Saturday, February 17, 2018

Rabies scare

Last week Esther woke up with a bat on her leg. No, not a baseball bat. The fuzzy flying mammal. The kind that has been known to carry rabies. She screamed and kicked it off and saw if fall out of her mosquito net and flap down the hall. Of course that woke us and we began searching the house to get rid of it. But to no avail. Finally we settled our two girls back to sleep, and about an hour later Elijah woke and said there was a bat inside his mosquito net. We were still not able to find it. A few days later Ezra found it dead in the boys’ LEGO bin. 

It was a disturbing night, but I didn’t think much about it. We live in a village called Buwundo, which means “bats” in Luganda. Yes, we literally live in a place called Bat Village. I didn’t know the meaning of the name when we moved here. 

In a bizarre series of events, our pediatrician heard about the incident. He highly encouraged us to treat our children as if they had been exposed to rabies. Even though their chance of actually being exposed was very low, once someone becomes symptomatic with rabies, it is too late to treat them.  

As we received this information from our friend and doctor, I was in Kampala with Esther for a mother-daughter weekend. David and I decided that I should borrow a car and drive Esther to a hospital that had the immunoglobulin rabies vaccine. If you are not familiar with driving in Kampala, it can be pretty overwhelming. I asked Esther to help navigate using my phone and Google maps as we set out for the hospital. We eventually found our way there, but since it was after regular hours, it took about 2 hours to get a doctor to say that she needs the shot, take that prescription to the pharmacy, pay for the shot and then go back to the nurse to have it administered. It was quite an ordeal. As we were preparing to leave the hospital, I got another message from David that in addition to the immunoglobulin, the CDC and our pediatrician/friend recommend getting the regular vaccine. I spoke with the nurse and she said that since that is not their usual protocol, she would need for us to wait to see the doctor and go through the whole process again. It was now getting to be late and the hospital was filling with more people waiting to see the doctor. I decided that we would just wait and get the other vaccine in Jinja the next day. The boys were going to get the vaccine too, so it made sense to do that all together. We drove back in the dark to the place where we were spending the night and only missed our turn about 3 times. It was definitely an adventure. 

That night I woke with a panic attack. In the process of trying to decide if Esther was going to have the six injections recommended, we had a discussion about the seriousness of the disease. Soon after we moved to Uganda, a family member of a missionary here died from rabies. As I woke in the night, I prayed for my daughter who means the world to me. I also realized that even though Esther and I were able to joke around together during our two hours in a cross-cultural hospital setting, I was emotionally drained from the experience. As I laid in my bed with high blood pressure and tightness in my chest, all I could do was pray. 

My dear friend in the US just posted the words to a song that we had talked about before, and it was a timely reminder. Here are the words below:

Lord, I come, I confess
Bowing here I find my rest
Without You I fall apart
You're the One that guides my heart
Lord, I need You, oh, I need You
Every hour I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You
Where sin runs deep Your grace is more
Where grace is found is where You are
And where You are, Lord, I am free
Holiness is Christ in me
Lord, I need You, oh, I need You
Every hour I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You
To teach my song to rise to You
When temptation comes my way
When I cannot stand I'll fall on You
Jesus, You're my hope and stay
Lord, I need You, oh, I need You
Every hour I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You
By Matt Maher

I was definitely feeling like I was falling apart. But God gave me the strength to persevere through that day and eventually slowed my breathing, and gave me His peace as I prayed so that I could go back to sleep and get some of the rest I needed that night. 

As I am writing now, I am again up in the night. Esther has had 4 of her total 6 shots that she will receive over the course of the month. This time I woke because Evie was crying and I settled her down and put her back to bed. Again I will pray knowing my dependence on my Lord. It is definitely true that without Him I would fall apart. But he has given me His grace through this rabies scare and every hour I see my need for him even more each day. In my weakness and dependence, He is “my hope and stay.”

Here is a photo with my two beautiful girls! Since they were matching I needed to take a photo. I am so thankful that I get to be their mama! 

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Christmas shopping in Buwundo Village

My Esther loves to give gifts! She likes to make presents for friends. if she knows something a friend wants, she loves to be able to give that gift and bring joy to that person. She enjoys baking for people, but our oven has not been working for a couple of weeks, so we needed to come up with other gift ideas.

