Girls Are Not Really So Scary

africangirlsOutside the western world, education is not “free.”  For those living in the underdeveloped world, education is most often funded by fees charged to parents. For many families, school is an expensive privilege that they spend day in and day out clamoring to provide for their children. However, the reality is –there is never enough money to cover all the fees, so if there is money available –it often goes to pay for the schooling of the sons.

Even then, because gathering semester fees is so far out of the reach of a family, boys go to school erratically and often sit out for several semesters at a time while a family seeks to gather the money. While living in Uganda I watched family after family dealing with the weighty burden of collecting money that would cover boarding costs, food costs, uniform costs, exam sitting costs, supply costs and teacher’s salary costs.

For girls to make it to school, they often have to have an outside sponsor who will commit to provide the cost. Whenever circumstances work out just right and a girl gets the chance to go to school, you have a very motivated student!

For societies all over the world educating girls is a stabilizing proposition but Boko Haram finds it more scary than stabilizing as detailed in this New York Times article by Nicholas Kristof.

 

 

Fallen

I continue to be drawn to the blog site paradoxuganda written by Doctors Scott and Jennifer Myhre.  Here are two entries that compel me to see the news of an epidemic as more than cold abstract statistics.  When I read her words, this story of ebola is no longer vague and distant–I am drawn in to pray and be involved in heart and mind–the words become flesh.  I am struck again by the power of the word–they communicate more than information– behind and underneath what is written you can sense love and compassion–pain and sorrow–weeping and persevering. It is a Christmas story.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Last Words of Dr. Jonah

 838128536_4831332e37 “Scott was speaking today to one of the World Health Organization visitors who related information from the MSF doctors who cared for Jonah at the end. It was spine-tingling to hear Jonah speak from beyond the veil….

Tuesday afternoon, he was still walking and talking, and said to them “I have seen these patients die, and I know that I am dying”. I don’t think they believed him, and I wonder now if that is why he was determined to call us though his efforts were not successful. Moments before he died he said “I am going to die now. And I pray that no one should ever have to die of this disease again.”
2091489524_9dac38f4aa_s Right to his last moment he was thinking like the compassionate doctor he was, looking beyond himself to others.

Tomorrow his body will arrive, having been carefully decontaminated (as far as possible) and enclosed. His family was still en route when I last talked to them a couple of hours ago. Whenever we speak of him again to someone who cared about him, the tears come freely. We have seen some men here cry like we never saw men cry before. 2090712775_c7176b4552I think Jonah was perceived as a resource, a gift, to the whole district, everyone feels bereaved and robbed of their man, their doctor, the one they could trust and count on. When we see his family, we will have the complication that they are now contacts too like we are, and we should not be touching each other. So we have to go to the burial of our dear friend without any hugging, comfort his wife and children without touch. That feels harsh.
My mind keeps reaching back to some words of the Psalms which I can’t place, though a thousand have fallen at my side, yet I will trust.

2107135275_13e641ae45
We feel the falling of Jonah so acutely, we were both on the same front line of the same battle fighting side by side, yet he went down and we have not.
I know I can’t trust in anything other than God . . . Certainly not in not dying, which is not guaranteed, as Jonah shows. If we make it through this then what about the next tragedy?

Safety is not the basis of trust. Instead our trust needs to be in God, inexplicable God, dangerous God, other-than-us God, who does not order this world according to our will, but knows more than we do and loves more deeply.”

Posted by DrsMyhre at 11:08 AM
 

Monday, December 03, 2007

Explaining Ebola

“This afternoon seven of the eight boys who are my kids’ close friends hung out playing cards.  I tried to explain ebola, most of these boys are CSB students 1901042719_76059f2626 whom we sponsor.  They asked good questions, but one got me thinking:  Is this disease only in Africa, or is it in other parts of the world?  I felt disloyal, or sad, to admit that all the major outbreaks had occurred relatively close (on a global scale) to where we now sit, in eastern Congo, southern Sudan, northern Uganda.  Almost the only time the filovirus has been found elsewhere was when it was inadvertently transported out in monkeys from Uganda.  I could see the world-wide image of Africa, the continent of disease, being reinforced once again.  And it is not just a matter of how uninformed or prejudiced westerners view Africa, the assumptions are so powerful they trickle down into the minds of these boys.  It seems unfair that Bundibugyo only gets the five minutes of world attention because of yet another disease.”

