Thursday, December 9, 2010

The JOY of Uganda

It’s hard to believe my time here is ending. I get on a plane tonight! It has truly flown by and Austin, TX is on the horizon. I am excited & scared because I don’t know what’s next. And that is OK. I do not want to go back to the lifestyle that I led, where work is all I do, see, & experience. That is the scary part. I am trying to open my mind to the possibility of anything, I have made a change & the journey that follows is where transformation happens. That is the exciting part.

I don’t know if I can honesty sum up my time here. I have always found that the majority of the processing happens when you step away from a place. Don’t get me wrong; I have worked through plenty of things during my time here. But the real fruit remains to be seen. I have theories on why I was brought to this place at this time. But I am praying that more will be revealed in the weeks and months to come. I could not be more grateful to have had this opportunity. My body & my soul desperately needed to rest and be refreshed.

I sat down the other day to write a blog entry about a little girl I have been helping. I have been working with a friend to get her adopted. I knew it was an amazing story to tell, but as I was writing I continued to get distracted. (Long story short, a family decided to adopt her, we later discovered the father is from Jackson, TN…the Lord weaves all our stories together in such beautiful ways!) My heart couldn’t focus on this one story because I was so overwhelmed by ALL the stories I had seen, heard, & been a part of during my time here.

When you first arrive to a place like Uganda you can’t help notice that you are different. You come from a country of wealth. Your skin color is different. You are educated. You live in a comfortable home. And whether you want to or not, you stand out. And with my bright curly blonde hair, there is no way to blend in!!

But a transformation happens while you are here. You live among all these beautiful people and suddenly all those differences begin to fade away. You see… we are all the same, every one of us. I am becoming more and more convinced of that everyday. I now have to be reminded that I am different, because I am now part of them and they are part of me. From the outside looking in, the disparity between us seems so great. But humanity binds us all…the Lord binds us all.

Africans are the toughest people I know. Yet they have a JOY that radiates from them, a joy that changes you by just being in its presence. They live in and through poverty, war, disease, malnutrition, and yet THE JOY persists. I think they know God in way that we cannot comprehend. Because we have never been where He was literally all we had. I am closer to the Lord just by being near them. And it is the Lord that connects me to them.

We all have a story. While their stories may look completely different from yours, the same elements are there. I will never understand what life was like for Joyce, my sweet Ugandan friend. Joyce had 3 children in the village by the time she was 26, and her husband died leaving her with nothing at the age of 31. She left her children in horrible conditions only to be neglected and abused so that she could move to another part of the country where she didn’t know the language with the hopes of finding work. She squatted for months in an empty building because she had no place to go. There is no part of my story that could ever relate to that.

But Joyce was rescued, given a home, and given love. That is something that I can relate to. And because of that, Joyce has become a dear friend. I can’t imagine a day now without her in it. She clobbers me with a big hug after I have been away for a day or two. And she cried the other day when we were talking about me leaving. (I have NEVER seen a Ugandan cry) She tells me about her life & her kids. She tells me that she loves me & that she will be praying for me. She has THE JOY that I will never know.

You see Joyce is our housekeeper. And while the differences may seem so great, we are forever bound. And when we are cooking in the kitchen in the evening, talking about life…we are exactly the same.

We live in a world where differences are what define us. Republican or Democrat. Black or White. Northerner or Southerner. College Grad or High School Dropout. People will go to the extreme to be different. Now I am not saying that being different is wrong. No two snowflakes look alike & that is how is supposed to be. But if we look past the different & see the similarities at our core, then barriers can be broken, & walls will come down. And there is a beauty on the other side my friends, a beauty that will change you.

Ugandans understand this. They see past the differences and welcome you with open arms. I have fallen in love with these people & this nation. I now have another home here in Uganda. And when I return to Austin, I will leave a huge piece of my heart here, but I will carry these people with me always.

Starting to understand THE JOY!!

My Sweet Friend, Joyce

Saturday, November 6, 2010

A Story of Hope...

Hope has been a part of my journey in Uganda since the beginning. Hope has been a constant during my time here; a reminder of what it means to trust, a reminder to greet everyday with expectation, to meet every task with perseverance, and to walk though life with Hope. You see, Hope is a 15-year-old Sudanese girl that has changed my life & the lives of those around me. Let me start from the beginning….

