Friday, February 23, 2007

Update from the plane

23-02-2007, 11:30 Uganda time, 02-23-06, 03:30 EST

We’re on our way back home. At this time we’re somewhere east of An-Nuhud (according to the map on the 6” screen in front of me.) We’re 6 hours and 22 minutes from our destination. It’s been a good flight so far. A little turbulence at times, but not bad in comparison to many flights I’ve been on in the past. I’m grateful for pastor’s decision to use British Airways. It has been a pleasant experience. Good food. Friendly flight staff. Clean. We didn’t have any problems getting through security at Entebbe, with the exception of one minor thing that was my own fault. I had neglected to check my waist bag to make sure I didn’t have anything sharp in it. When they x-rayed my carry-on the second time, the x-ray showed a pair of scissors…I’d been carrying them while working at the Medical Centre and hadn’t removed them. They were very nice about it as they confiscated them…at least I didn’t get hauled of to some Ugandan jail!

Although it will be nice to get home, there are several of us who have mixed feelings about leaving Uganda. There is so much work here that needs to be done…that could be done…but at least the groundwork has been laid for our future visits. And, I have to remind myself of the question which Pastor Eddie asked me a couple days ago: “Do you want to impact one nation or many nations?” Of course, the answer is: “Many!” But that doesn’t change the fact, though, that I feel like a part of my heart was left behind with the wonderful people whom we befriended so quickly and easily.

Returning from this trip reminds me of how I felt after returning from two months in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina...So intensely aware of how blessed I am, but also how spoiled I as an American have become. During the last week I’ve spent a lot of time observing the people whom we were around. In the area where Life Link Medical Centre is located, most people do not have running water in their homes—or even on their property for that matter. Water is carried in big yellow plastic five gallon jugs from who knows how far away. And even then, it may not be fit to drink. So much of the water is contaminated. Even the Medical Centre is without a water source.

We saw and treated many patients who were sick with Malaria because of the water. Our Pastors’ adopted child, a little four-year-old boy at King Solomon’s Academy was sick when we were there. He had missed school the day before due to illness, and Pastor Solomon had sent someone to the boy’s home to get him so that Pastor Eddie could see him. When Pastor Solomon saw the boy he realized how sick the boy was and took him up the road to Life Link. He was tested for and found to be positive for Malaria. Because Life Link had just moved in close to the school, the boy was able to be treated and is recovering at this time. If it hadn’t been for the clinic (and the fact that Pastor Eddie wanted to see his sponsored child) the boy might have stayed at home and died of Malaria, like the two children in December. One of the two children whom Rocky and Kandra sponsored died in December due to Malaria.

And then there are the “facilities” which many homes don’t have. The lavatory facilities at Life Link Medical Centre were really good for the area in which we worked. The “facilities” there consist of three stalls with concrete floors built over a deep pit. In the floor of each stall is a rectangular hole with what I call a concrete “splashway” in front of it. You squat over the hole and try to aim at either the hole or the splashway (or both, if the need arises…there’s an art to that!) Oh, I forgot to mention that there is a big enough gap around the door that a whole group of children could gather round and watch if they happened to notice the mzungu (white man) head for the outhouse! Smile! You’re on (not so) candid camera!

Life in Uganda is so much slower…what the team calls “Uganda Standard Time” or UST. Things will get done when things get done. ;D No fast-paced, “hurry to get wherever you’re going” kinds of pressure. The tasks of simple survival – obtaining food to eat, water to drink, and so forth are the main focus of many of the people we observed.

Then there are the houses. Many of the homes in the rural areas are made with bricks that were actually made out of the red clay soil that is so prevalent in Uganda. As you look through our pictures you’ll see stacks of bricks in some of them. They are made by hand and fire-cured right there on the spot. In the States if someone can’t afford housing, he or she might rely on someone else to help out. In Uganda the people don’t have that option…they construct a dwelling of whatever materials they can acquire. As you look at the pictures on the Online Albums, you’ll notice many that are made out of the handmade bricks, complete with dirt floors, no water or sewer, and open holes as windows.

My battery is dying, so I’ve got to go…bye!

02-24-2007, 07:24 London Time

We’re up and getting ready to leave for the airport in a few minutes. As I was showering this morning, and watched the last of the red Ugandan soil ran down the drain, I thought about how a few hour flight and a few thousand miles can change one’s perspective. I have a lot to reflect upon on the last leg of the flight. Have to run now.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Final Blog Post from Uganda...this trip....

