Sunday, 28 February 2010

Prayer of Saint Francis

Lord, make me a channel of thy peace;
that where there is hatred, I may bring love;
that where there is wrong, I may bring the spirit of forgiveness;
that where there is discord, I may bring harmony;
that where there is error, I may bring truth;
that where there is doubt, I may bring faith;
that where there is despair, I may bring hope;
that where there are shadows, I may bring light;
that where there is sadness, I may bring joy.
Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort than to be comforted;
to understand, than to be understood;
to love, than to be loved.
For it is by self-forgetting that one finds.
It is by forgiving that one is forgiven.
It is by dying that one awakens to eternal life.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Unexpectedly home

Well, I'm home.. and it's cold! Unbelievably so.
I was wondering around my parent's central-heated house wearing a scarf, jumper and fleece. It's very tidy, and a lot of personal things have been put away (we tend to collect a lot of bits and pieces from all over the world) as they're trying to sell the house. It means I have to keep my room tidy and everything.
In honour of my return, we had pie-minister pies, which, I have to say, are the perfect returning-from-a-hot-country-to-a-freezing-Britain first meal.
I have few plans while I'm here except to spend time with family and friends and refresh, and work out what my life is going to look like when I return to Uganda in 3-4 weeks. Things have changed dramatically and heartbreakingly, but our God is one who brings life from dead seeds and joy from tragedy. I feel His challenge to return and His Spirit to equip, and I'm excited to see what He has planned now.
I do plan to come up to Glasgow at some point soon, though still have to work out the dates. I can't wait, though a good friend sent me a video of the snow that I think was supposed to excite me but actually made me pretty nervous. I'm definitely not made for this climate, especially the random weird happenings in UK weather patterns right now.
Insurance update - I have to unashamedly evangelise for Banner Insurance, the most wonderful insurance company ever! Within two weeks I've been able to replace everything, and their emails and phone calls were personal, understanding and efficient.
If you want to get in touch, I'd love to see you, though  please bear in mind I'm emotionally drained and have come home for rest as well as to see people! I'm using the same number I had at Christmas, and if you don't have it then feel free to get in touch. Remember my Ugandan number doesn't work here, and I don't have very many people's numbers so please sign your texts!
I have to take this opportunity again to thank those of you who have given to enable me to come home, both prayer and financially. I have faith that God will bless you richly for your sacrifices, and I know He will use this time well.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

A few relevant verses..

This week has been very hard. It´s not appropriate to share details on here in public, but those of you who know and have been praying, believe me, we know and God is good and faithful. Though it has been painful, He has shown His face and kept our souls. I will be returning to the UK on wednesday for a period of reflection and rest and time with family and friends, and I am extremely grateful to those of you who have made this possible - you certainly reflect God´s glory and have blessed me, my flatmate and our families.

These are some passages from His word that God has been using to keep me in one piece this week..

John 16: 20-33
´"I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. In that day you will no longer ask me anything. I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.
 "Though I have been speaking figuratively, a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language but will tell you plainly about my Father. In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father."
 Then Jesus' disciples said, "Now you are speaking clearly and without figures of speech. Now we can see that you know all things and that you do not even need to have anyone ask you questions. This makes us believe that you came from God."
 "You believe at last!" Jesus answered. "But a time is coming, and has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.
 "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

 Psalm 121:
I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;
from where shall my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.
He will not allow your foot to slip;
He who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, He who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord is you keeper;
the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun will not smite you by day,
Nor the moon by night.
The Lord will protect you from all evil;
He will keep your soul.
The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in
From this time forth and forever.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-17
There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
What does the worker gain from his toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil—this is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him.
Whatever is has already been,
and what will be has been before;
and God will call the past to account.
And I saw something else under the sun:
In the place of judgment—wickedness was there,
in the place of justice—wickedness was there.
I thought in my heart,“God will bring to judgment
both the righteous and the wicked,
for there will be a time for every activity,
a time for every deed.”

Sunday, 7 February 2010

School's back!

