Thursday, December 27, 2012

More To Say

   Anyone who knows me well knows that I enjoy putting pen to paper. I make lists, plan parties, set goals and write my thoughts into half-filled journals scattered throughout the house. You can't get past my kitchen without seeing something scrawled in my hand on random pieces of notebook paper, receipts, envelopes and post-its. And I'd much rather write with a pen than type on a keyboard. But even typing gives me another outlet for writing that brings me a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment that I can't seem to find anywhere else.

   For me, the past three months, maybe even four, have produced little as far as the written word goes. Especially when I look at my journals and this blog, showing a major slow down in entries and posts. I think I can easily track the shift to my return from Africa and the founding of Love Mercy Uganda, which is a bit of a head-scratcher, since that trip and those experiences and this new mission have more than saturated my heart with enough material to write a book. The big, thick, door stopper kind of book.

   Maybe there is just too much this time to lay it out there for you guys to get a real sense of what happened...or of what IS happening. I struggle myself to keep up with what God is speaking and orchestrating and unveiling, and even then it's not all on stage or in the wind and the earthquake and the fire, but in that still small voice of His that roots me to doing nothing but sitting still. And I don't get much writing done that way. 

   I write standing up, shifting from one foot to another, or on my way from the mop bucket to the toilet brush and even while I'm driving. I write in my head while I'm out shoveling snow or walking to the mailbox.

  Sometimes I'm sitting....but not much comes out when I TRY to write. 

   But I'm here at Come To My Rescue because I sense a shift that has occurred somewhere along the way that is allowing me to write again. I am an extreme editor of anything that I publish, always wanting to make sure I say it right and say it well or not say it at all. And I don't think that is going to change.

  But what might change is how much of me I allow into my writing.

  Because I have changed.

  And the lenses that I see the world through have been upgraded to a new prescription.

  It's hard to say whether you'll notice the difference or not.

  What matters I guess is that I have more to say. More to tell you. And my voice is more my own now. Or better yet, I'm more of who He intended me to be from the beginning.

   I'm looking forward to writing from this new place I'm in and letting Him use what I often see as rubble from a torn down, abandoned warehouse, but what He has clearly shown me to be some pretty valuable building material.

   I'm intent on cooperating with Him.

   Some of you will know exactly what I mean. The rest of you can catch up as we go along.

   Stay tuned for Anna's story. An abandoned one-year-old girl from the streets of Uganda who God is using to fit me with those world-altering new glasses I told you about.....who fulfilled a promise from a God I still haven't figured out....

   And Shafik.....a little boy who refused to give me anything but a backward glance and downcast eyes.....who reminds me every day what it means to take a look up.

   Both of these stories I thought were mine to keep. Stories too personal and telling for me to publish. But they are on the edge of my writing heart and they are meant to be shared, not hoarded.

   He has once again......Come To My Rescue.

Friday, November 16, 2012


We traveled four and a half hours one way to see a musical production called "A Year With Frog and Toad".

A bit of a drive for an hour and a half of college kids portraying darling forest animals and two loyal amphibians who live out a years worth of ups and downs in this thing called friendship.

And a huge test of parental restraint from pushing the eject button on one fourteen year old girl and one eight year old boy squished in the back seat of a tiny rental car, jockeying for ownership on every square inch of seat and objecting to every possible infraction of every possible rule that ever crossed the lips of every good intentioned parent this side of heaven.

Not to mention the fact that we will be making the same exact trip in a few days to transport one of those college kids home for a Hawbaker Hallmark Thanksgiving, complete with a  twenty-six pound, dried out turkey, bloody battles for the remote and hot chocolate made with water instead of milk.


But oh, the trip was so, so worth it.

Zachary is our oldest son. A junior attending college in Ohio majoring in Social Work and English, with a long line of choir and theater credits trailing him.

I've been his mother for twenty-one years.

I did not know he could sing like this.

Or dance.

Or even that he could pull off the greatest portrayal of Toad, from the Frog and Toad series of children's books, ever.

He had me in tears while everyone else was chuckling at the action going on on stage.

I wanted to stand up and wave my hands and say, "He's mine! The toad is mine! I'm his mother!"

I couldn't believe the people around me weren't laying bunches of flowers in my lap in honor of my abilities to birth such a fantastic actor.

Suffice it to say.....I was and am proud.