Posted by DrsMyhre at 7:54 AM

Ebola Outbreak in Uganda

Two days ago James said, “Mom, Ebola has broken out in western Uganda.”  I said a quick prayer for the country that I love and moved on without having that news grip my heart in the way that it should have.

This morning a friend sent me a link to a story that put faces and names with this horrid disease.  As we prepare for a season of massive consumption, there are people who are called to a season of massive compassion.

ht_ebola_071207_ms A doctor who was working with World Harvest Mission named Jonah Kule died last week as a result of this Ebola outbreak.  He was the father of 5 children and leaves a pregnant widow named Melen.

Jonah was the dear friend of a medical missionary couple named Scott and Jennifer Myhre who are still serving in the Bundibugyo District.Myhre-photo-smaller-file

This couple has been serving as medical missionaries to the poorest of poor for 14 years and now find themselves in the epicenter of a devestating outbreak.

This dedicated couple are keeping track of the story as it unfolds at the blog site  http://www.paradoxuganda.blogspot.com/paradoxuganda

It is heart wrenching to see this story through the eyes of those who are living it.  These are Jennifer’s words following the funeral of Jonah.

In the midst of chaos I am longing for a small spot of order . . . So have taken to organizing bookshelves whenever I have a couple of hours at home (I’m sure there are decent and deep psychiatric reasons, but it is a pretty useful coping mechanism, and probably a good sign to have the energy to begin to do so).  Hardly anyone dares to come to our house anymore.  As contacts we are supposed to practice “social distancing” . . . A bizarre and unexpected opportunity to pull hundreds of books and years of dust and pen caps and random scraps of paper and broken flash lights and all the other detritus of life that accumulates on any horizontal surface from the bookshelves (we have many). 

In the process this morning I came across a book by Michael Card called “A Sacred Sorrow:  Reaching out to God in the Lost Language of Lament.”  Ruth Ann Batstone gave it to me a few months ago but I had not opened it yet.  He opens the first chapter:  “Before there were drops of rain, human tears fell in the garden, and that was when lament began.”  His premise is that the Bible is full of the songs of complaint, frustration, sorrow, even anger; because the path to God is a “tearful trail.”

When I step back from the science, the advocacy, the planning, the medicine . . . I am left with the hollow-hearted shock that Jonah has died, and that more will follow.  And I am not here to justify or explain that, rather to acknowledge and experience it.  So I want to copy here a paragraph from this book’s forward by Eugene Peterson:
It is also necessary as a witness, a Jesus-witness to the men and women who are trying to live a life that avoids suffering at all costs, including the cost of their own souls. 

For at least one reason why people are uncomfortable with tears and the sight of suffering is that it is a blasphemous assault on their precariously maintained  . . spirituality of the pursuit of happiness.  They want to avoid evidence that things are not right with the world as it is—without Jesus (and Job, David, and Jeremiah), without love, without faith, without sacrifice.  It is a lot easier to keep the American faith if they don’t have to look into the face of suffering, if they don’t have to listen to our laments, if they don’t have to deal with our tears. 


So learning the language of lament is not only necessary to restore Christian dignity to suffering and repentance and death, it is necessary to provide a Christian witness to a world that has no language for and is therefore oblivious to the glories of wilderness and cross.

I hope that many have the grace to weep and pray with Bundibugyo, and so discover the wilderness where God’s presence flames.

Posted Saturday December 8, 2007  12:18 a.m.

