Savior of all including them and loves them so much that He laid down His own life for them and they ought to live in light of their true worth and dignity, than every cry of my heart, every frustration, every ache will be worth it.
Two words of encouragement I was led to this week:
1) One comes from Isaiah 43:11 “I, EVEN I AM THE LORD AND APART FROM ME THERE IS NO SAVIOR.”
2) The second from The Jesus Story Book Bible (gifted to me from some very dear friends from Philly) and the take on the final chapters of the Bible, “And the King says, ‘Look! God and his children are together again. No more running away or hiding. No more crying or being lonely or afraid. No more being sick or dying. Because all those things are gone. Yes, they’re gone forever. Everything sad has come untrue. And see-I have wiped every tear from every eye!’ And then a deep, beautiful voice that sounded like thunder in the sky says, ‘Look, I am making everything new!”
Continue to join with me an PRAY for:
– Wisdom for the way forward in the Islands
– Changed hearts for Christ
– Relationships and connections as I begin spending more time researching MCH (Maternal Child Healthcare) on the mainland in hopes of helping develop that on the islands.
– A personal vision and passion from God for this ministry to push me and enable me to persevere and be the advocate God has me here to be for His little ones especially.
– Physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual protection, perseverance, strength, joy, and stamina.
– For our Team: Francis, Alice, Kathleen, Chris, and I to work together well as a body walking forward demonstrating Christ and that satan would not get a foothold between any of us.
– A little request is that it seems I am very allergic to the bite of a certain fly (tsetse) that lives on the islands and surrounds us each day…I’m left with limbs of my body swelling at uncomfortable rates to double in size and left for days/weeks of severe burning and itching…might sound selfish, but it would be a beautiful thing if some element of this situation would change if it be in God’s plan…
I want to add. I am reminded to remind myself that it is truly a privilege to be here, called to this place, people, and ministry.
Once again thank you thank you thank you for all of your immense support and love being in this with me, either through finance, prayer, or just following this story with thoughts! Every one of you is a priceless piece in the divine Author’s puzzle!!
May God bless, keep, grow, and sustain YOU.
In His grace and by His mercy,
August 16, 2011-Blog
Two weeks have passed…two weeks of work in the islands, and now back home prepping for ABAGENYI BASOOKA BANGE!! (my 1st visitors!!)
Time is flying by and days are full. The work before us is over and beyond us by leaps and bounds and our prayers include wisdom, guidance for the way forward in what lies before us, grace, Christ within and before us, perseverance, and hope for God’s redeeming salvation and transformation to become the story displayed by the Ssese Islands.
First week back in the islands, my 3 colleagues and I spent starting to make our way around each of the 15 camps that AIM has been previously working in and where there have been Community Based Volunteers (CBV) and Post Test Clubs (PTC) established over the years. The first day in the camps we intended to meet with two PTCs, but after 6 hours in one camp meeting with the PTC, Pastor and wife (CBV), and doing a mobile clinic, we decided to stand up, stretch, finish the clinic, and eat supper (amatooke, akawunga, ne enva ya ebinyangya) to finish out the full day there as it was clear the PTC, pastor, and camp are struggling*.
The following day we had two meetings in two different camps each between 3 and 4 hours long. The final day we visited a camp, but found no members of the PTC and so arranged to return the following week, but while there saw an ill maama and a very ill infant…this is the tip of the iceberg I’ll be describing over time explaining how God has been showing me the heart, passions, and direction for the feistiness He designed me to have and has been shaping within me. Before now, I was not aware of where such passions would be directed, but I’m seeing it now. As we interacted with Maama wa Omwana, (as we’ll call her…Maama of baby…common name for maamas here), assessed, educated, stressed importance of getting to the clinic (within 6km walking distance on same island…a rare blessing here!), witnessed the nonchalant attitude, lack of worth and hope, and seeming apathy toward the health and wellbeing of her baby/children…a fire lit inside of me. As we described in detail again to her the course that HIV is taking in her body and now very possibly her 7 month old baby, I realized and the following week was reminded even more how much I care to bring the impact of Christ to such maamas that the ripple effect would be seen in their babies, children, and families. That they would see their potential for change and development! More will follow on this I know as well as the following other things I’m finding that I am increasingly passionate about as I am getting involved in God’s work in the Islands…may He shepherd and steer…
– Maternal Child Health Care-Maamas actually taking responsibility for the gifts (children) God has given them
– Follow-up with maamas to show them the time, worth, care, and love of Christ
– Community development…
– Encouragement of health care workers
– True transformation from the inside out of individuals
– That people would grasp their true dignity and worth as God’s creations and come to know His true character and heart to redeem and save from His justice for our ways…(I want them to know the God I’m growing to know more fully through reading the book of Isaiah).