We were not allowed to take photos during the show, and so the following pictures, I cannot take credit for.

What I can take credit for is that my son belongs on Broadway.

Well done, Zachary. Would travel three times what we did to watch you on stage, providing we leave your siblings home with Grammy. Maybe they can even move in permanently.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Worth the Effort

   The past five days have been one reminder after another that God is intensely personal and equally persistent with mere mortals such as I. Even more intriguing is this sudden awareness that He does not see me as a "mere mortal", but as someone He takes great delight in....a girl who looks to Him to be worth the effort.

   Now, I'm someone who likes to earn my keep.
Please, oh please let me take the messy jobs for You. Give me the swamp water to wade in with a thousand leeches and slimy eels circling my feet. And pick me for the dark, cobwebbed, dead ends to sweep. I have nothing better to offer than what I can DO for You, so my hand is up for the ugliest possible landscape You have going. You are worth it.

    So for God to point out my worth to Him while I am in an obvious state of utter uselessness (never mind my reasoning on that), is a bit.........breathtaking.

   My idea of "breathtaking" is clearly defined in this shot I took last night while sitting (buns freezing), on a point in Maine, wrapped up in a blanket with my ipod chugging worship music into my soul.

   And equally breathtaking were these words by Kari Jobe that filtered into my heart, and somehow at that moment, believing they were written about  me and for me by my God of grace.

You're my beloved, you're my bride
To sing over you is my delight
Come away with me my love

Under my mercy come and wait
Till we are standing face to face
I see no stain on you my child

You're beautiful to me
So beautiful to me

I sing over you my song of peace
Cast all your cares down at my feet
Come and find your rest in me

I'll breathe my life inside of you
I'll bear you up on eagle's wings
And hide you in the shadow of my strength

I'll take you to my quiet waters
I'll restore your soul
Come rest in me and be made whole

You're my beloved, you're my bride
To sing over you is my delight
Come away with me my love

Friday, October 19, 2012

What's Mine is Yours

  You gotta love this precious, African orphan, Anna as she insistently tries to share a tiny scrap of food with her friend and mattress mate, Marvin.  The little guy put out a valiant effort to accept her gift. I don't think he ever did get any of it into his hand, much less into his mouth.
    But it is a sweet exchange that reminds me of how God expects and applauds the same from us. To open our hand to the poor and needy, to those that have less than us, even if we might not have an abundance of wealth to fall back on for ourselves. 
   Compassion International and Love Mercy Uganda are two opportunities for you to live like Anna and share. 

You might want to click on full screen (bottom right corner) in order to see their little hands up close.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Dear Our Grand Mum and Father

I wanted to share this letter with my readers. It was written by two of the teen girls at the Good Samaritan Children's Home in Uganda where I lived for eleven days just a few, short weeks ago.

Edith and Rosette were chosen to stay with me in my very big, very clean, very empty room. I was prepared to sleep in a crowded, dirty, noisy room full of children. So when I was shown to my sleeping quarters, I asked,
 "No kids?"

 "All alone?"


I was already speaking in short sentences to aid in communication. I learned quickly on that one.

They recognized my despair in the emptiness of the room, so they hustled out to the main living room and quickly tagged Edith and Rosette to be my roommates. I wasn't sure if they were pleased with this responsibility or wishing they would have picked someone else. They smiled politely, did a little bow and hustled over to my room with their mattress and one blanket between them.

The rest of the evening was filled with that incredible worship service I was swept away in and we fell into bed late, exhausted and with few words. '

I was awakened in the early morning by a low murmur of sound coming from somewhere in the room. I'm surprised I knew where I was. You know that feeling when you open your eyes and have no clue what planet you are on. Should have happened to me, being sleep deprived, in a different time zone with a bit of culture shock thrown in.

But I knew where I was and it slowly became apparent where the low rumble of sound was coming from. Edith and Rosette were dim silhouettes, kneeling on their mattress, talking to God in quiet yet earnest pleas. It was another jolt to my spirit. Last night's prayer service had left me humbled to the point of being invisible. Now I was witnessing two teenage girls welcoming the dawn with communication and fellowship with their God that was obviously a far cry from a boring ritual.

These girls were passionate in their prayers.
Another lump lodged in my throat.
Why did I wait so long to get over here?