22-02-2007, 23:36 Uganda time, 02-22-2007, 15:36 EST

Wow! It's hard to believe that seven days have gone by already! The bus will be here in six hours to pick us up to go back to the airport in Entebbe. (You remember the movie The Raid on Entebbe? Same airport. It still has soldiers with rifles, but without the rest of the drama.) We had to say our "Goodbyes" today, and it was a very tearful moment for some of us. While we've only been here a week, the people of Uganda have become a part of our lives. They've become our family. And we're already looking forward to "next time".

This morning at the Medical Centre a small baby was brought in for treatment. He had been burned on his face, chest, arm, and leg by scalding water. It had happened on Monday, but she didn't bring the child in immediately, but waited until today... which shows the need for community education regarding health care. Shaun and Debbie dressed the burns, but the baby was badly dehydrated. I was able to start an IV and get IV fluids running. There has been a great improvement since this morning. within just a couple hours the baby was playing with things around him.

We've completed a lot of staff education in the last three days, and they are much better equipped than they were before. The man with the bad decubitus ulcer is coming along very well. He has continued to return for dressing changes every day so far. The wound is looking good, and we are praying that it will continue to heal quickly without any difficulty.

23-02-2007, 05:15 Uganda time, 02-22-2007, 21:15 EST

Gotta love it! Almost done with this post last night (about 10-15 since my last SAVE) and the power went off! When the back-up kicked in, it was off of their solar system, which doesn't power the computers. The generator is back on now (as of 04:30-ish) so I'll try to finish before the bus gets here.

We got to go out to the children's school (King Solomon's Academy) yesterday and the day before to see the children who are sponsored by the members of our church. We got to see all but 2 or 3 who go to another school that is a distance away. The kids were so fantastic! We've got lots of pictures, but unfortunately I am unable to upload this morning because the business centre isn't open for me to hook up with my laptop. And my jump drive won't read in this computer... :D LOL AHhhh, Uganda!

Well, the bus is here to take us to the airport, so I've got to run...One last praise report, though. The first baby to be born in the new Life Link facility was born yesterdy afternoon. The mother was going to name her Debbie in honor of our Debbie, because of the love and support that Debbie showed to her during labor...God is good! See you soon...

Sandi and the team

Monday, February 19, 2007

What's Up With The Team...

Hope everyone back home is enjoying the snow! We are enjoying the equatorial heat! (The equator goes right through Uganda.) Here is my journal up to this time. I 'm going to try to talk a couple other people into writing, but there's not a lot of time for that. Hope you enjoy the updates!
02-18-07 18:14 Uganda Time, 02-18-07 10:14 EST

Well, our third day in Uganda is almost over! Wow, it’s going by so quickly. Pastor Eddie preached two services this morning, and he—and his two armourbearers—are headed to the evening service right now. Pastor preaches again tonight. He’s ministering on Dreaming the Dream. I’m at the Guest House (I opted for a nap instead of shopping), and the rest of the group is in town immersing themselves in the “African Shopping Experience!” (I’ll have a chance to do that tomorrow.) If the bus gets back with everyone else in enough time, then I’ll head to the service. I’d really like to have been there, but we can’t have everything we want! :D At least there was enough room in Pastor Solomon’s car for William C. and Tim to ride in with Pastor. (To Rev. Karl: I’ve had a reputation here, from day one, as being Karl, Jr.! I’ve even been introduced that way by Pastor, “I know she just said her name is Sandi, but it’s really Karl, Jr.” You and Mz. Lana will know what that means! I’ve only got my toes close to the line once…but, “He ain’t workin’ with me at’tall!!!!”)

The services this morning were so fantastic! I’m hoping to upload the video from the second AM service to the internet, either YouTube or Google Video, but I’ll have to figure out how to decrease the file size, as they were recorded on high quality. As I stated a few lines back, Pastor is ministering on the Dreaming the Dream series. The hearts of the people here are so receptive. Poverty is one of the tools that satan uses to steal people’s dreams, and there is certainly no lack of poverty here. BUT, God has strategically planted Pastors Solomon and Doreen Mwesige, and their ministry—Good News Church—in the middle of enemy territory, and they are pulling down strongholds in the name of Jesus! And through God ordering the steps of our pastor and Pastor Solomon, Valley Word Ministries has such an awesome opportunity to be a part of that work.