The following week we visited another four camps. Each has a story of it’s own with trials of their own. Some common themes shine through. More to come on all of that once we finish revisiting the camps the next few weeks, but in general it is a dark place with greed and selfishness woven into the seams.
God is shaping my eyes, heart, and mind I believe to be more inline with His. He’s been opening my eyes to see and understand a bit more of who He is, how He views people including me, and how He responds to us. I need the constant reminder that He is in me and He is in me and I pray that His eyes, expressions, arms, words, and hands would be what people see, hear, and experience when I am interacting with them. God is grooming in me a true heart for these people, especially the maamas and kids to know the dignity they’ve been designed to have and to understand the responsibility and honor they have to care well for themselves and others. As I am learning the grief of God’s heart I find my heart now longs/yearns and I think is learning to break for the things that break the heart of God. Another prayer of mine is that this desire and feistiness would not leave…I am finding in me the longing He has for people to experience life as He intended it to be…
Please continue to pray as you feel led for the local pastors at work there and for Alice, Francis, Kathleen, and myself to be in tune with God and His leading in our lives and ministry. Wisdom. Guidance. Relationships. Perseverance/stamina. Strength. Health. The heart of Christ. The words of Christ. The expressions and responses of Christ.
This is just a quick update primarily because I am working a lot on different things, one of which is preparing to go to the airport in one hour to pick up Leah and Ross (dear friends of mine from Philly!!) They will also experience the islands, village, relationships, and life that is now mine here in Uganda. Please also remember them and the interactions that we have with one another and all of those around us that they would be honoring to God and encouraging to others. I feel honored and blessed to have all of you who care to follow and support and love on me and those dear to me here in Uganda. Over their 10 day visit we will be spending quite a bit of time with many of those mentioned in past posts!
Tune back in another two weeks…
*As a side note, for the sake of preserving the dignity of the people we are working with, I will not be disclosing names or great detail on my blog unless I have permission from individuals and it is not a sensitive matter.
Isaiah 57:18 “ I have SEEN their ways, but I will HEAL them; I will LEAD them and REPAY them with COMFORT, creating for their mourners the fruit of the lips.”
Let me begin with some thank yous…THANK YOU FOR:
Your generous support!
The past month and a half in the UK was LOVELY! The trip came with the perfect time and events and I in turn was blessed beyond measure in many ways including the following:
The tropical medicine course-the motivation and overall education I received.
The sweet generous grandma I rented a room from in Liverpool.
Opportunities to connect with a few old friends during the time.
Time to process some of the past ten months while taking in the fresh air of the mountains and countryside of those gorgeous parts of God’s creation!
A taste of western world (challenging at first, but great motivation to return to Uganda!)
Tasting good cheese again 🙂
So, allow me to recount a bit of the details to you…
Diploma in Tropical Nursing at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. FOUR words…I WAS SO BLESSED. For three weeks I basically sat at the mercy of the Tropical Medicine School Professors and the World Health Organization soaking in every word of experience and wisdom and knowledge I could catch!! Each day was packed with different topics usually an hour each, a few lab days, and a day in the snake lab surrounded by the most dangerous snakes in the world where they are working to develop anti-venoms (nothing like that to get you over a phobia!!) They piled on heaps of invaluable information surrounding diseases and issues in tropical and low-income countries, practical public health development exercises, and loads of resources and models to use while working on the field!! Personally, it was a beautiful help to me in boosting my confidence as a nurse, motivating me in the direction of working with the women and children in the Ssese Islands, and encouraging by being taught by and surrounded by others with a world-wild perspective on health.
The land of beauty and grace…lived up to every expectation I ever held of it!!
Following my time in England and studying in Liverpool, I hoped aboard a train to Glasgow, Scotland and from there spent a week traveling around to the Isle of Skye then Inverness and ending in Edinburgh. It was a much-needed time on my own to spend seeing this new country and taking in the splendor of God’s character in the handiwork of the mountains and countryside. Some of my favorite days were those lost in the glorious mountains hiking in the company of none other than the sheep who looked at me as if I were crazy…it was amazing!! I was able to use this time to clear my mind and process much of the past months, which was great and I was blessed by the ability to travel alone but have connections of lovely people to meet and stay with through my dear friend who I work with here in Uganda.