But the letter.....let me share their letter. They wrote it while I was there. We had become fast friends in a matter of hours on my first full day there. I was showing them photos of my family and my dog and my parents. They seemed surprised that my parents were still living...ahem....and I told them how much they were loved by my mom and dad.....who love anyone who is loved by me. Edith and Rosette immediately set out to write my parents a letter, asking if they could have a piece of my notebook paper.

 And I just wanted to share the letter with you.

"Dear our Grand mum and father,

How are you and how is your country America's situation? Back to us we are okay because we are very happy to be with our mum Julie who has been putting us in good situation in our country. (I truly play a small role in their "good situation"...just so you know)

So before we thank God who has brought us our mum to us and rid her very well from America to Uganda, we are by names of Edith and Rosette from Uganda. We like America so much because it has mercy people who help the needy. We are orphans but mummy Julie has become our mum.

We are born again by religion and we pray hard so that even us we grow and become important people in our future. We love God so much because the Bible says that things which are impossible to the people are possible to God.

We love learning. We are in senior two class. We pray for you so much. We have our sisters and brothers they are greeting you.

So let us pray to God so that he may guard you well and keep your climate good. May the mighty God bless you very much.

From your beloved ones Edith and Rosette from Uganda."


Monday, September 24, 2012

A Boy and His Dream Come True

Before I begin to tell my stories from the ten days I spent with the children of the orphanage in Uganda, let me jump ahead to my visit with my Compassion sponsored boy, twelve year old Alex, who I had the privilege of meeting face to face on day eight of my trip.

The morning of the day I was to spend with him, I was incredibly nervous, excited, impatient......and sick. It hit me just before we left the orphanage compound to make our way over to the Compassion office in Kampala. I was surprised I hadn't gotten sick sooner in the week, with the number of children at the home who had fevers, runny noses and stomach pain, all of them touching me and coughing on me from morning till night.

But this had to be the worst possible day for me to get sick. I simply could not miss my scheduled day with Alex, knowing that he had traveled 9 hours the day before to reach Kampala from his tiny village in southern Uganda. I felt weak, nauseated and my head was spinning in directions I didn't know existed.

I had to lay down in the car on our way to the Compassion office and my orphanage hosts kept glancing back at me with worried looks. They were solely responsible for my well being during my stay there and at one point they were ready to take a detour for the city hospital.

After drinking some water and nibbling on yet another granola bar (my main source of food for ten days) I started to feel a bit better. What I now know is that in my nervousness and excitement to meet Alex, I had taken my morning malaria pill without enough water and this caused the meltdown of my insides that had me feeling too far away from home.

Arriving at the Compassion office, I wondered if Alex was already there. Many staff members came to welcome me and whisked me off to tour the facility and meet more friends. This was the mural on the wall that greeted me upon my arrival.

We shared hot tea and slices of bread with jam while they asked question after question about my family, Alex and my involvement with Compassion. Gratitude was the feeling expressed over and over again by the staff...for sponsoring one of their children, for making a lasting difference for one child, for advocating for more sponsors to join the effort to release children from poverty. They were sincere. And I expressed how I felt about it all. That it is a complete honor and privilege to have any part at all in the work being done through Compassion International.

This is too funny, and slightly embarrassing, but at one point during our tea-taking, a young man came straight up to me and said, "I'm Alex!" I immediately grabbed him in a bear hug, let him go, and then engulfed him in another one. He seemed surprised at my display of affection, but hugged me back, if not a little cautiously. I kept looking at him. It kinda looked like Alex, but a more mature and older version than what I had expected. Moments later I realized this was just a staff member named Alex being friendly and introducing himself. I'm such a nerd. I had to explain to him why I almost swept him off his feet and he was polite but kept his distance after that. Poor guy. Crazy American women....

A cell phone buzzed and I was told that Alex....the REAL Alex....had arrived, and they took my hand and practically ran me out to the parking lot. I do believe they were as excited as I was. Twelve year old Alex stepped out of the van and into my arms. I was well practiced by now and I went back and forth between hugging him and holding him at arm's length to get a good look at him. His smile took up half of his face and we immediately got back in the van to begin our day together.

Our first stop was the zoo in Entebbe, a forty minute drive from the Compassion office. We spent that time talking, looking at photos, and listening to my ipod. He turned out to be quite a shy young man, but obviously bright and supremely happy to be with me.
I gave my first of many gifts to him, a muti-tool/knife in a case which he seemed to love. After inspecting every inch of it, he slipped it into his pocket.