Esther heard that one of her friends really wanted a duckling for Christmas. Her friend’s mom said that it would be a fine gift, so we set out through our village asking whose duck has recently hatched ducklings. As we were preparing to go, I asked Elijah if he wanted to come along, but he said that it sounded a little too much like a “wild goose chase.” He said, “I’m sure it will be a fun adventure, but it is a little too early in the morning for me.” At 7:30am Esther, Evie and I began our shopping adventure. Our neighbor, Shaminah, said she knew of a few people who had ducklings, so she offered to come direct us. This was a good opportunity to work on my Luganda as we sat and visited with some friends in the village. The first place had already sold all their ducks to get money for Christmas. The second home with ducklings had ones that were more like teenage ducks. After visiting with some more friends, they directed us to an area with many ducks and ducklings of various ages. After some time of discussing which duckling to choose, we selected two possible ones.

After choosing one, we needed to figure out who to pay. Apparently the owner of these ducks had gone for the burial of a friend. Thankfully some friends of mine were there to help me know with whom to leave the money. That can be a bit tricky. After successfully purchasing the duckling we began our walk home. We were all enjoying the morning’s adventure. 

We drove into town to give the gift to Esther’s friend. Her reaction was priceless! She was thrilled to have this little duckling to love on! 

I have done Christmas shopping in Various places like Boca Raton, FL, Chattanooga, TN, Athens, GA and Jinja and Kampala in Uganda. But Christmas shopping in Buwundo Village is definitely a fun, unique adventure! Merry Christmas from the village! 

Monday, December 18, 2017


On a recent Sunday we heard a sermon about the early church from the book of Acts. We heard how the early church shared meals together, how they cared for each other‘s needs, how they spent time together regularly. The pastor talked about how we should know where the members of our church live, we should share meals together, visit the sick in our community and pray for one another. I was convicted about the ways I have failed to care for members of our church community. I thought about the elderly woman who lives just a five minute walk from my house, but is not well enough to walk to church.

My family prayed for this jajja (grandmother) at lunch. It occurred to me that my Sunday afternoon was free, so I decided to take Evie for a walk and check on the her. Our dog, Penny, tagged along. We found our friend sitting outside her house, and we had the opportunity to sit and visit and pray with her. Next-door to this jajja, a new house has been built. During the process of building, I have been very curious about the family who was going to live there. It is a large brick house with its own water source and electricity. It is probably the nicest house in our village. As Evie, Penny and I were walking home from visiting the jajja, a friend of the family who lives at the new house drove up. Penny walked up to greet the man who had arrived. We began talking I asked if he lived there. He said no, but insisted that I meet his friends who did live there. They came out to greet me and invited me into their home. The wife quickly brought me food and drink. They invited my dog into their house and even brought her a plate of food with meat. As we sat and got to know one another a bit, I discovered that they are business owners who bought land in the village to farm. They have stated a passion fruit vineyard and also own some sugarcane fields and some cattle. We talked about farming and business and faith.

After visiting for some time, I needed to get Evie home so I excused myself and thanked them for their hospitality. I began imagining a scenario in the United States where a stranger of another race walks up to your house. I cannot imagine many Americans inviting that stranger in, offering food and friendship to a previously unknown person. It is almost  comical to think about that scenario in the US. We warn our kids about these situations. And there are sometimes valid concerns for safety. But I was blessed and amazed by the generous hospitality of my new friends here in Buwundo village.

In this Advent season I think of Mary and Joseph traveling and not finding anywhere to stay while she was ready to deliver. What a challenging time to be turned away rather than shown hospitality. I am sure there are many people who would love to be welcomed into a home this time of year. I hope that God grows in me this heart of hospitality that I have seen and is demonstrated by the early church in the book of Acts. I want to learn from my neighbors how to value and welcome people even in this busy season, especially in this Advent season.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Thankfulness (by Elijah Fish)

We take much for granted. We assume that there will be food on the table, that there will be clothes to wear, that there will be air to breath. We are very blessed, and we often assume that we will continue to be blessed. As we grow more and more accustomed to these everyday blessings, we begin to think that we deserve them. Serving people who did not have these blessings promised them made me realize that we are not promised tomorrow, but neither are we promised today. Every breath we take is more than we deserve. It is when we truly believe this, and only then, that we can be truly thankful.During the outreach, we washed clothes, fetched water from the river, and helped to construct a mud hut. In the midst of this, the family was very grateful and thankful. They helped us with the various chores we were assigned and couldn’t seem to stop thanking us.

