Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Parents of missionaries

We are in a new era of missions.

Facebook, Voxer (our current favorite), Skype, Google Hangouts, Magic Jack, blogs...

We can stay in touch with our families in real time.  They can be here in 30 hours (best case scenario).  We could be there in 30 hours (you know, if all our children has passports and stuff - little details).

In the past year, nearly every missionary that I know has had a parent visit.

This is a different era of missions.

Parents of missionaries live a unique life.  Their hearts are partially in a country they have never inhabited.  Their grandkids are growing in a culture foreign to their own.  They take a month off work and cross the globe with the goal of LITERALLY snuggling their grandchildren for 3 weeks straight.

They drop their life to rush to the aid of their children in crisis - not unlike any parent in the West, except that such a selfless act costs thousands of dollars instead of a drive to New Hampshire.

They encourage YOUR missionaries like no one else can.  They provide insight that no other person is qualified to give.  They watch for red flags of burn out, disillusionment, and self pity and they alone can be so completely honest that your missionary HAS to listen.  They see the progress and can encourage like no other.

How can you support the parents of missionaries who are in your midst? Are they grieving the small losses? Not being there on their grandchild's first day at the village school? Are they grieving the big losses? The death or significant health concern of a loved one overseas? Would your missionaries be exceptionally encouraged in dark times by a visit from their family?

The mission field is all around you.  Don't miss out!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Absent from flesh - what joy that moment brings!

I know I promised a blog series... oh four months ago... I WILL write it.  But life is so hectic here and blogging is emotionally stressful... My mental, physical, and emotional energy went elsewhere.

Last week, missionary friends here in Uganda were in a devastating car crash on our horrible roads.  Their one month old baby died in the crash.  The mom has significant injuries and is in a Ugandan hospital trying to recover and find her way through the veil of grief.

Today, I got a phone call (I'm a doctor) asking for advice on a little girl who was caught in a brush fire.  She is burned over 100% of her body and fighting for her life.

We prayed for both situations with our children.  And I hugged them a little longer at bedtime and prayed over them again.  And kissed my special needs daughter more, memorizing her smile and her lovey eyes a little longer.

The children's favorite song is "ashen bla blesho"... or, to translate from their gibberish "Absent From Flesh." I groaned (inwardly) as we started to sing it tonight in family worship time and the kids started bouncing all over the room at 7:38pm.  And then, at my dear husband's request, I sang with him.  And the powerful words hit me in light of these tragic events.

Let them wash over your soul.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E5DbEMyFv_Q

Words: Isaac Watts, 1606 (ad. Jamie Barnes)
Fourth verse (and chorus ad.): Tim Johnson
Music: Jamie Barnes
Arr: Tim Johnson and Matt Patrick

lyrics

Absent from flesh, O blissful thought
What joy that moment brings
Freed from the blame my sin has brought,
From pain and death and its sting.

Absent from flesh, O glorious day!
In one triumphant stroke
My reckoning paid, my charges dropped,
And the bonds 'round my hands are broke.

I go where God and glory shine,
To one eternal day
And this failing body I now resign,
For the Christ has made a way
For the Christ has made a way

Absent from flesh! Then rise, my soul,
Where feet nor wings could climb,
Beyond the sky, where planets roll,
And beyond all keep of time.

I go where God and glory shine,
To one eternal day
And this failing body I now resign,
For the Christ has made a way
For the Christ has made a way

Absent from flesh! Then see thy God,
With eyes unveiled and free
We’ll face to face His glory laud,
And radiance ever see

I go where God and glory shine,
To one eternal day
And this failing body I now resign,
For the Christ has made a way
For the Christ has made a way

Monday, October 14, 2013

Vulnerable children in Uganda - part one

"Abby gets a little excited when talking about orphans." My dear friend spoke with a twinkle in her eye and a smile on her lips.  Her words struck me.  "Isn't everyone passionate about orphans and vulnerable children?" I thought.

I am immersed in the "African orphan crisis."

I live it, breathe it, sweat it, feel it, speak it, hug it.

The "crisis" is inextricably woven into my family.

I have kept silent for long, as we have sat back as observers and learners.  But as our two year anniversary in Uganda approaches, I have decided to put down some thoughts for others to read, hopefully to help our supporters and friends get a better sense for what it means to be a vulnerable child in Africa.

As a means of introduction, we adopted one special needs child from Liberia 7 years ago and are adopting one abandoned total orphan from Uganda where we live (we've already been a family for a year and a half).  We have three biologically birthed children mixed in between.  We inherited a children's home here in Uganda which was filled with vulnerable war-affected children who have been slowly reunited with their families.

We adopted our firstborn daughter before we understood much of the complexity of the African Orphan Crisis.  Now that we understand it better, we would still adopt her, one hundred times over, knowing that she is one of the many vulnerable children whose lives have literally been saved because of international adoption.  Having done assessments on special needs children eligible for adoption, followed their stories, and stood by as 40% of them passed away before they could be adopted... we know that our Gracie's adoption was right, was ethical, was pleasing to God, and met the need.  International adoption has its place and we LOVE adoption!

But international adoption is not the first choice.  We view it as third choice in a string of options...

The African orphan has options?! We thought the African orphan was destitute, unwanted, dying in the gutters!

Some are - please understand that I am not diminishing the weight of this problem.

But WHO is the African orphan and what are her options?

To be continued....

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Belonging (or lack thereof)

Today I ate a feast of goat meat with my fingers, encouraged my children digging in the dirt and told them to stop bothering the goats, caught a chicken to show Gracie, and laughed about rats while sorting through dusty books...

