JO IN UGANDA – MARCH 2010
Well it’s only been one month since I last wrote but alot seems to have happened. I never could get bored that’s for sure. This newsletter I’ll be sharing stories of various people I know here.
Little Caleb: Firstly, I must tell you about little Caleb, the new born baby of my good friends Martha and Dao. On Saturday 27th February at 8.06am, Grace and I helped deliver Caleb at Mbale Regional Hospital and it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life ? Martha did amazingly well as here there are no painkillers at all; in fact nothing to ease the pain or comfort the mother; pure 100% natural!!! Ugandan delivery is somewhat different to the clinical environment and advanced technology of a British hospital! No digital monitoring of mother or baby, no neonatal unit, no local anaesthetic; just simple hope and trust in God. It was a long night and for 15 hours nothing much happened but suddenly at 4am the contractions came very strong. It is really hard to see someone you care for in such agony and not being able to do much to help other than stand next to them, encourage them, rub their back.
I won’t go into the more personal details but simply an amazing experience to be so close to the miracle of childbirth. It was with immense joy that I saw Caleb come into this world with a very loud cry and be the first to see he was a boy and tell Martha she had a son. Needless to say I was rather emotional and when asked what was the time of birth I could hardly see my watch through the tears.
Martha and Dao asked me to name him and after praying about it I decided upon Caleb. In the Bible, Caleb was a man of great faith and courage. Even when many around him doubted the goodness of God, spoke negatively, and circumstances looked pretty grim; Caleb continued to place his hope and trust in God and as a result saw the power and love of God overcoming even the most difficult of situations. So, Caleb really is a name with great meaning ?
Our patient, Ronald: JENGA regularly visit the local hospital to offer prayer and encouragement to patients and carers. Nothing back home can quite prepare you for the Mbale Regional and although it has a huge catchment area serving 6 million people it is grossly under resourced often resulting in catastrophe in people’s lives. Facilities are poor, and although treatment and medicine is meant to be provided free by the government, the basic reality is you have to pay and if you don’t have the cash you don’t get treated. Medical personnel struggle so much to provide a decent service.
A few weeks ago we came across a young 14 year boy called Ronald. He comes from near the Kenyan border, 1 hour east of Mbale and had suffered an accident causing a deep ‘degloving’ injury to his foot. The wound was seriously infected and even though he had been an inpatient for 1 week it had not been cleaned or dressed. The deep gash was exposed to flies and Ronald had not received any antibiotics or painkillers or in fact any medical care at all. He was spiking a fever as the infection spread around his body. As soon as I saw his foot I knew he would lose his leg and quite possibly his life without immediate intervention. I spoke with the Dr in charge and thankfully they took him to theatre that evening to at least clean the foot and remove the dead skin. This left him with open wound measuring 40cm by 30cm but at least he finally had a bandage covering it!
JENGA were then able to transfer him to a local clinic that did a fabulous job of caring for Ronald. After 10 days of IV antibiotics, painkillers and daily dressings, the wound was infection free. We hoped this would be sufficient for Ronald but after taking him to see a local surgeon we were told he needed a skin graft. Without this the wound would not heal properly as the tissue loss was so great and he would be crippled for the rest of his life. We were determined to continue helping Ronald although our health budget had already been exceeded by this point. After we gathered the JENGA team, we prayed together to ask God to provide us the finances we needed to pay for Ronald’s surgery. It was no surprise to me when later that day I received an email from a donor in the UK offering a hefty sum to go towards the health costs of people in dire need. She didn’t know she was the very speedy answer to our earnest prayer. I say it was no surprise because I have seen this happen continually! God is faithful and able to breakthrough in our lives when we seek Him
and trust Him! Ronald had the skin graft last week and now we wait to see if the new skin has taken.
JENGA’s mission statement is to ‘demonstrate the love of God in action’. Jesus showed us how to live life to the full by loving others. Our faith in Him and His love in us must express itself outwards to others through good works; caring for the sick, the widow, the orphan, the disadvantaged in any way, the struggling in any way. In Matthew 25 Jesus says, ‘Whatever you do for the least of these you are actually doing for me’. I strongly believe that JENGA’s ministry in the hospital is practical obedience to this Scripture; as we show respect, honour and compassion to the sick we meet, we are also honouring Jesus as this is His will for us and everyone gets blessed.