Last summer when I came to Uganda for the first time, I met Hope. She was just 13 years old and pregnant. I visited her at a nearby guesthouse with my friend Sarah. She had escaped her family only days before. I have never seen someone so brave and yet so scared at the same time. She looked as if she were a wise old woman. But she was only a child.

Hope came to Uganda from Sudan when she was about 9 years old. She was kidnapped by her brother-in-law (the husband of her half-sister – sister from another mother) and promised an education. Hope attended one term of school before she was forced to become her family’s slave. For 4 years she did everything for the family and worked unbelievable hours. All the while she was being abused.

When she was 13 years old, things took a turn for the worse. Hope was raped and became pregnant, and her family became outraged. You see in many African cultures, the daughter/wife is property of the family. They are not often valued in society, however they are worth a lot of money to a family in the form of a dowry. So essentially they are bought by the husband’s family and become their property. SO, when Hope became pregnant she became worthless. Her family would never get a big dowry (cows, goats, sugar) for her. In addition, in the Dinka Culture (her Sudanese tribe), pregnancy out of wedlock gave them the right to kill her.

As a result of her pregnancy, the abuse heightened. Her family members would beat her, kick her in the stomach, tie her up, and throw her in the front yard to sleep. And then they would do it again. All this was done in attempt to kill her baby & possibly her. I can’t even imagine the despair Hope must have felt.

She tried to leave once, but was found by another Sudanese neighbor and brought back to her family. Police came and took Hope and her Uncle to the station, they questioned them, and told the Uncle that if he killed her he would go to jail. But the abuse continued. Then one night she ran away with only the clothes on her back. Some friends had arranged a rendezvous to take her to safety. Hope never looked back.

I met Hope just day’s after her escape. That is when my Story of Hope began.

Shortly after Hope was rescued, some friends were able to find a home for pregnant teens in Kampala. And on Dec 4, 2009, Hope gave birth to a beautiful baby boy….Andrew. It was not safe for her to be in Kampala so close to her family, so shortly after Andrew was born, Hope was moved to Jinja to stay with our friend Katie until a more permanent solution could be found. She remains in Jinja today with another family. She is working part-time, being tutored, & taking care of Baby Andrew. Sarah and a friend been working with The Refugee Law Project to obtain refugee status for her here in Uganda. We are also attempting to work out a deal with her family so that she can return to Kampala safely & live with us!

There is a stark contrast between the Hope I met long ago & the Hope I know now. I have never met someone with so much LIFE! Truly, when she walks through the door, it is like sunshine walking onto the room. She is so joyful, loving, smart, and she is not scared of anything. She is an incredible mom too! It is so fun to watch her soothe her child then run and do a cannonball into the pool, like any 15 year old should. I am amazed by her every move.

I never expected that I would come to love this little girl so much. I long to see her. I pray for her safety constantly and that she will have every opportunity for an education. I want an amazing future for her. I pray for Andrew to be healthy & grow…and change the world one day. I would move mountains if I could! I want to give her the world…one free of abuse and overflowing with love!

The Story of Hope is the story of all our lives as well. Her life is not too different from yours. It just wears a different set of clothes and comes with a different set of circumstances. Our stories are all messy, but they are beautiful too. We have all been rescued, we have all been redeemed, and we have all been promised a Hope and a future. I can’t imagine my life any differently, and I can’t imagine my life without HOPE!

Beautiful Hope

Baby Andrew

Our Little Fish

Sweet Crocodile Tears

Baby Andrew's Namesake. Andrew Lambie

With Auntie Emmy

Thursday, October 21, 2010


Just a few weeks ago we happily drove out of Kampala, or “Dirty K” as we so affectionately call it, and headed east to Sipi Falls.

Uganda has always been called the “Pearl of Africa”…and it truly is a jewel. But when most of your time is spent in the city, you have to get away every once in awhile to remind yourself of why Uganda earned its status as a gem.

Sipi Falls is in Eastern Uganda, just on the border of Kenya. It sits at the base of Mt. Elgon & truly is one of the most stunning places I have ever seen. Majestic is the word that comes to mind. With breathtaking views, cool mountain air, & sweeping valleys, Sipi Falls is a little slice of paradise.

It is always so refreshing for the soul to stop & experience God’s creation. Our weekend away was such a gift. His creation truly is a beauty to behold…for today, soak in the beauty!!

Add Image

Thursday, October 7, 2010

It's Fall Ya'll...