May God give us hearts that are large enough to carry the cares of these people who are facing such devastating circumstances.  May we weep with 2091495044_892bd47b55 Jonah’s mother and his grieving wife as they carry on without a husband and father in a country where having no man often means having no provision. 2090713349_05945f64a1_s May we pray earnestly for the protection of this medical missionary family and that this outbreak will be supernaturally contained through the mercy of our Lord.

Read More at http://www.whm.org/news/ebolainuganda

Would You Go Back?

Ever since our return from the mission field, friends have asked, "Will you ever go back?"

That question stirs so many emotions.

My mind races with remembrances and I think, "It was a call not a decision when we went DSC00345 (Small)before and I would expect it to happen that way again if God intends us to go anywhere."

I say to the Lord what I have been saying, "Lord, here I am…yours…wherever you can use me."  DSC00344 (Small)

These thoughts were brought forward in my mind  this morning when I was meditating on Acts 17:16.  Luke is describing the inward thoughts of Paul when he arrived in Athens, "His spirit was stirred when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry."  I was taken by this poem by Eva Doerksen in light of this verse:

"If you had been to heathen lands,

Where weary ones with eager hands

Still plead, yet no one understand,

Would you go back?  Would you? 

 

If you had seen them in despair,

Beat on the breast, pull out the hair,

While demon powers filled the air,

Would you go back?  Would you?

 

If you had seen the glorious sight,

When heathen people, long in night,

Are brought from darkness into light,

Would you go back?  Would you?

 

Yet still they wait, a weary throng,

They’ve waited, some so very long,

When shall despair be turned to song,

I’m going back! Would you?

I am thinking again this morning after being blessed by the trusting faith that lived powerfully in the hearts of many Ugandans; perhaps the Lord is helping me see "who" the real heathens are.  When I saw what faith looked like in the lives of Africans who had "nothing" but God and He was completely sufficient– I knew the heathen was me!  For now,  I might be in God’s intended mission field.

May He turn our eyes to see the light of Christ and give us a new song! 

Back in the Saddle Again

August 7, 2004

Dear Friend Jane,

Well my friend, I have spent two birthdays in Africa now. On our return trip we had an eventful time in London.  Our flight to Entebbe was delayed 5 hours so DSC 074 (Small) we spent the day walking around London streets.  DSC 072 (Small) We took the train into the city and managed to see the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey and Big Ben.

I slept on the plane ride to London but Mike and Casey were unable to and were pretty beat when we got back to Heathrow.  As we were boarding the plane for Entebbe they discovered that they had double booked our seats so we were upgraded to Business Class –oh, what a great grace that was!  The recliner seats allowed us to sleep on this 8 hour leg of the journey and get prepared for the work that awaited in Uganda.

Would you believe that I left my pocket book on the American flight that we took from Richmond to Boston?

Picture 067 (Small)Shirlene, the Rafiki Girls Center Director, met with me the day we returned and asked me to begin the next day observing the classes that I would teach: Music, Cooking & Nutrition and Sewing.  Procuring the groceries needed to prepare the noon time meals, making menus and gathering recipes, teaching the recorder, teaching the girls to make a dress on treadle machines and supervising in the Weaving Room on Tuesdays and Thursdays will be some of the pieces of my new assignment.  Picture 075 (Small)Uganda 018 (Small)

Shirlene seems most anxious for me to take over the sewing class even though I don’t know a bias from a facing!  I am ready and observing to beat the band to get up to speed.

The Mamas and Aunties are expressing much confusion about my status in the village since my return.  The truth is it is as difficult for me as for them right now. Auntie Edith invited me to come to her home for a visit on her off day yesterday so I went after work.  She had cooked 5 traditional foods over charcoal each was wrapped in banana leaves and she wanted to share them with me.  Jane the extravagance of this gift will astound me forever–she cooked the equivalent of a holiday meal for me and her children were sitting and watching me eat…I can only hope that they tasted some of this when I was gone.