Winding through the glorious green of the Republic of Ireland along the coast of the vast Atlantic!!
From Scotland I flew to Ireland where a great friend from home, Bruce, graciously met me and we spent the week making our way around the coast of Ireland taking in the villages along the way, the beautiful mountains, coastlands, and cliffs as we maneuvered our way between the map and the one-lane two-way roads along them (he conquered them)!! It was a blessing to have travel company from home and catch up with since now was not the time to return to the states. Other than some bumps in the road surrounding lost luggage and some airline complications, the trip was amazing!
Happily returned to Uganda, the land of the SUNSHINE!!
By the end of my time in Ireland, God filled me with an overwhelming desire to return ‘home’…to UGANDA!! I can’t explain it any other way than an absolute gift from God at the end of ten months of living here and the ups and downs that have accompanied the adjustments. My first week in the UK was challenging emotionally making the switch from Uganda to the western culture again and going through an anticipated, but poorly understood transition and ‘reverse culture shock’ all the while being still in another country from which I originally came…not easy. But I think the timing was perfect and after a few weeks in the fast paced, options overload, and lack of community, I was ready to return to my home and friends and life here in Uganda! I praise God for this.
I could not have asked to be more warmly welcomed back by all those whom I have mentioned in the past months and more. I quickly learned that while I may not know everyone by face or name in my neighborhood I am known by all as Musawo (nurse) or Joy who is learning Luganda and is ‘friendly to everyone’. Apparently while I wasn’t aware of it God was making His impression among the jajas, maamas, children, and everyone through me and I find that such an encouragement to know. I’m not here by default or without purpose, but God has had me strategically placed in Najjanankumbi for the past several months for my growth in so many ways and for his witness and glory here. I am honored and humbled…
To share one funny moment that demonstrates the depths of change God has done inside me over the past year…I went to explore the insanity of Uganda’s largest market the other day and after being attacked by people ecstatic that I was learning the language and buying things where they do (of course because I’m paying them) for a few hours, Quraish rescued me from the fifteen boda guys trying to persuade me to let them escort me or marry them and while we balanced the giant used curtains I had purchased on the boda and pushed our way through mobs of people, stopped traffic, and the insanity of Kampala and people running accross the street in front of us balancing giant things on their heads, I leaned over and said ‘I am so happy to be home! I love Uganda!!’ To which Quraish laughed and said ‘Muganda wange oli Mulalu’ (my sister you are crazy). We had a good laugh, but I thought of the change God has done inside me over this time to love the insanity, disorganization, and chaos of it all and deep down actually love the experience of it all and the people I’m surrounded by here!
I was reminded by a dear friend in Philly also to consider the little joys in each day and have been soaking in all of those little things which include visiting and sitting with neighbors and a few of the wee kids in the hood making themselves at home in my home and arms 🙂
Since returning, I have finished the 15-page paper assignment for the diploma course…hoping I passed! I have met with my colleague for planning meetings for the island ministry, which we’ll be returning to tomorrow Tuesday to Friday. I have spent time connecting with many good friends here. I am also spending time immersing myself again in language, attempting to listen to and engage in lots of conversations (a lot is still here, but frustrating to me a lot of the words seem to have taken a break and are slowly returning…I need patience and grace for myself to get back to where I was before I left…praying it will all come back quickly!)
So next on the agenda…Tuesday we will take the boat out for four days on the islands meeting with the HIV post-test club members…Please join with me in praying for God’s guidance and way forward, good communication, physical and even more spiritual protection, relationships, and health and hope to reach those in the islands as we seek to partner with many there and work together to help develop stronger support systems and health care for these populations.
The Joy of the Lord is my strength and I sense His overflowing these days…I pray that only increases despite circumstance in the days, weeks, and months to follow for His glory!
Again I can’t express in words how appreciative I am for your generous support and interest to enable me to complete the time in the UK. I have full confidence that I will and am already applying the knowledge I obtained there and I have returned refreshed to be able to put my full self into the work of Christ in the Ssese Islands. More to follow in the next few weeks…
With overwhelming Joy and Love, melanie
FACES, LANDSCAPES, AND COLORS…ENJOY THE STORY THE PHOTOS TELL
Home/Uganda: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.562815456693.2069992.54203404 (See the last new photos added)
After a week of processing, here I am to share a glance into this new and different world, which I will be here on out knowing as my place of work.