During the Grand Opening Ceremony for the Life Link Medical Centre yesterday, Pastor Solomon shared with all of the attending officials, other guests, and patients about how the dream for the medical centre had come into being, but then had almost been abandoned. Apparently there was a point where the finances were not coming in and he couldn’t pay the staff. The enemy was coming against him full force with the same kind of mind games (devil- Gk: diaballo) that Pastor Eddie was teaching on this morning. Pastor Solomon was ready to give up on the dream of providing a medical centre that would be able to treat the whole man. One where patients would not only receive medical care (even if they had no money to pay), but also receive prayer and spiritual counsel. But thank God for a godly, praying wife! Pastor Doreen said, “No! If you’re going to give it up, then give it to me. I’ll take it on.” (She reminds me of my spiritual mom, Pastor Debbie—an amazingly strong woman of God who has been such a godly inspiration and example to me over the last six years that I’ve been at Valley Word.)

So the dream was kept alive, and we’re seeing the manifestation of it during our stay. The clinic just moved into its new location a couple days before our arrival. The government officials who spoke at the opening ceremony spoke of their excitement that the Medical Centre was in their locality and their desire to partner with Life Link. Well, the group’s back and I’m going to go for now. More later!

02-19-07 16:00 Uganda Time, 02-19-07 08:00 EST

I’m back again! This morning we had a wonderful breakfast, complete with omelets made from goat eggs (inside joke)! We’ve had a great day and are resting before going to church. Tonight is going to be great. I never did get to go last night, but William C. and Tim assured me that it was fantastic.

One of the really nice things about this trip is the time that we’ve had to bond as a group. Working together in this kind of setting is totally different than back in the States. We’ve had to depend upon each other to “watch each other’s back.” I can say with assurance that not one of the team members will come back home the same as when we left.

We’re going to start training the staff at the Medical Centre tomorrow. We’re working on developing some short workshops for their staff. They will focus on basic skills, such as patient assessment, IV therapy, use of the Cardiac Monitors, the autoclave, the nebulizer machine, etc. The concrete should be finished curing out at the fish pond by tomorrow morning so that the guys can continue their work on it. God is really opening doors here-are we surprised? No! There has already been quite a bit of talk about our future trips here. Plans for the Medical Centre, the school, and so forth. The Lord has tremendous things in store for the future. Well, I’m going to close for now so I can upload some pictures. We send our love and the love of the Ugandan people. Be blessed!
Be sure to check out our pictures online. Upload speeds are VERY S-L-O-W here so it's very time consuming uploading. We'll get some on when we're here, and the rest when we get home. All of the sets fromthis trip start with "Uganda..." in the title.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Uganda...We're Here!!!!!!

Well, we're in Uganda. The Team is so excited about what God has been doing already. I'm just going to share my journal entries with everyone to share what's been going on. They start on the plane and continue through this evening....enjoy!

Missions Blog, Stardate…uhm, wrong blog…02/16/07 07:05 Uganda Time, 02/15/07 23:05 EST

Well, it’s light enough to write now, but the turbulence is making it a little challenging. We’re about an hour out from Entebbe. It’s been a long flight, but I did get several hours of good sleep on this plane. This leg of the flight is supposed to be 8 hours and 25 minutes long, non-stop from London’s Heathrow Airport to Entebbe, Uganda. We had a tail wind much of the way, but for the last hour or so we’ve been flying against a headwind. A combination of darkness and a cruising altitude of 33,000 feet haven’t allowed for any great views for those seated by a window, but I did catch a glimpse of a gorgeous sunrise a little bit ago when I looked across the aisle. We’ve flown over the Sahara and Libyan Deserts, and, according to the 6” screen in front of me, we’ve been flying over the Nile River for the last little while.

I can’t speak for anyone else in the group, because I haven’t had a chance to ask them, but as I’ve watched our position on the flight map throughout the night, my excitement has been growing. We flew past Rome several hours ago, and it made me think of the Apostle Paul when he was there…It’s a kind of a rush being so much closer to the places where the Bible was actually written.

I don’t want to say that this mission trip and the preparations up to this point have been “dream-like” until now, but the reality that we’re finally here is just now sinking in. I’ve waited over 20 years since God first called me to the overseas mission field, and I’ve held on to that call and desire throughout those 20+ years without seeing a manifestation of the call. I know that in that time God has had to do a lot of work in me and in my life so that I’d be ready for this. There is no way that I can describe how I feel right now! I want to cry and laugh at the same time—I’m seeing God’s faithfulness in action!