The zoo was a fantastic way to enjoy new sights and sounds while still being able to walk and talk together. Alex was fascinated with the animals, most of which he had only read about in school. He asked lots of questions and listened intently as the zookeepers educated us on the animals.

This was taken in front of a very small portion of Lake Victoria. The photo does not capture the beauty of it.

We had a great time laughing at the antics of the animals and learning at each new area more about the habits and personalities and diet of each one. We also learned that all of the animals in this zoo were rescued from different situations that threatened their well being.

Our next stop was the Entebbe airport, exactly where I had flown into a week before. Alex wanted to see the airplanes and his escorts and driver were excited about eating at the buffet the airport offered. I was too! After eating nothing but granola bars for the past week, I was more that ready for tons of choices to fill my plate with. Turns out, a buffet in Africa is not equal to a buffet in America. There were about FIVE choices.....rice, greens, beans, chunks of mystery meat and a flat bread. The guys all acted like we had hit the jackpot and they piled their plates to overflowing. I enjoyed watching Alex eat. It was probably more food he had ever had in one sitting.
On the ride back to meet my driver in Kampala, I pulled out the backpack I had brought full of gifts for him and another full bag of gifts for his parents and four siblings. I do believe the soccer ball received the biggest smiles!
Alex was also very interested in the album of photos I gave him which included pictures of my Compassion friends who helped make this visit possible. I explained how each one had donated money to enable me to bring him from his village all the way to Kampala and that he was loved not just by me but by all of the friends he saw in his book.

Saying goodbye was not easy. Alex was so much fun to be with and it felt like leaving my own son behind. I encouraged him to study hard, write more often and send me a photo of his entire family. (Might as well put in the requests while I can). His Compassion social worker and escort assured me that this would be accomplished. I loved how they treated Alex like the young man that he was and filled his mind with reams of information at the zoo and as we passed important landmarks in the city of his dreams. Thanks to all of you who helped give Alex the trip of a lifetime and so many memories and new experiences to share with his village and family.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

His Story To Tell

   I didn't expect to be so drained, both physically and emotionally upon my return from Uganda. I've been dragging myself around since Thursday, willing myself to complete ordinary tasks that should be effortless. Sleep only comes in a short, five hour block at night and then a random hour or two during the day. I go to bed at 10 pm and wake up at 3am. I get teary-eyed over a load of unfolded laundry or too many dishes in the sink. I am missing so many new friends made in Uganda and yet I've never been so happy to be home.

   So much to unpack for all of you on my adventures in East Africa, from my visit with twelve year old Alex, my Compassion sponsored boy, to the long days spent with the children of the orphanage. This is going to take a while.

 I saw so much.

 Laughed loudly.

 Cried silently.

 Fell on my knees.

 Covered my eyes.

 Served in such a way that left me crawling away to find a moment of solitude.

Then running back so as to not miss a moment of privileged time. With children who have prayed in earnest for God to rescue them. To bless them. To stay with them.

May He give me a clear mind and humble heart to share it all with you in the next few weeks. Be sure to sign up for email notifications under "follow by email" at the top of this page. Because you might not want to miss this. It has nothing to do with me. Anyone could have gone and returned with the stories. But it is about His heart, His priority, His call to action. It's His story to tell. I just get to be the low budget reporter. Except somehow I am coming out a very rich girl. You will, too.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Some Small Way

My effort to raise 10x30 dollars to build tables and benches and to outfit the kids sleeping areas with new bedding turned into 10x80 dollars because of your generosity!

That's right.

You guys chipped in a total of 800 dollars for 43 children who are going to benefit greatly from your open hand towards them.

And believe me, they will know who you are.
Maybe not by name, but I am going to make sure these kids know that they have a whole family of friends who care about their future and that they are not invisible or forgotten. I expect to see some shy smiles while others may climb onto my shoulders or swing from the rafters. I know for sure that they will feel loved.

As I shop and organize and pack and plan for my flight to Uganda next Thursday, I am finding that I am already homesick. I can't shake the dread on just how alone I am going to be for this journey. I imagine this will be the fastest I will ever make new friends once I land in Entebbe and make my way over to the orphanage. I'm kind of a slow joiner to new groups and like to hang back on the fringes to scope out my options. I think Uganda is going to finally push that quirk of mine right off the map.