I said, “Edith you don’t eat this early.”  She smiled that sweet smile and said, “Jja Jja, I wanted to share food with you and to pray for what has happened.  I want this meeting and our words to be Christian and honoring.”  That was her way of saying she was not asking me to gossip and she knew that being Christian meant our language needed to be different from that of the unbelieving world.

DSC02777 (Small)With tears she thanked me for making her feel valued as a person and for speaking to the women of Rafiki as though they were as important as anyone  else.  She said, “Jja Jja, my heart felt like it had been put in a cold box when Mommy told us you had asked to go to the RGC.  I thought, ‘What has happened? I know Jja Jja loves us.’  Then I thought you would come back and sit us down and explain to us all the reasons that there were so many changes because you always tell us everything.  What I find is that you walk by with only a wave now.”

I did spend some time explaining things to Edith and assuring her that my help to her family would continue no matter how things were different within the gate.  I asked her to trust God that the changes would help the running of things in the village and we would wait and watch how things went.  We clasped hands and spent a long time in imploring prayer–I will never forget what happened in that hut.

You of all people know how that meeting affected my heart.

I do want you to know I am seeing God and am sustained by Him in all this.  In fact, I am so grateful to be with the girls at the center in morning devotions each day. God broke out in all our hearts while we were praying today.  For devotion time we were looking at the attribute of God’s Impartiality.  Later, during the time of confession one girl asked God to forgive her because she often suspected that He favored others more than He did her–she went on to say that she wanted to believe what the Word said rather than her feelings.  Picture 034 (Small)

The girls sing beautifully and I am most blessed to stand among them during hymn time.  Later, the first term girls completed their first blouse project and were thrilled to think they were allowed to take them home to show family–they kept saying to Shirlene, “God Bless you Miss Shirlene–for assisting us.”

It has been a great morning. I haven’t read our Psalm for the day but am even now rehearsing the truths that are there in Psalm 91 (that is the one right?) through my head. DSC 079 (Small)
We will have mini missionaries for dinner tonight and hope that they are made to feel welcome–Jane, I am glad that God saw fit to knit our hearts together–I miss you daily and am helped and remember to say, “God thank you for e-mail, phones and yearly chances to sit and sip coffee with Jane.”  What would I do without a friend with whom I can talk about any and every thing!”

love-lissa

Rainbow Connection

June 14, 2004

Dear Jane,

I trust the time with Nancy and David Writebol was good for all, they seem like such a devoted missionary couple.  I told Mike I hope you heard stories of people impassioned for Christ.  I look forward to seeing them at Enrichment Week in San Antonio.

DSC02405 (Small) I went to Owino Market on Monday and bought 57 T-shirts, 2 pair of sandals, 42 pairs of shorts and 5 book bags for under $100.  Each outfit for the children costs 75 cents!  For the last two days I have been culling worn out, too little clothes from the cottages and replacing them with “new” things.  The children are thrilled and are colorful as rainbows.  When I give new clothes to the children, I have to first take the old ones away.  If I leave them in the cottages, the mamas continue to have the children wear them no matter what the condition.  This is not a culture that has the luxury of  “throwing things out” — it just is not done here.  They really do not have any understanding of why I come and take things away!  It is very difficult for them and they continue to tell me that a pair of shorts or shirt is still good–regardless of the holes or faded look.

When I do get clothes out of the cottages, it is when they are in better condition than what most children in the surrounding areas are wearing.  I take the clothes that are recyclable to Central Baptist in Wakiso and let Susan distribute them to the children in her congregation. I will never forget the day we went there for Sunday School and a little three year old girl came in by herself totally naked except for a string tied around her waist.  I actually bought her a church outfit and knickers which she was so proud of she lifted her dress for everyone to see!