It’s a bit different than the hospital I once knew in Philadelphia. Instead of units there are different fishing camps. Rather than concentrated areas of illness and disease, they are all pervasive. Instead of proactive preventative procedures, here is found an attitude of apathy, selfish living focused only on today. Under the glow of the equatorial sun shining down here you feel the weight of spiritual and internal darkness.
As I stepped off the boat back onto the mainland last Friday, and ever since, God has been reminding me that it is going to take HIS WORK ALONE TO CHANGE THE HEARTS and eventually behaviors and lifestyle of the people who live in these camps.
Last week myself and Kathleen along with Francis and Alice (a lovely Ugandan couple who is on our team…he’s the driver and she’s our interpreter and both are from and live in the islands and have been changed by Jesus. Now they are spending their lives sharing the hope they’ve found!) sailed off from Entebbe Sailing Club for a three day trip to visit six camps on five different islands and visit with the community based volunteers (CBVs) from the camps (working to help educate and provide support in HIV/AIDS community development) to see how things are going, and inquire about the new and old issues they are facing. The following is a summary of the details of our visit with the men and women, who genuinely have hearts for their camps and to see change come to the islands. Here’s a bit of what we heard:
1) Kusu—Population ~200*, (CBV = Sarah), they have a small clinic run by a young woman who is possibly a nurse’s aid…
2) Kamese—Population ~550* (CBV = Ssalongo Deo), small clinic run by a local untrained woman
3) Kachanga—Population ~2,200* (CBV = Hakim), clinic well run by the dear Muslim couple Hakim and Hanifa (nurse midwife), 3 other clinics run by nurse’s aids on island.
4) Semowundo—Population ~170* (CBV = Jane), small clinic run by nurse
5) Mukaka—Population ~250 (CBV = Charles, also one of our boat drivers), 2 small clinics run by untrained people.
6) Namasegere—Population ~60* now, but before election campaigns ~110-120 (CBV = Harriet, the wife of Pastor Sledge who we met with), no clinic.
*Population estimates in the islands do not include children.
Issues: In each camp we heard the same words, same problems, same discouragements, only coming from different voices. These are a some of the words we heard: Transient community, people don’t care for themselves or others, men cheating on wives and wives cheating on husbands (for example in a camp of only 60 people), prostitution, no trust, drunkenness, drugs, discos, violence, sexual abuse of children, HIV, death, little access to poor health care, few clinics, little to no antenatal or postnatal care and testing for women and children and where there is they choose the witchdoctors instead, little education, no value for knowledge and life, people won’t come to meetings for education unless they are going to get something monetary in return, “here there is money, but people don’t know how to use it.” In a few words, many of the people come to the islands, make money, then drink their money, sleep their money, and wake up with disease and death rather than wealth. But why not live for today if it’s all you are guaranteed, right?
Without God there is no hope for change. Thank goodness that God knows, cares, loves, and has been reaching these people and has not given up, but has provided a plan for redemption and a future of hope!
The results and heart issues shine clear…Greed, selfishness, fear, and at the root of it all…they have little to no understanding of the one true God. Sadly, these surface in all forms of distrust, disunity, poverty, abuse, illness, lack of care, and eventually death.
Perceived Solutions from the CBVs: “Sensitization” and education. The main district seems to have started some mobile clinics, but time and research will show what is really happening. Over time is seems that this will be a good connection for me to partner with to help encourage antenatal care, prevention of mother-child transmission of HIV, child HIV testing, and pediatric care.
Hope: Some few, namely the CBVs in each camp and a few others seem to have genuine hearts and desires for their camps, the people there, and change! Keep these folks in your prayers and over time you too will come to know their names, faces, and stories as I do which will help us to pray and come along side more specifically. The trip came at a perfect time when each of those we met with really needed encouragement and we had the opportunity to do so and pray with each (even though not all believe in Jesus).
The work is far too immense for me, or anyone. It’s a humbling reminder that I’m not a nurse for my own doing, but to be the vessel through which God is showing his compassion, giving dignity, and caring for His loved ones.
Thanks for partnering with me in God’s work in the Ssese Islands. We all know change is a slow process and has to come from the heart. So I encourage and ask you to be praying in this way. Together we will learn patience, we’ll weep with those who weep, we’ll rejoice with those who rejoice, and I believe we’ll grow in the vision and heart of Christ Jesus for all people.
Blessings and greetings from Uganda!
Long time in coming, but it’s here now!! See info on island ministry in page to the right entitled or click on this link to take you there quickly “Ssese Islands Intro 2011” God willing!
