Monday, February 27, 2012

Almanac


Just as we all have ways of "knowing" when spring is upon us, or fall has truly come, we've been interested to hear how people know WHEN rainy season is arriving. There was a massive rain storm the other weekend... did that mean anything? There was a day this past weekend where it rained twice in the same day... did THAT mean anything?

Josh's Acholi teacher said that the way they know if rainy season is upon us is when there is green poking up through the burnt fields. Exactly what we observed on Sunday when we took a little drive - a most welcome sight: bright spring green sprouting up out of burnt parched soil!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Cool of the evening

There's something to be said about the "Pearl of Africa." Uganda is so beautiful, although a visitor in January to the north might not agree, but the rest of the year Uganda is, for the most part, lush, green, and simply beautiful.

And the evenings do get cool. Even at the peak of hot season (which, it seems we have now passed), there was only about a week or two of very hot nights. Now, I'm not saying that you wouldn't want a fan other nights, but by very early morning, the air is cool and a fan would be too much in some months. We've registered as low as 62 degrees early morning outside during rainy season!

So this evening, the kids and I are sitting outside, loving it! A heavy wind came through earlier, threatening rain (it missed us - boohoo!), but cooling down the air temperature. Now, except that I'm sitting between our jerry cans which we rely on entirely for water these days, I could forget that it is hot season with the cool breeze and happy children running around outside. Gracie's sitting next to me, yelling with joy at the cool temperatures. Her yells and yelps echo through the neighborhood. I don't worry about disturbing neighbors as I did as much in the USA. There are odd sounds, smells, and sights around us all the time and everyone's business is everyone's business.

I know when all my neighbors are home as we notice everyone who passes by our house. The mzungus with the little children and African daughter who can't walk are certainly well known in the neighborhood and by now people are certainly accustomed to our sounds and noises. These homes are not built to keep temperature or noise in or out. That makes night times sometimes too noisy to sleep and life scarcely private.

So, as I enjoy the window of time when the air is cooler before the mosquitoes wake up for their night's work, to the music of Gracie's enthusiastic yells... I thank God for His blessings big and small!

Like the mom who just called me, who we met in Kampala. She noticed us with Gracie in a mall in Kampala and approached us. She has a son with severe cerebral palsy and hasn't known what to do with him until recently when she met a therapist in Kampala. She called me last week (right before the kids all got sick so I didn't get back to her) and during our brief conversation, she said that she saw the love of God in us the way that we love our Gracie and care for her. PRAISE GOD! THAT is why we are here as a family - the doors that open through our unique family are doors that would never be open otherwise. She just called again and I can see this is the beginning of a relationship between us. She has a heart for disabilities, wants to serve, and wants to meet the needs of her son. Pray for her and her precious family! Thank you God for placing us in the right mall with our Gracie at the right time!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A hut on fire


There was a bright orange glow in the dusk sky with billowing smoke - we could even see embers and sparks and flames from our yard... I started to worry that in this dryness it would spread. Everything around us is like kindling.

We finally asked the night guard about it. He said the following (my paraphrase, of course):

It is a hut burning. It is the roof (see the photo above taken during wet season, hence the green grass, imagine how DRY the thatch roof is now!). It does not spread from house to house (we have heard that it does sometimes - it likely depends on how close the burning hut is to the one next to it - but it wouldn't spread beyond the small cluster of huts). People do not make noise when the hut is burning because it is believed that the noise will make it spread more. The next day, the community will gather and each will give a spoon or a bowl or a shirt and the men will gather grass and poles and the boys will gather rope, and the roof will be reconstructed in no time. The person has lost much, including money, but at least the community sees them back on their feet and clothed. When the NGOs were here, the NGOs would all give something big that would last a few months until the person would have to be on their own again.

I found it most interesting that people don't make noise while the home is burning - in the USA, we would all be yelling, screaming, shouting instructions at each other. They deal with the tragedy and crisis in silence. It occurs with such frequency that everyone knows what to do and they work together to help out.

Gracie bowling

Today at Home of Love I got to witness the most hilarious sight. I usually let the children take Gracie (well strapped into her chair!) and I let them play in the eating shelter (LARGE open sided thatch shelter) and I give them their space. Today, Lucy wasn't there when I arrived, so I had nothing to do except sit in the eating shelter and watch them play.

The children took turns pushing Gracie while the other children crouched down some distance in front of Gracie. The child pushing Gracie would push her toward the crowd of crouching children who would spring out of her way at the last minute to screams of joy from Gracie, giggles from the children, and chuckles from the older children and adults watching on. Hilarious! :)

(I wish I had my camera but I sent it with Josh on his day trip to another city...)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Who has placed the stars...

Josh coaxed me (from my "busy-ness" around the house) outside to see the stars tonight. The stars are so beautiful and brilliant, often with very little surrounding light to dull them. The dry desert wind (cooler with the sun down) and the bats kept the mosquitoes at bay while we admired God's handiwork. God has placed each star in the sky and holds it in place - in constellations that can be recognized from all over the earth!

We reminisced about when we were in Zambia - now that was a beautiful sky! In a settlement some distance from the nearest town (Macha is where I'm referring to), the land is flat, the sky is as big as it gets, there is no light to pollute the view, and the stars reach down and grab your attention. Even as dread gripped my heart every time I made the walk from my home to the hospital, knowing that someone was dead or dying (the only reason they would call me at night), the stars reminded me of God's presence, his peace would overwhelm me, and I would breathe in the cooler night air and head for the emergency.