DSC02113 (Small)I had a fun morning with the aunties and children.  It is Hero’s Day and so all the children were home doing chores from 9-10.  At 10 the aunties had promised them that we would go get mangoes.  Kasmiri our gardener got a long pole and jabbed at the mangoes until he had knocked about 15 out of a tree. We had a feast. DSC02136 (Small) They like to eat their fruit before it is ripe here so the taste of an unripe mango is about like a Granny Smith apple.  We sat and laughed and enjoyed those mangos and it was a sweet time of fellowship.

Later, Mike and I went to town for groceries and we found my favoriteDSC02139 (Small) cracker in stock so I am a happy woman!  It is difficult to find crisp things here and I get so hungry for that.  Mike discovered a cracker made in Malaysia that is really the ticket! I can’t tell you how thrilled you can get when you find something like what you loved in the States–it makes a party!

It is Marsha’s afternoon to cover the activity time and dining hall so I am in with Casey who is off from school. We gave Edith a ride home from work and she took me to her place to meet the 2 orphans that she raises along with her own 3 children. John and Norbert are from 2 different women who have died of AIDS and named Edith as the caretaker. Edith’s countenance about this is never that it is burdensome or out of the ordinary to pick up a couple of extra children.  She cannot imagine that there was any other response than to joyfully take these children in.  One of the boys is infected with HIV but Edith has kept that from the other children so that he will not be ostracized.  In material things, this family is not rich but in love and care they are most blessed!

Well it is the end of the day and I am going onto the porch with a glass of tea, my Bible and watch the sun go down…..

I hope the Lord is very near you today my friend.

with much love,

lissa

Love, a Many Splendored Thing

May 5, 2004

One generation will commend your works to another;
they will tell of your mighty acts.
They will speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty,
and I will meditate on your wonderful works. (Psalm 145)

Dear Jane,

 This morning I am thankful that God is allowing me the privilege of being one generation commending Him and His Robertworks to another (vs. 4).  Yesterday I met up with the 3 and 4 year olds as they were on their way to school.  Meeting the children is always the joy in my morning–they are all smiles and stories.

Today  Mama Robinah said to Robert, “Robert did you tell Jja Jja that you prayed and God helped you not wet yourself last night?”  That little boy’s face broke out in a big smile and he ran and threw his arms around my knees and said in that wonderful broken English, “Jja Jja I prayed–I pray for Auntie Casey –I pray for Uncle Mike–Jja Jja I pray.”  Girlfriend, moments like that make my heart explode. That his mama has taught him to take all things to God in prayer is mega-marvelous.  He is already armed for life.  When I think on the institutional, non-attentive life that Robert knew in the Babies Home and see the security and nurture that he has here I am immensely thankful to God.Kids2  The children are thriving.

Robert came to the Babies Home so severely malnourished that he could not hold his body upright. God’s plan for Robert’s life is very different from where he began his days.   He is so bright.  He memorizes quickly and sings beautifully all the words of the hymn CD that is in his cottage.  It is not unusual for these children to be walking along the sidewalk and to break out with “How Great Thou Art” or “Amazing Grace.”

We went to Casey’s volleyball game yesterday and the Coiners went as well. DSC01885 (Small)  Later we ate at the Cafe’ Roma and Casey was thrilled that we found pizza that was almost like “real” pizza there.  She said, “Mom, I think you miss something so long that you forget the real taste and something close to it is just as good in the end.”  She is a wise woman.

Thank you for hearing my heart for Mom and sending her flowers dear lady–she will be delighted with that thoughtfulness and loves cut flowers dearly.  I know as I read Psalm 145 that there is nothing facing us today that our Great God won’t be meeting before us–the words “abundant” and “abounding”  and “everlasting” have us wrapped in a security that is awe inspiring.  May the awe of the Lord fall all over you as you meet with Him this morning.   I am wanting to call on Him in truth – regarding Carolyn, advise me if you hear me hiding out of self protectiveness or some other self absorbed something–if God wants to use me differently I am willing.

Love to you friend–lissa