I have always LOVED Fall! Hands down it is my favorite season. And really, how could it not be. Growing up in Tennessee, every September always began with great anticipation. We were always waiting for the first brisk sunny day, for Mamaw’s first homemade stew of the season, the first football game, and for the first trees to change into their brilliant yellows & fiery reds.

I moved out of the Deep South 10 years ago, and I still get homesick every fall. The leaves don’t change colors in Texas & they defiantly don’t change colors in Uganda (I take that back, they turn from green to a nice dusty red when we are in need of rain). Every year I strategically plan a trip home during the fall, praying that I time it just right so that the trees are bursting with color when I arrive!

Shortly after I moved away from the South, fall became so much more than brilliant trees & football to me. The symbolism of fall began to resonate with me so much more. It really is so beautiful when you think about it. Fall is the willingness to change your colors, the willingness to let everything go, to wait patiently through the winter, and in the springtime…become new again.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone;

the new has come!

2 Corinthians 5: 17

I really think the fall is a gentle reminder to us once a year that “the old has gone; the new has come!” It is a reminder of what has happened and what will happen. What a beautiful way to be reminded!! A few weeks ago I stumbled upon this reflection in an old book by Macrina Wiederkehr. It’s called The Sacrament of Letting Go. It articulated so perfectly the sacredness and symbolism of fall. Don’t stop reading this blog here…press on, you will be blessed.

I pray that you see this season of fall with a new heart this year. It’s Fall Ya’ll!

The Sacrament of Letting Go by Macrina Wiederkehr

That is why I am telling you not to worry about your life and what you are to eat, not about your body and what you wear. Surely life is more than food, and the body more than clothing! Look at the birds in the sky. They do not sow or reap or gather into barns; yet your heavenly father feeds them. Are you not worth so much more than they are?

Matthew 6: 25-26

I worry too much. Autumn trees ask me not to worry. They, like Jesus, suggest trust rather than worry. So often in autumn I want to go and lean my head against a tree and ask what it feels like to lose so much, to be so empty, so detached, to take off one’s shoes that well, and then simply stand and wait for God’s refilling. It sounds so simple, so easy. It isn’t easy. But it’s possible.

I think I’ve met one person in my lifetime who was truly empty. I didn’t ask her what it felt like but I remember a quiet joy that seemed to permeate her spirit, and she looked free.

We autumn strugglers must try hard not to wear discouragement as a cloak if we can’t wear enough emptiness to make us free. It takes a long time to get as far as even wanting to be empty.

Our hearts are hungering for the Sacrament of Letting Go. Once we discover that we already possess enough grace to let go, trust begins to form in the center of who we are. Then we can take off our shoes and stand empty and vulnerable, eager to receive God’s next gift.

And let us pray for one another, for emptying is painful and the Body of Christ who we are calls us to support each other in this autumn effort. The Body of Christ also stands stripped, crucified, waiting for the new life that each of us can bring to it.


she celebrated the sacrament of letting go

first she surrendered her green

then the orange, yellow, and red

finally she let go of her brown

shedding her last leaf

she stood empty and silent, stripped bare.

Leaning against the winter sky

she began her vigil of trust.

And Jesus said:

Why do you worry about clothes? Remember the

flowers growing in the fields; they do not fret about

what to wear; yet I assure you not even Solomon in

all his royal robes was dressed like one of these.

Shedding her last leaf

she watched it journey to the ground.

She stood in silence

wearing the color of emptiness,

her branches wondering:

How do you give shade with so much gone?

And Jesus said:

Do not be troubled or needlessly concerned.

And then,

the sacrament of waiting began.

The sunrise and sunset watched with tenderness.

Clothing her with silhouettes

they kept her hope alive.

They helped her understand that

her vulnerability

her dependence and need

her emptiness

her readiness to receive

were giving her a new kind of beauty.

Every morning and every evening

they stood in silence

and celebrated together

the sacrament of waiting!

And Jesus said:

Now if that is how God cares for the wild flowers in the fields which are here today and gone tomorrow, will He not all the more care for you…?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Love Kampala...

This past weekend I had the privilege of being part of the Love Kampala Festival. The festival is hosted my Andre Palau, an international evangelist. His organization host’s a festival every year in a different African nation. The festival is preceded by a season of service. This is a time to encourage local churches to engage & serve their communities.

My friend Scott helped organize the children’s stage. He did an amazing job. There were bouncy castles, balloon races, soccer (futbol) demonstrations, face painting, & lots of amazing music. Notably, Barbara Kayaga and the African Children’s Choir.