Now I'm thinking of the winter sky in Pennsylvania, Josh and my breath clouding the view with every exhalation, the crisp stars twinkling over our dating walks around Messiah College campus.

And the night sky in New Hampshire, where Ana was convinced that the moon's only job was to follow us and we marveled at the moon's different shapes and colors night to night, peeking through the many trees, following our car home.

What beauty God has given us, to draw our hearts to him, quiet our busy-ness, and remind us of our Creator and Sustainer!

Christian Alliance for Orphans Summit

For those of you in the USA, here's a conference to check out. It's Christian Alliance for Orphans Summit and the theme is "justice and mercy flow from the Gospel." AMEN! It's May 3-4 in Southern California. I've never been, but always wanted to go... check it out! :)

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Precious water

As I stare at my filthy feet and smell a slight... scent... coming from everyone, a friend asked about the water situation here.... I'll do my best to explain!

We live in a "mzungu house" with city water piped in.

Most local Acholi live in huts and go to the local borehole to get water each day - carrying a jerry can full of water back on their heads (do you know HOW heavy that is?! At least 40 pounds!) or they might rig a bicycle or a wheelbarrow up to carry more jerry cans. This is why you have children - to fetch the water! ;-P

Boreholes do not generally dry up - a borehole is a narrow shaft drilled deep enough to access under ground water supplies. These supplies are deep (sometimes a mile deep) and generally do not have problems during a typical dry season here.

On the other hand, city water comes from a reservoir on the surface (it may come from other places too, I don't claim to be an expert on this!). My laundry dries within an hour in this dry dry heat, so you can imagine that with no rain to replenish the supply for months on end, the supply dries up.

Our house has a pretty big tank (enough to do one shower, toilet flushes, two loads of laundry, and a sink full of dishes - as I found out this week) and so as long as the water comes on from the city at some point for long enough, our tank fills up and we have water in most of the house.

Lately, the water hasn't been coming on at all... meaning, I drained the tank trying to keep the house and clothes clean last week and we're down to sponge baths, using dirty water to mop the floor, and... going to the borehole. Praise God for boreholes!

So, today we need to take a trip to Home of Love to fill our jerry cans and make those last. No more "pool days" (water play in bins) for a while. No nice hot showers for a while. And the laundry... yikes - disposable diaper days? :)

Friday, February 10, 2012

No task

After a more than usual amount of chaos this morning, I headed off (sans-children) to pick up Stephen. Our goal was to take him to the local hospital where there is a physiotherapy department, get him an assessment, a regular therapy schedule, and some equipment (stander, AFOs, new wheelchair)... After all the usual delays which included having to stop to buy "airtime" for our cellphones, buying ground-nuts for Home of Love, going to Home of Love to get the paper work, setting up my babysitters to watch the kiddos... we arrived at the hospital! Horray!

The physiotherapist was very kind (although unhappy to see Stephen in Gracie's convaid - bad positioning! haha!) and told us to come back Thursday for a full assessment.

SO, we loaded back up, bumped back over the crazy cow-path roads again, bumped Stephen back over the paths to his home, greeted the local residents at their huts and prayed with them, and I took Lucy back to Home of Love.

By American doctor standards, I spent the day doing nothing. No therapies, no equipment, no AFOs...

By relationship standards, I spent the day giving a kid a ride in a van he likes very much, taking him away from the shaded patio where he spends his boring days, into the community. (In response to a question that I posed to him, he replied [in acholi] that he really likes riding in my van! Haha!)

By relationship standards, I spent five hours talking with Lucy, an amazing faithful woman of God who has amazing insight, wisdom, and encouragement.

By relationship standards, I got to greet and pray with an elderly man and a Home of Love worker who has been sick at home. I got to go inside his hut with Lucy and learn a little more about him. I got to hopefully encourage him that he's receiving the proper treatment as I looked at his xray and his medications and agreed with what he's been given.

Praise God that HE has bigger plans for us than accomplishing a task! What a blessed day!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The (hot) dead of winter...

It feels like we're in the dead of winter - the depressing lull in early February that comes in New England when the days are too short, the wind too cold, the snow shabby, trees stick-figures against the grey sky, and snow days have lost their appeal. Except we're sweating and parched.

The earth is dead - no rain for months now. The heat is intense. The dry dusty gusty winds from the Sahara in the morning are intriguing but not refreshing.

And the lack of green certainly affects us. Just like it does in the winter in New England. Where is the new life, where is the miracle of new leaves and lush grass?

In the mango tree, as we watch baby mangoes grow against all odds, without rainful (but with plenty of sunshine!)...

In the avocado tree still producing...

In the boreholes that never dry up...

We just have to look for the miracles of life a little harder as we guzzle precious water and apply chapstick, as we bathe over buckets so we can reuse the water to wash clothes, and as the darkness closes in at sunset (albeit hours later than it would in New England February!).

Praise God for seasons, even seasons we enjoy less! Every season has its purpose - a season of waiting, a season of rejoicing, a season of sorrow, a season of action...

(Ecclesiastes 3)

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