Well, it's the beginning of February, which means the students are back after an insanely long christmas holiday, and the school kids are starting a new year. Two of the kids of the family we stay with have moved away to boarding school (they're 12 and 14, but it's one of the only ways to give them a decent education), and Lindsey and I went with them to move in. It's a good 45 minute drive to get there, and there's only one visiting day a term, but we're hoping to go and see them at some point. I will miss them a lot, especially Deborah, the only girl and youngest of 6, who comes to see us all the time and treats us as surrogate sisters, although sometimes I wonder if it's just so she can use my nail varnish.
We had a lovely day dropping them off and seeing the new school, and Perry (the mum) rather embarrassed Deborah by getting all the girls in the new dorm to sit down quietly so I (!) could pray for them. She took this lovely picture that I thought was worth sharing:

You can't actually see Deborah there, as she's sitting on her bunk bed (the third tier!).
We were also invited to a graduation party last week, but none of the photos are really of a quality to share as we arrived late (due to dropping Deborah and Asaph off) and had to sit at the side and couldn't really see. But we did hear some emotional speeches, most of which were in Runyankole but kindly translated by a kind aunt sitting next to us (my language is coming along far too slowly to follow speeches!) and have some nice cake, which was shaped like a computer and a book, as Julius had studied computer science. Apparently it was the first cake in the world to have satellite link-up, although I'm not sure I believe that.

In the last few weeks I've been struggling a little with stress-related migraines, and I have the start of one now so wasn't able to go to church, which is maddening as it's the first one back after the students have arrived. There was no power at work this week, though, so no need for me to go in, which is a blessing in disguise as I've been able to rest and try and avoid headaches. But next week is life x200%, as everything is starting back at once - tuesday night team meeting, thursday night discipleship course, saturday afternoon girl's student Bible study, saturday evening choir practice, and work back on as usual if the power is working again (we almost had a fire last week due to a short circuit). I've also been invited to wednesday night choir fellowship and to take part in a musical show that will practice on mondays! I will need to be looking more and more to Jesus for my strength and stamina, and wisdom in taking rest and what to take part in.

I hope to start filling my spare time (yes, it'll be there somewhere) with meeting with the girls one on one again, and am continually praying into planting the seeds that will grow into a community of girls who confide in each other, pray together, grow together and trust each other 100%.

You see, that's my vision for this year - that self-sustaining community of girl students that are completely independent of missionaries. Girls that lead Bible studies, that disciple one another and feel comfortable sharing deep issues with one another. God is working to make that happen, and I feel blessed that he's using me to help!

Monday, 1 February 2010

Weird things I didn't expect about Uganda

There are some things I do that I never really expected when I first arrived here! In fact, they don't seem at all extraordinary now, but one thing occurred to me as being a little bit odd and I sat down to think and realised there are a whole host of strange things going on, so for entertainment's sake, I decided to make a list..

- I swat mosquitoes against the wall with my bare hands and get prouder and prouder as my collection of little black smears grows (extra points for a red smear)
- I am completely unmoved by gecko poo up my walls (a little like mouse poo, but vertical)
- Same goes for the geckos themselves, who tend to hang around in my wardrobe
- I get self-conscious if people don't stare
- Looking out of my bedroom window and seeing a cow/goat/unaccompanied small child doesn't seem weird at all
- The idea of drinking water out of the tap makes me shiver
- Sitting side-saddle on a motorbike driven by someone I've just met feels perfectly safe
- Having guests round and not having enough chairs doesn't feel rude
- I answer to 'mzungu'
- Wearing trousers feels a little bit risque
- It takes a couple of seconds for me to notice mix ups of 'r' and 'l', for example 'Let's crap for Jesus Clist' and 'we are all very bressed'

One thing I will NEVER get used to, is being told I'm getting fat, and expected to take it as a compliment..

Prayer letter for January

Here's my prayer letter for January! I know not everyone gets it, so I'm happy to post it here, but if you would like the full PDF version in the future, or even a copy of this one, just let me know.