I've been pondering "belonging."

I grew up to be a third culture kid - an American missionary kid who didn't belong in America.  I looked American, but wasn't.  My passport said I was American, but my heart didn't.

Over the years, through college, medical school, residency, I drifted into becoming more American.  I started to belong to America.

Then I moved back to Africa.  And I don't belong in Africa. I will never be Acholi, no matter how hard I try.  But now, after two years of living in Africa again, I certainly don't belong in America.

So... where do I belong?

My children will (hopefully) struggle with this very question.  Yes, I pray that my children feel that discomfort of belonging (or lack thereof).  Because this struggle is essential to the Christian life, as we live as "aliens and strangers in this world" (I Peter 2:11), looking forward to an eternity of belonging to Christ (II Peter 3:3-18).

Within our own culture, within our own family, surrounded by friends who understand us, it can be too easy to slip into a false sense of belonging.  We DON'T belong anywhere in this world.  As Christians, we are NEW creations in Christ (II Corinthians 5:17).

Take comfort and find joy!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

A bittersweet anniversary

This day marks a bittersweet anniversary.  An anniversary that my older sister is very good at remembering - for very obvious reasons! This photo (above) was taken a day or two before the anniversary... maybe you can guess what happened! 

Two years ago today, we left Pennsylvania, left my family, and I haven't seen them since (except for my little sister who visited us in June!).


Two years ago today, we anxiously delayed leaving Pennsylvania as long as we could... waiting for my baby nephew to make his grand appearance! He finally obliged, at the last possible minute, and we got to hold him for a precious hour when he was just hours old... and then we said goodbye.


Happy Birthday, Matthias!! (My mom with her 6 grandkids on that day.)

Two years later:
- We have five children (two of whom have never been out of Uganda).
- My mom has 9 grandkids (two of whom she has never met in person).
- We have two more nephews (on Josh's side - who we have yet to meet).
- Matthias is turning TWO years old! Talitha (another niece that we last saw as an infant) turned TWO just over a month ago.
- My children are more accustomed to living in Uganda than in the USA.
- My children view Skype as the only way to see our family in the USA.
- Three of our children only know Uganda - they talk of the USA as a far-off wonderland where Mimi, Papa, Mama Mac, and Papa Mac live.
- Boxed cake mix no longer tastes good (we're used to making everything from scratch now!).
- We're 20-30 pounds lighter without all the cheese in our diet. ;-P

Saturday, September 28, 2013

"When you are young..."

We visited our colleague and friend, Rose, and her brand new baby girl, Lakisa, this week.  This adorable healthy newborn was an answer to prayer as mama and baby are both healthy and thriving.  This is not a given in this area.  Child and maternal mortality rates are high - very high.

But what struck me was a comment that she made as we sat in her tiny sitting room with her husband (unusual!), her two sons, a maid (usually a young lady from one of the families who needs domestic experience as she waits to get married), and the two grandmothers.  Yes, both grandmothers came to help.  This is a little unusual, especially since Rose and her husband are from different tribes.  But the happy grandmothers were both sitting there, together, loving on their grandbaby.

"The baby is doing so well because the mothers are here to help.  When you are young like us, you can't have a healthy baby.  You need help from the mothers." 

Rose is probably around 30 years old and has had two children already.  She's educated, her husband is educated, they both work for NGOs.  Yet, she readily acknowledges her need for someone older and wiser than herself to help her take the best care of her children.

We have a lot to learn from that attitude in the West.  In North America, we believe that only we, the parents, can possibly know what is good for our children.  Grandparents are token people in our lives, there to babysit and spoil the child.  Other people have no say.  We don't want to hear anything about parenting - it offends us for someone to bring up parenting - it's a sacred topic that you can't talk about.  We are all-sufficient when it comes to parenting.  We've read the books, gone to the seminars, quietly observed what we don't like other parents doing, and come to our own conclusions, i.e. the Right Way to parent.

Conversely, everything here is communal.  Any stranger on the street can tell you how to raise your child, clothe your child, or feed your child.  Your child is not your own.  In fact, your child is "owned" by the father's side of the family.

There are good and bad aspects of both cultures.  But I think we could take a cue from our Ugandan friends as they seek advice and wisdom from those older and wiser.  Can we humble ourselves and take unsolicited advice? Can we humble ourselves and solicit advice? Can we let others speak into our lives?

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Heavy reality

My heart is heavy.  I'm facing the reality that I'm giving a very serious diagnosis to an orphan.

If this was a child in North America, his parents would be grieving, angry, and reaching out to find resources and support...

If this was a child in North America, his future would be full of plans for transitional care, skills training, adult living options, surgeries, medication after medication after medication, specialized diets...



Here's a reality about orphans worldwide, but specifically in sub-Saharan Africa: this kiddo has relatives.  But, for reasons that I will keep private, they have rejected him.

So, he does not have an advocate.  He does not have a mom to stay up at his side all night watching over him.  He does not have a dad who will run into town to get his medication before it runs out.  But he also does not automatically have the option for adoption because he still has relatives.

The good news? He has us! Praise God that he is a Home of Love child.

The diagnosis is still difficult.  His prognosis is still uncertain.  But at least we have a broad support network that gives confidence that we will find the right placement and options for his care.  Pray that the relatives will understand and make the right decisions about his care.  Pray as I seek 3rd and 4th opinions regarding his diagnosis!

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