Good friends leaving;
One of my biggest challenges in life on the mission field is having to regularly say goodbye to very close friends . Many people come to work in Mbale for a season; maybe 6 months, maybe 1 year and occasionally more. Of course I have many wonderful Ugandan friends and I am immensely blessed by these dear people, but I also enjoy my Western friendships. It’s always hard after sharing so much with one another, becoming a big part of each other’s lives here and then having to say goodbye! In the past few months I’ve seen Dave and Anna Bishop leave JENGA to have their first baby back in the UK. They were a real asset to JENGA over the past year and we became great friends. They are sorely missed.
Then last week we had to watch Tash Tamplin leave Mbale after 3 years serving the Lord with another Christian NGO. Tash is one of my few longest known Western friends here. She lived next door almost and we saw each other all the time. She is certainly another close female friend who has left a huge gap in my life here but she and her husband Ian return to Melbourne, Australia for a season and I’m sure God has great plans for them there. This photo is taken at Bethel church up the mountain in Mooni, with Tash (in the middle) and Tiff who is another long term volunteer with JENGA.
Finally, I’d like to update you about my plans for 2010. I am having a sabbatical this year and although it is far from clear, it is starting to take shape as God directs me and I wanted to keep you posted. Currently my plans are that I return to the UK in May for a 6 month sabbatical before returning to Mbale. In one sense I really don’t want to leave Uganda for that length of time, but I am aware that I do need an extended break that is more rest than work as almost all my other trips out of Uganda have been work related on the whole. Robby our Executive Director is insistent that I take
this long sabbatical as I am now in my 5th year of cross cultural mission. Life here is pretty 24/7 and as much as I really love it, it does feel time for a break. It is very normal that most mission agencies ensure their employees take a 6 month break every 3-4 years. Life in a different culture is very challenging and the boundary lines between work, ministry, church, leisure and personal life are so vague that most the time it all merges. The cultural perspective to personal space and private time to refresh and recharge doesn’t exist in the same way as home, and so therefore a proper extended break outside of Africa is strongly advised.
Thus far, I am booked on 2 Christian conferences. One is with Bill Johnson/Mark Stibbe in Bristol which will be a real time of refreshment and networking too. Also, I will be going to Holland for 2 weeks for Father Heart Ministry training. I also intend to have personal retreat time to listen to the Lord for my future plus enjoy time with family, friends and members of my church.
I am well aware both Robby and I have returned home regularly and I wanted to explain this a little. Overseas mission has changed somewhat over recent decades and the world is a much smaller and more accessible place than it ever used to be. Being a bridge between 2 cultures and 2 worlds forming a mutually beneficial partnership between the two is now a common role for the 21st century missionary. Robby and I form part of the leadership of JENGA and as a new and growing organisation it is primarily our task to develop and maintain our support base, to drive the charity, develop relationships across continents and increase our profile. As we grow obviously many others are now stepping in to carry this responsibility but historically alot of that momentum has rested on our shoulders and therefore required regular visits home to the UK; our primary resource location.
In various ways, many of you have facilitated me to live, work and minister here in Africa. The Lord blessed Abraham so that he would be a blessing to others and this is what you have done for me! Due to your care, support and generous spirit, I have the opportunity to serve the Lord through the organisation of JENGA and beyond and I love it. It is immensely rewarding despite the challenges!! The blessing you release to me actually touches the lives of the poorest of the poor in the most disadvantaged of communities in Uganda. Thank you.
If you are someone who knows the power of prayer, please pray for JENGA and our communities. Personally, I would also value your prayers as I prepare to embark on my sabbatical and trust the Lord with all that remains unknown for the immediate future. He is faithful so I know I am safe in His hands . Please contact me directly if you wish at firstname.lastname@example.org.
With love and thanks, Jo