I met Barbara on a previous visit to Uganda. She was a member of the African Children’s Choir and grew up in the program. She is an amazing woman with a truly incredible story. Barbara helps run an orphanage, has adopted two precious boys, trains choirs all over Eastern Africa, and she can SING!

In preparing for the festival, the committee thought it would be great to have a theme song…something about Kampala. Scott suggested it to Barbara and within 72 hours she had written and recorded a hit!! It was fantastic!!

Barbara had the opportunity to perform her song along with the African Children’s Choir during the festival. She was on the stage with Uganda’s top artists & international favorites as well. It was a great weekend full of worship, music, & fun.

You may have never been to Uganda or Africa for that matter. But that’s ok, just take a listen to our Sweet Barbara and you can say… I Love Kampala too!!

Who needs ACL?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Meet Baby Cathyline...

About 2 weeks ago, life here changed. I met Baby Cathyline.

My sweet friend Kristi Ray was here in Uganda for an unanticipated 5 months. She was waiting for Visa’s to take her adopted daughters back to Austin. Two days prior to her departure she stopped at the bank to get some cash. As she was walking up to the ATM she saw a young woman with a bundle in her lap. She felt like the Lord said to her “the baby”. She went on with her task ignoring the prompting, but as she was walking out of the ATM she heard it again, “the baby”.

Earlier that day, in our bible study, we had been discussing the importance of listening to the Holy Spirit. A place like Uganda can be so overwhelming. There is so much need, so much! But you can’t help everyone…so you just pray daily for discernment and try to listen to the Spirit. In her attempt to listen to the prompting, Kristi walked up to the young lady and said, “The Baby?”

When they young woman opened the bundle Kristi saw a beautiful little baby girl. But she could tell something was wrong, and when she took a closer look; she saw that the baby’s right leg was black & shriveled. Kristi immediately scooped up Cathyline, her mom Betty, & the Jjajja (grandmother) and headed to the hospital. She called me from the car & asked me to meet them there. That was the day I met Baby Cathyline.

Side note: When Kristi found them they were on the way to a witchdoctor for a “healing”. This baby would have been dead within a week. Or another child’s life would have been sacrificed in the process. The Lord is sovereign!!

To make a long story not so long, this sweet baby was/is SICK! Her leg was black from dry gangrene, thought to be from some vasculitis. She was terribly infected & malnourished when we found her. Her body started consuming her own blood products as a result of the infection. And without a doubt her leg would have to be amputated- Week 1

Last week the surgeon took Cathyline to the OR to clean her leg. After the surgery he felt he would only have to amputate her foot, what an amazing praise!! We were so thankful! On Friday, however, the doctor wanted to talk to me about a CT scan. The CT revealed that Cathyline has a vascular bundle called an AVM in her brain & has an area of stroke nearby. –Week 2

Healthcare in Africa is quite an amusing institution. I know many of you might say the same about healthcare in America as well. I get it; I’ve been on both sides on the examination table. But at home, I can assure you that there is a method to their madness. Here in Uganda…it’s just madness.

Just today, I was asked to drive from the hospital where Cathyline is admitted to another hospital across town so that I may personally book the baby’s ultrasound for tomorrow, because her hospital doesn’t provide that extensive of services. (And the other hospital is not answering their phone) So when I finally make it, after a few wrong turns, I can’t book the appointment because the radiologist that is “really good” at this particular study is out of the country. And the backup radiologist that is “ok” with the study has turned off her cell phone at 4pm on a workday. Uganda!

All that being said, I feel pretty comfortable with the care Cathyline is receiving. I have been able to talk with the doctors daily. They have taken my concerns seriously & have acted as swiftly as any African institution can…which is pretty slow. But I am thankful that we have her in a good place.

It’s so funny to me, God’s personal story he has written for each of our lives. I drive to the hospital everyday for 10 years to take care of kids. I get burnt out & need a break. I leave my job. I move halfway around the world to do something different. And I drive to the hospital everyday to take care of a kid. Who knew?!?

I truly have enjoyed so much of this time. Betty is so grateful and we are becoming sweet friends. I have prayed with her, talked her through difficult diagnosis, and giggled like a little girl with her these past few weeks. And sweet baby Cathyline is just that, a beautiful, sweet, and precious child. They both have more strength than I could ever possess. Our lives will forever be connected & I am thankful for all they have taught me.