There will be no one to hide behind. Nobody to push ahead of me to "go first". And no talkative, outgoing team members to make all of the small talk. 43 sets of eyes will all be on me.
 I am hoping, praying and pleading that they see Jesus in some small way. I really want them to know that He is for them. That they never go a day without being watched and loved and interceded for by Him.

You are part of this journey because of your efforts to bless these children with your love and gifts and prayers. So maybe I am really not that alone after all. I'll pretend that you guys are there with me, hanging back to let me be the talkative, outgoing one. I think that will help. And who knows? Maybe I will come home with far more gifts than we are giving to them. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Live LIke Drew

   Today I simply want to honor the life of twelve year old  Drew Goodman, who went to be with Jesus last week after a long and courageous battle with brain cancer. Ultimately, Drew won that battle, because there is no victory for death when you belong to Christ. There is only a change in residence. An epic upgrade to a life of wholeness, joy and intimate fellowship with God. Drew is home.

   Caleb and Drew were friends through their common bond of a cancer diagnosis. I imagine they never would have crossed paths without it. Nor would they have likely been friends without Special Love, an incredible organization founded thirty years ago to enrich and support the lives of children and their families who battle the beast. Through Special Love, our family has made some lasting friendships and a boatload of unique memories. Two gifts that will never be tagged for the yearly yard sale or rendered useless through overuse, rust or decay. We are blessed.

Caleb, Drew and Ale October 2010

Drew was one of those kids who stood out from day one. He was so incredibly friendly and endlessly generous with hugs and genuine, little boy affection. He surprised me. Most kids have reservations when it comes to strangers...and even friends. I don't think Drew ever met a stranger in his lifetime and friends were practically family.                                                        

I will never forget the last morning of the last weekend we spent with Drew and his family at a Special Love event. I was up early. The first one to make my way up the rain slicked steps and onto the camp porch where the coffee was set out     for desperadoes like me. I was alone for a good while, which is never a problem for someone who enjoys solitude. I like to get coffee in the mornings at camp for the perfect quietness and beauty of a rising dawn, but  also for the opportunity to meet someone new and make a new friend. I am not a total recluse.

That morning, Drew and his dad made their way to the porch, and after Dad poured, assembled and stirred his cup of coffee, he told Drew he was headed back to their room. Drew asked if he could stay.

I was sitting at one of the picnic tables and Drew shuffled over and sat down next to me. With Drew, there was no such thing as personal space. So when I say "next to me", you have to picture no empty air pockets of wasted space.
 He began with a bit of small talk...about 30 seconds worth, and then he started telling me details about his battle with cancer. I hadn't asked any questions. That was just Drew. No need to be concerned about making anyone uncomfortable......or wondering if they even want to hear what you have to say......or worried about taking up someone's time. He wrapped me up in a snuggly hug before he left me sitting there with my cold cup of coffee.

I realized immediately that I had been gifted with something not quite tangible. An intimate, almost holy moment, with a boy who seemed to live without reserve. Someone as close to being who God created them to be as I have ever known. The kind of person I have always wanted to be.                         

And something shifted for me after that morning. I didn't start living like Drew overnight. I am, after all, a slow learner. But I began to notice just how much of life I miss out on by playing it safe. Avoiding risks. Keeping to myself so as to preserve whatever I have craftily salvaged from some of life's painful experiences.  "Live like Drew" became a subtle yet constant refrain in the back row of my every day thoughts.

It was shortly after this encounter with Drew that I began to step out into the dreams God had set in my heart as a child. I had carried those dreams around for over thirty years, always imagining what it would be like to live them out in real time. Never believing they were ever really meant for me to claim.

But claim them, I did. And the dreams are still unfolding. Once I took that first harrowing step off the edge, the open doors and opportunities just kept falling at my feet.

 To live like Drew means that I will throw off my well rooted fears and just be who God intended for me to be all along.

 It's really, amazingly quite simple. But I am not sure I would have found my way without Drew to take the lead.

He left far more behind than just my own personal encounter with him. I am only one person amongst hundreds and hundreds of Drew's friends. I did not know him as well as most did. But he left his hand print on my heart and I will always be on the lookout for ways to honor his life and to LIVE LIKE DREW.



Tuesday, August 7, 2012

My Mistake

For those of you still in the dark....

Caleb had the cystoscopy (scoping of the bladder) done almost a week and a half ago to see if they could find a reason for the blood in his urine.