Serving this family made me realize that we all have reasons to be thankful. We can be thankful for as much or as little as we want. 
Written by Elijah Fish

Monday, November 13, 2017

First Quarter Progress Report

At the end of our first quarter of the school year, we met with the parents of our students for a parent-teacher conference. Since I haven't had the time to write as frequently in recent months, I thought I would also provide a brief overview of some of the highlights of our first quarter of the 2017-2018 school year here.

We began our school year with a field trip to raft a section of the Nile River! It was a great trip and a fun relationship building time. To add to the adventure, the buses got stuck in the mud taking us to the drop off point, and we walked in the mud down to the river. It was a fun adventure and a good way to begin our school year together! We are blessed to live in such an amazing part of the world!

This year we have enough students and teachers to be able to offer some electives! Our middle and high school students are now able to choose between Drama class and Physical Education and also between Art and Music classes. It has been fun to see some performances, and watch as our students develop their different areas of giftedness.

In October we celebrated 55 years of Ugandan independence. I always enjoy learning more about this fascinating country in which we live! We use the opportunity of Independence Day to focus on Ugandan history, culture, geography, cooking, etc. It was a fun and educationally enriching day! 

We are praying for an additional teacher. While we do have one more teacher than we had last school year, we are still praying that God would provide another person to serve with us. We have met with a young woman who might be assisting at our school part-time as a resource teacher/tutor as soon as January! In our eyes it looks like a great fit! Please pray for the Lord to direct all of us as she takes time to consider. If you or someone you know might be interested in joining us as we teach some amazing missionary kids in one of the most beautiful parts of the world, please contact us! 

We thank God for giving us a wonderful first quarter of our fifth school year teaching here in Uganda. Thank you all for your prayers and support for our work here! To God be the glory!

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Saturdays of challenges and celebration

Most Saturdays are pretty full for our family. Since we teach on weekdays, Saturdays are the day we make the 45 minute drive into town and do shopping for the week, go to the bank, take our children to play sports,  visit with friends in town, and do any other necessary errands. It is also the afternoon/evening when I meet with the women in the Buwundo Beads group to have a Bible study and then buy some of the necklaces and crafts they have made that week. A normal Saturday is busy, but some are more so than others. 

Last Saturday we were on our way to town in a borrowed vehicle because our van was getting repaired. The borrowed van was brought to us on Friday night. In order for us to reach Jinja by 8am when rugby practice begins, we need to leave our house by 7:15 at the latest, so we packed our things for the day, including swimsuits for a missionary fellowship at a pool, costumes for a fall fair in town, along with the bottles, diapers, burp cloths and clothes needed for a baby, and got in the van. Little did we know that the van was brought to us without enough fuel to reach the nearest petrol (gasoline) station. As we got a few miles down the dirt road and started heading up a hill, the van sputtered and then stopped. It ran out of fuel. We found a friend who was willing to go get 5 liters of fuel and bring it to us on a boda. Since there was not a funnel, they decided to use a banana leaf. Ugandans are so resourceful with local materials!

The fuel was enough to start the vehicle once. But then it stopped again. Apparently because we were on a hill, the fuel was in the back of the tank and not enough to keep the vehicle going. After trying to start it multiple times, the battery also stopped working. We coasted backward down the hill to more level ground, but since the battery had also stopped working, we were unable to get the van started. Eventually, our mechanic was able to come with more fuel, a replacement battery and get us back on the road by about 10:00am.  It was too late for our children to make it to their sports practices, but we did get some patience practice. 😉 We also were able to make it to Jinja soon enough to spend some time with friends, go swimming and participate in the fall fair. 

Yesterday, we still had the borrowed van, but we made sure it had enough fuel. On the way into town there was a stalled vehicle on the bridge which caused about a half hour delay and provided some more patience practice, but we still arrived in time for most of the sports practices. Elijah chose to see the bright side and said that they might miss some of the fitness training and drills, but they would be there in time for scrimmaging. In town, we didn't have much trouble accomplishing our errands other than briefly getting stuck in the mud, but some friends helped us out and it only took a few minutes. We stayed in town for lunch, then went to pick Esther up from a friend's house on the way back home. We had planned enough time for me to have a few minutes at home after unloading and putting things away before going to my Bible study. But little did we know that another adventure awaited.