I also have to be honest with you and tell you that much of this time has been difficult as well. I take care of people; that’s who I am, that’s what I do. But I am discovering more and more everyday that my heart, mind, & soul were so much more depleted that I could have even imagined. So some days, that compassion that usually flows so naturally from me is nowhere to be found. And I don’t want to drive to the hospital everyday and take care of a kid.

I am slowly beginning to believe in what everyone else around me seemed to always know. The Lord brought me to Uganda to be with Him. Period. I am here to be with Him, to rest in Him, to fall more in love with Him, and to be refilled by Him. He has literally emptied me of everything I could possibly give and put me in the middle of a place where need abounds. And “my take care of people” spirit has no choice but to rest. It was always Him in me anyway.

I ask that you pray for Baby Cathyline & Betty in the weeks to come. It is going to be a long road. She is having her amputation today. Pray for protection! Pray for healing! I ask that you pray for me as well, that the Lord will give me compassion when I need compassion. That the Lord will give me patience when I need patience. And that I will continue to be drawn to Him daily…..

International Hospital Kampala, Pediatric Ward

Baby Cathyline, 1 year

Her sweet little feet

Betty, Mother & Friend

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

My Village Life...

I just realized that I never introduced you to my village! In Africa, villages are usually outside of town… that is if the country you live in actually has a town. All the extended family lives there. Most villages have a church & a school, maybe a “healer”, & a local councilman. All the food is grown there. The village is always very rural, no electricity or running water. (To mix things up a bit, they now have cell phone coverage) It’s the Village!

Well, my village is not quite like that! While oftentimes there is no power or water, we have most basic amenities. My village is actually a compound in the middle of Kampala (the city). But what is important about my village is the plethora of people that live there…and I do mean plethora. There is no shortage of activity in our village; it’s a pretty fun place to be. I would like to introduce you to the people.

Sarah & Scott Lambie,
My dear friends from Austin that so graciously are allowing me to be part of their family while I am here in Uganda!

Andrew Lambie, 12 years

Cory Raach, 7 years, The Lambie's nephew

Noah Lambie, 5 years

Agnes, 14 years, a Ugandan girl that is being adopted to a family from North Carolina in November

Joyce, our housekeeper
The GREATEST woman in the World!

Joyce's Girls: Patricia, 14 years; Fortunate, 10 years; & Diana, 7 years (who was in the middle of a beauty treatment when this photo was taken)

Yoas, our night guard

Fred, our gardener

Hope, 15 years, a Sudanese refugee that the Lambie's rescued last year when she was pregnant. SHe visits often, but lives outside of town for safety reasons.

Baby Andrew, Hope's Baby

***We also have 2 dogs (Indie & Rachel), 2 chickens (Lucy& Sheeba), 2 Rabbits (Bear & Doodles), and Pigeon!!

Thus far I feel fairly settled here in Uganda. Living here feels totally normal. I can navigate the pothole ridden red dirt roads & kamikaze boda boda motorcycle) drivers. I know how to tuck my mosquito net in properly. And everyone brushes their teeth with water that has been boiled for 3 minutes, right?

I know without at doubt that the Lord carved this time out for me to be here NOW. I have complete clarity on that. What I have no clue about is why? Why am I here? What am I supposed to be doing? Should I be volunteering here or there? What is my purpose in this time? What is God’s purpose for me in this time?

Lately, people keep suggesting that maybe I wasn’t sent to Uganda to do anything. Maybe I was sent to just rest, and to be with God. I have to say that sounds tempting, but I have a hard time reconciling that I would be sent to a third world country (with my skill set) to chill!

Last week I actually started volunteering for a group called Watoto. They have a clinic about 25k outside of Kampala called Suubi. They need someone to work with the Doctors & Clinical Officers to create guidelines for their clinic. Many of them don’t even examine their patients; they just give them a pill. This “method” is a poor use of resources and poor medicine. This project has the potential to be sustainable, which l love.

I also have had no shortage of patients. There was one waiting at the gate when I arrived from the airport. Weekly I am seeing someone at the house for wound care, going to the hospital to check out someone’s brand new baby, or spending the entire week at the hospital with a mom & her child that my friend found on the street!

This has been my prayer over the past few weeks:

“ Test me, O Lord, and try me,

examine my heart and my mind;

for your love is ever before me,

and I walk continually in your truth.”

- Psalm 26:2

I am here for whatever the Lord has for this time. Be it rest, be it work, or be it both, I ask that you pray my friends, that I will have peace in this time, however it unfolds. I am praying for you too!