Dear friends,
It’s been a while, and for that I apologise! It’s very easy to get caught up in life here, but it does need recording, and for that I have all of you to remind me to do so.
During these past few months there have been joyful times, easy times and moments when all I’ve wanted to do is run into the arms of Jesus and disengage from the world. Thankfully, I have a saviour who allows me to do the first but not the second!
Working at the lab has been wonderful. The staff have embraced me as one of their own and I am continuing to make good friends there. The work is hard, both in a technical and emotional sense, but I’m learning fast and as I become proficient in each technique I’m both left to my own devices to do that and immediately taught something new. We’re very understaffed, so praise God I can add an extra pair of hands. I can now work independently in both immunology and phlebotomy, and this month I will move on to haematology and blood parasitology. This morning I learned how to diagnose malaria! However, soon we will begin a new drug trial, which will give us double the work and no new staff.
I am continuing to try to pray for those people we are working for. They are all HIV positive, and though my job is clinical I have very little contact with patients, so giving them up to the Lord is something I feel responsible to do. We hear heartbreaking stories daily, and I am continually reminded of how devastating HIV is on individuals, families and communities.
The 1st of December was World AIDS Day, and during that week we at the lab went out to a village to do HIV counselling and testing, and participated in an HIV commemoration parade (see picture) which also included counselling and testing. Both were exhausting days, working almost non-stop, but the joy of knowing 200 or so more people now know their statuses and can do something about it made it worth it.
All of this was made very personal and real to myself and the rest of the team at the beginning of January. We lost a very special little girl to AIDS, our lovely Amy Jerusalem. She had been abandoned at the hospital and fostered by the Ward family (a family from NZ who work in agriculture and also take in abandoned babies) until her adoptive family could return from the US. We had her with us for a little less than 2 months, and though we are shattered to have lost her, every moment we had her with us, every moment we could be family to her when she had lost her own, was precious. In the last few days of 2009 she began to go downhill, and was admitted to hospital. We praise God that she was able to meet her adoptive parents, and thank Him in His sovereignty for taking her to be with Him and ending her pain. She was our beautiful little angel, and I ask that you join us in thanking God for her short life with us.
At the beginning of January we were at the AIM central region conference, where I was able to meet more long-term missionaries and hear their amazing stories. It served to get me more and more excited at the prospect of overseas missions as a career, and my thoughts keep reverting towards that possible future.
My time spent with the students at the university is continually rewarding, and they teach me as much as I teach them. The group of girl students Lindsey, Susan and I meet on Saturday afternoons continues to grow and their honesty with each other and love for Jesus blows me away. This is a culture that expects a lot of wrong things from girls their age, so their perseverance in staying pure and faithful to God is inspiring. We had an end of term party in December and somehow managed to fit 20+ girls into our small living room for pasta and DVDs, and though many of us could hardly breathe, I don’t think I’ve had so much fun since I arrived in Uganda!
I am meeting with more and more girls one-on-one, and something I notice is lacking here is both a leadership from outside of the university offering friendship and guidance, and a network of confidentiality and care from within. Many are opening up to me with secrets and problems they have never shared before, and helping them with these is a burden I am willing to take on though I will need God’s grace to do so. Often there is nothing I can say to help, but being the first person to pray through a problem with someone is a huge privilege. However, I hope to see them come to be this kind of friend to each other before I leave.
We were burgled over the Christmas holidays, and though nothing too valuable was taken (except my suitcase, and I really have too much ‘stuff’ to take home anyway!), it has left us feeling unsettled and insecure in our current accommodations and we are having to think about making improvements to our accommodations to make them more secure. This has come at a very busy time, and when money is very stretched, so please pray that God will provide somewhere safe for us to live!
I would like to thank all of you for your support. Thank you for sending me to this place, and I am so glad that God chose to bring me to Africa by relying on you. You are all dear to me, and I have been well aware of the fruits of your prayers in the past months. I would like to humbly ask that you please continue!
So, to sum up, please pray for:
·      A continued trust in God while experiencing the devastation that HIV is wreaking in Uganda - Especially for the team as we mourn the loss of Amy, particularly the Ward and the Kehn families
·      The growth of a network of confidential friendship between the girls I work with, and God’s grace as I attempt to supply that need while they learn to be that for each other
·      My thoughts for my future, that I will continually bring them before God and yet still be focused on the present
·      That our house can be quickly made more safe and secure, and the funds to do so will be made available
Thank you!