And what they saw was an irritated bladder, most likely a result of the (hateful but necessary) radiation he received in 2008. They did not see anything that needed biopsied, and this was very good news.

What leaves me hanging is the question of whether or not I asked all of the right questions and whether I can be satisfied with the answers I've been given. You know I did that when Caleb was four years old and he was peeing blood. The doctor said it was a "virus" and that there was no need to pursue any other cause. He was confident. He had been Caleb's pediatrician since birth. I remember he waltzed into my room at the hospital, strode over to baby Caleb who was bundled up in the bassinet and asked me how "she" was doing. Maybe that should have been my first clue.....

I took his word for it in 2008. That the toilet bowl full of blood was caused by a seldom seen virus. The fever and elevated blood pressure were no cause for alarm. I was relieved.  And that was my mistake.

Four months later Caleb was diagnosed with stage three kidney cancer.

So here I am again in the same situation.

This time Caleb's insides have been scrutinized. An ultrasound, CT, urinalysis,  blood work, scope of the  bladder....did we miss anything? One more question I should have asked? And was the urologist having a good day when he threaded that line into Caleb's bladder and peered at the screen? Was he in a rush? (He was two hours behind schedule when he took Caleb back to the operating room).

With an enemy like cancer, more time means more power. You can't wait around and hope that it goes away.

I also cannot live life seeing cancer behind every cough, moan and complaint that Caleb presents to me.

This is asking a lot, you do realize. I need to be alert. I am the only neurotic mother he's got. 

When they brought Caleb into recovery after the scoping procedure, the nurse assigned to monitor his vitals stood beside me as I waited for him to wake up. She was silent for a few minutes and then she asked me, in a quiet almost reverent voice, "How did you find the cancer when he was four? What clued you in that something was wrong?"

People ask me this all the time. And I always have to tell them that I missed it.


I made a huge mistake in not asking more questions. And it could have very well cost Caleb his life.

So yes, the conclusion from all of the combined investigations concerning Caleb's bloody pee (I love saying that...makes me feel like I am an angry British person) is that everything looks fine(ish) and that for now we will just keep an eye on things (for the rest of his life).

Our lives are back to normal now......which is the new normal that took root after our original normal was  replaced by a way of living that will never be quite normal. We are used to it now and can hardly remember how normal of a family we used to be.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Kissing My Comforts Goodbye


 I know, I know, I just got home from Kenya a few months ago. And you all know what a dream come true that journey was for me. SO many people were sure that I would return home from Africa and just ache to go back, never again content to live life as an ordinary, apron swinging, housewife from the mountains of Maryland.

 And that just didn't happen.

 I enjoy central air, traffic laws that are generally obeyed, identifiable meat on my plate and water that doesn't taste like bug spray. I like predictable routines, letting the water run while I brush my teeth and bubble baths every other day. And oddly enough, I have a new affection for my commode. Gleaming white. Sturdy. Dependable. Secured behind a carefully locked door. Adorned with a spray of silk flowers and a lovely, avocado green seat cover.

I had hopes and plans to make another trip over there in a few years, yes I did. Plenty of time to regroup, save up my dollars and see where God might lead me next. I like my plans. And I like my plans even more when life cooperates with them.

But an opportunity and more accurately a NEED has come up that requires me to book another 22 hour flight to the land of unlocked, hole-in-the-ground toilets. The sweet part of the deal comes when I understand that I will be spending ten days with 43 needy children living together in a home in the Kewempe District of Uganda.

THIS makes me SMILE!

And shake my head with wonder.......

Forget the absence of the comforts of home.....and look forward to spending my days with the children I dance with in my dreams!

The black and white details look like this: I am taking two weeks to travel to an orphanage that our church supports to size up the possibility of starting a sponsorship program. We have worked with this group for over a year and a half and it is simply time to physically assess the needs, weed out potential problems and play hide and seek with those kids!

Now picture me in a photograph with all of the kids in this orphanage, and all of the volunteers who work with them, as well as the numerous, hard working and generous members of our church who have given so much to carry this little band of orphans along the way. In the picture you will find me in the very back row, obscured by dozens of heads and blotted out by a shaft of sunlight. That is the image of my contribution thus far for this mission. I have done the least, so please do not set me up for some kind of award for laying my life down for Uganda.