After picking up Esther, we were heading back toward the main road when a bump in the muddy dirt road caused the two- wheel drive van we were using to slide over into a ditch. Since the wheels were spinning in the mud, our  3 boys, a young man from GSF who was with us for the day, and I all got out to push while David drove and Esther held the baby. 

We were able to get the van to move forward, but never got enough traction to get it out of the ditch. We also got covered with quite a bit of mud that the tires sent flying. 

Many men who were nearby working came to help, but even with many strong men pushing, the vehicle was stuck. I walked with our younger boys to the house of another missionary who I knew had a 4-wheel drive vehicle and was likely to have a chain or tow rope. This family also has a camel named Chewy, so we got a few photos. 

They were not home. While we were standing in front of their gate, Ezra was coming up with all kinds of ideas about how to solve this problem.  He said, "I really like this type of situation because of all the possibilities for how to solve the problem." He is a creative problem-solver and I love that about him! I also love that he was able to enjoy using his gifts rather than complaining about the delays. As we were waiting for the family to either come to the gate or get home, a truck drove by. I waved for them to stop and asked them to drive down the road and assist my husband. They found a rope and tried pulling the van out with that until the rope broke. Then they found a cable of some sort and were able to use that to pull the van backward and then forward to get out of the ditch! 

We arrived home much later than planned and covered with mud, but thankful that we were home! I quickly showered and changed in order to go to our Bible study celebration. This Bible study group completed listening to the entire New Testament in Luganda! We have been meeting weekly to listen to a section of the New Testament, discuss it, worship and pray together. It has taken over a year, but we have been able to start in the book of Matthew and continue all the way through the end of Revelation! Since we knew we would be finishing on Saturday, we planned a big celebration. The women had been cooking most of the day in order to have a big meal together celebrating the completion of listening to the New Testament. The students joined us and everyone had enough to eat! 

It was a wonderful time! I am so thankful that these women and students have heard so much of God's Word and desire to continue. 

While there have definitely been challenges, I also see that there is much to celebrate and be thankful for. I am thankful that in the midst of these challenges, God has enabled us to consider it pure joy (at least mostly), and see these times as opportunities rather than just frustrations. God has provided people to help us in our times of need. These struggles with a borrowed vehicle also help us to see what a blessing our van has been! We look forward to getting it back before our next trip to town, Lord willing. I am also thankful to be able to be a part of this group meeting together to hear God's Word! It is beautiful to see the way several of these women and students have come to know and love Jesus as they have learned more about him. I pray that God will help me to see the challenges of each day from his perspective and rejoice at the many ways He is at work! 

Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Middle School Years

Can you find me in this photo?
Recently I have been remembering bits and pieces of my middle school years. As two of my children are now walking through this stage of life, I am remembering several of the challenges I faced during these years. I am also realizing how some of the struggles that are common in these years are issues I still struggle with at times. I find myself reliving some of the pain from those years as I try to equip my children and students to process the These are such important transition years as children grow into teenagers and young adults. Here are a few of the things I began learning at this age and still need to remember as an adult.

1- God is my only perfect friend. He is always there for me and I learned to pour my heart out to him through prayer and journaling during these years. Psalm 118 says "His steadfast love endures forever." It is so good to know that even though all friends will disappoint us at times, God never will. He will always love us! He is the best friend I could ever have! As I learn that I am secure in God's love for me, I can think about being a friend to others rather than needing a friend. I still need to remind myself of this as an adult.

2- God has given each of us gifts to be used for his kingdom. During my middle school years, I began thinking about what God might be calling me to do. My youth group leaders and teachers encouraged and equipped me for ministry. I started a Bible study with a few friends in my neighborhood and really enjoyed that opportunity to serve. It is interesting that so many years later I am still starting and leading Bible studies in my neighborhood, although my neighborhood now looks very different. I realized that when I was thinking about how I could love and serve others, I was much less worried about what others thought about me.

3- Words have a great deal  of power. In middle school I was feeling jealous of another girl and said something hurtful about her to one of my friends. A year later she told me that someone told her what I had said. She expressed how much those words hurt her and explained that she avoided me for a year because of the pain those words caused her. I am thankful that she had the courage to confront me and that made a significant impression on me. Proverbs 12:18 says, "There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing." I still struggle at times with my words, but I pray that my tongue will bring healing to those around me.

These middle school years can be challenging times, but it is also a wonderful time for equipping and growing in many ways. I am thankful for the opportunity to speak into the lives of our children and students in these significant transitional years.