“Jesus ruin me for all else besides you”…wow…chew on that thought/prayer for a few minutes, a day, a week, a month, a year…probably will take my whole life to even BEGIN to live a life impacted and transformed by such a deep desire. Those were the words of a speaker that we listened to in the Biblical Counseling study I’ve been participating in (I believe I’ve mentioned it before) and they pierced through to my heart. These words have revisited my mind many times since I first heard them. In my most selfish moments I’m now reminded of the priority I have been created and sculpted for…not for my glory or this world, but for the King.”
I recently revisited the village of Bigasa in Masaka for a quick visit and was blessed to accompany Quraish and some of His family to see Sarah (his wife) and Sharifa (his daughter) and Nalongo and Maama Sharifu (who gave birth the night I arrived ☺) and Fiona and Tony and Brenda and many others who were pleasantly surprised when they saw me emerge from the little house Sunday morning after arriving late the night before. It was a beautiful thing to be able to keep my word that I’d return soon. An opportunity to display in a simple way the immense faithfulness of our Creator! I was given a muganda name by Quraish’s family “Nabagereka”-the name for the wife of the Kabaka here (The King of Buganda Kingdom). What a gift to be given a name like this that I can use to explain my relationship which Christ as the Bride of Christ (like the Church)! Hopefully I won’t be handed over to the Kabaka as a new wife! Add that to your prayers if he catches word!! Haha
I’ve begun my 3rd full week immersed in serious language learning. I spend most of my days speaking or attempting to speak in Luganda…so forgive me if we talk and I start talking jibberish you don’t understand! During a skype call with Liberti (a HUGE BLESSING), my home church, I slipped up a time or two and my Ugandan company during the call quickly reminded me and the others on the other-side of the call (which included my mother) that “She’s no longer American. Now she is Omuganda!” haha My days involve between 3-4 hours of Luganda lessons with my teacher Herbert who is working wonders bridging some of the gaps developed in my brain as I’ve been learning the language over the past months! Lessons came at the perfect time and I am told I’m learning so fast even though some days it feels so slow! Takes a lot of grace and patience for myself, but it’s a blessing to be reminded of where I was 7 months ago when I landed in Uganda for the first time and couldn’t understand even when someone said hello to me!
My Colleague, Kathleen, is back in Uganda and we are brainstorming and preparing for the island ministry…my long promised update on that is coming THIS WEEK to give you a taste and picture of the bit I know at this point!!
I am preparing to go to Liverpool in just a few weeks (leaving around June 9 and returning mid July) to take the Diploma in Tropical Nursing course, God willing! I still need some finances for it. I am looking into flights, so prices are still not exact, but the course itself costs $2,269.22, + flights, + accommodations. I have a little over half of the course cost so far and NEED the rest before the end of the month to have the course and flights and accommodations covered in order to go! The studies are going to be a necessary and much welcomed training in caring for things I encounter on a daily basis and will be bombarded with in the Islands and at this point honestly don’t know how to treat properly! I have so much to learn…
In the Way of Prayer:
– Continued Language Acquisition—Daily language studies…intense but so helpful!
– Liverpool course—A woman has opened her home for me to rent a room for the time of the course only a mile or so walk from the school!! For these weeks of study I need the funds. The course itself costs $2,269.22 and we’re in the process of booking the travel and living arrangements (these will probably be approx. another $1,500)…Please pray for God to provide this in the next two weeks before the end of this month of MAY and if you are interested in giving toward these costs, please note that it is to go into my “Tropical Medicine School Fund”.
–Moving forward toward Island Ministry—With Kathleen back in Uganda we are beginning to plan and will shortly be taking a trip out to the islands. This will mark the beginning of a long process of building relationships and researching needs on my part. I ask that you pray for God’s guidance, wisdom, preparation, provision, relationships, and physical, emotional, and spiritual strength as it is a difficult place of ministry to health and spiritual needs.
–Political Scene—The unrest involved here in Uganda post elections—As some of you may have heard or seen amongst the onslaught of glorious news these days, there have been some demonstrations over the past weeks here in Kampala. I praise God for His protection. However, many friends and all of us have been affected by the implications of the riots. I ask you to pray against a spirit of timidity and fear and instead a spirit of hope and trust in the Sovereign and victorious God! Please pray for true transformational change from the inside out here…Uganda needs the Redeemer…
Thanks for tuning in…catch you in a few weeks!!
God’s grace and peace, melanie