But I AM willing to go and do what I can to teach and train for the potential sponsorship opportunity, and I am honored to have the gift of time with some of God's most loved boys and girls of Africa. I'm a combination of sleepless excitement and gut twisting dread. I really do not have any idea of what to expect. I will be alone, unless you count the 43 kids who will no doubt be fascinated with my white skin and fly-away hair.And I will probably be very homesick by day three.

This mission is completely separate from my work with Compassion International, but I DO have a twelve year old boy in Uganda who is one of my Compassion sponsored children. His name is Alex and he has three sisters and one older brother who he names as being his best friend. He loves to play soccer and hopes to do well in school and become an engineer someday. In one of his letters to me, he expressed that if he could travel anywhere in the world, it would be to the capital city of his country; Kampala. The orphanage is located just outside the city limits.

As his sponsor, I have the opportunity to request a visit with Alex while I am there. He will be so close....and yet so far! His village is located at least eight hours from where I will be, and while it CAN be arranged, the cost of his journey may prove to be well over my ability to cover, especially on such short notice. So if you would like to help make Alex's Dream come true, I have added a chip in button to the right where you can donate to this fund. Any money raised above and beyond the cost of his trip will go entirely to the basic needs of the orphanage. I would love to set  them up with a good supply of educational books and tools for learning!

Several friends have indicated that they would love to be a part in bringing Alex to Uganda, so there you have it; an easy way to lend a hand. Not to mention the possible overflow onto the orphanage.

Thanks for reading. That was really long. But I wanted to make all of you aware of this fast approaching trip! And thank you for donating and especially for those who are committed to pray for me. I need much wisdom and also a truckload of protection and endurance.

Love you guys!

Thursday, July 12, 2012


Eight year old Elizabeth sent me some incredible photos the last time she wrote to me. Go HERE if you missed that picture-filled post!

My "dream-come-true-trip" to Kenya took place in March of this year and this latest letter from Elizabeth was written just a week after we spent the day together, along with nine year old Mary and ten year old Naituati.

Here are some of my favorite lines from her letter. And I must say, this little girl has better handwriting than me and churns out impressive sentences for a second grader writing in her second or third language. (First comes the language of her tribe, then Kiswahili, followed by English.)

"I was so happy when I met you face to face. So happy even words cannot express my joy!"

The feeling is mutual, sweet girl. Your smile from that day is imprinted on my heart. All I have to do is close my eyes and go back to when the Compassion staff ushered you out of the crowd of children and into my arms. You were so brave! And infinitely more beautiful than your serious Compassion photo let on.

"I thank you for the visit...and for the gifts, support and letters. I still have my doll and I gave her the name Mercy."
My mother, who shares your name, found that doll for you. I could tell from your reaction that you loved that doll more than anything. And I just love the name you gave her!

"I really like the white dress you gave to me."

You mean this one? That was my favorite dress out of all the ones I stuffed into your bag of gifts. I don't think I could have fit one more pencil or pair of socks without some serious zipper damage! I imagine you look so beautiful in that dress.

"My brother George likes his ball and my mother likes the shawl."

 Hmmmm....I definitely remember the ball for George, but am drawing a blank on the "shawl". Maybe you are talking about the zebra stripped blanket? That would look just lovely as a shawl for your mother. (Or maybe she used the butterfly bed sheet?)

"Do you still remember the Kiswahili name for crocodile?"

I love it when you ask me questions and I think I DO remember the name of those crocs! Was it MAMBA? They were so big lurking there in the water at the park and there were so many of them!

 "I enjoyed walking with you."

That had to be my favorite part of our time together, Elizabeth. Having all three of my girls with your hands in mine as we made our way around the paths of the park.

"How is your son Caleb doing? I always pray for him to recover."

I remember when I showed you the pictures of Caleb when he was so sick and thin in the hospital, and you said, "I'm so sorry." And then I pointed out how healthy and big he is now and that smile of yours reappeared.
I love to know that you care enough to pray for Caleb and that he is covered from the other side of the world!

"My journey back home was safe and I found our home was full of joy and we all praised the Lord."

(I was told by her social worker that when a child gets a visit from their sponsor, a rare occurrence, the child is viewed as a celebrity by their village and are the "talk of the town" for a long time afterward.)

Enclosed in this letter was a picture that Elizabeth colored for me. I think I recognize this page from a coloring book I had given to her little brother. I love it!