To recap the first part of our trip: Our layover in London wasn’t quite what we’d anticipated. The logistics of public transportation (and the cost since the US dollar is worth so little in the UK. It takes $2.10 USD to buy £1.00 GBD. Just the bus ride from the airport to the hotel ended up being £40 or just over $80.00! The Day Room was great. Most of us hung close to the hotel and napped or went for a short walk.

God did have a divine appointment for Tim, though. He took a narrow pedestrian trail in search of a store/restaurant and stopped to talk to a couple along the way. They invited him in for a cup of tea or coffee, and Tim got to witness to them and explain several areas of scripture of which they didn’t have a good understanding. (i.e. Jesus died for people’s sin, but not for theirs!) God is so awesome! Tim got to plant some really good seed, and we’re believing God for a great harvest there. God is so awesome! Well, we’re pretty close to Entebbe—approximately 100 miles out—20 minutes to landing. Have to shut down for now.

02-17-07 07:00 Uganda Time, 02-16-07 23:00 EST.

Well, we got here yesterday morning. I wanted to get out of the plane and start jumping and shouting, because of what God has done in manifesting my lifelong dream/call. BUT…with Pastor’s word ringing in my ears…”Are you ready for another ministry lesson…Before you do or say anything, you have to think about how it will affect the team as a whole…”, I decided that the armed soldiers at the airport might not take too kindly to me making a scene. I restrained myself!

The pictures that I’ll be posting can describe our experience much more clearly than I can. I can say, it’s all that I was expecting and then some! In the area of Kampala that we’re staying and working, there is abject poverty all around, but the people are a tough, proud people. And it amazed me…in the USA many of our poor are content to live off of government assistance. That has, in my opinion, ruined our people. Here in Uganda there is no government assistance. People have to get out and find a way to provide for their families. As you’ll see from the pictures, everybody has some kind of business… whether it is making bricks in their yard, selling bananas, selling phone minutes, or running a motorcycle taxi service (I’ll pass on catching a ride on that taxi!)

We spent a few hours at the Life Link Medical Centre yesterday. They had just moved into a new (to them) building, and it was their first day open. At least 150 people were waiting for us to get there. Many of whom had walked long distances to get there. It was a very “interesting” first day. Quite a learning experience! There were many people who probably had malaria and, of course, many problems related to poor nutrition. One man had a stump of a foot that had not healed in 10 years! He comes to the clinic every other day to get it cleaned and dressed. He has to be up working on it every day…how many people in the US “call in” to work because of minor ailments? These people are amazing!

I was up early today, at 04:45, to spend time in prayer. It was so strange to hear the call to worship coming from the mosque whose spire we can see from our beautiful hilltop Namirembe Guest House. Shortly afterwards the sound of their prayer being broadcast over the loudspeaker sounded across the city. I felt like I was in a movie…it was so strange! Right now I’m enjoying breakfast with Annette and Howard Fickett, Pastor Eddie, William C, and Rocky. We’re having omelets, toast, fresh pineapple, and freshly squeezed passion fruit. The sunrise was gorgeous, and there’s a great breeze right now.

02-17-07 18:30 Uganda Time, 10:30 EST

Well, our second day at the Medical Centre was somewhat more orderly than the first one. There were more people there seeking treatment than there had been the day before. One little boy had a fever of 104.7˚F, possibly from Malaria…he had a number of mosquito bites on him. We were able to get the fever down, and he was a little more active when his mother took him home. I would like to have seen him stay overnight for monitoring; but I have learned that Ugandans will do what Ugandans want to do, not what someone else wants them to do!

Another man came in who was very frail, weak, and dehydrated. The staff nurse, Annette (not the same Annette I mentioned earlier), was unable to get an IV started because the man was so dehydrated. Praise God for answered prayer—I was able to get an IV in on the second attempt, and we were able to administer IV fluids to the man. He’s still in critical condition, but we’re in faith for him to recover.

The children have really stolen our hearts. They are so friendly and beautiful. And they love having their pictures taken. Suzanne got the great idea of cutting the bubble wrap that we were taking out of boxes and giving a piece to each child to pop. They absolutely loved it!

The Grand Opening Ceremony started at approximately 14:30. There were a number of government officials in attendance, and many of the patients stayed to listen. Pastor Solomon shared with everyone about how God had opened the door for him to meet Pastor Eddie and how God had blessed them with all of the medical equipment and supplies that we’d shipped in the 40-foot container. Pastor Eddie had a chance to greet the people and commit the continued support of Valley Word Ministries in helping to make a difference in the health and well-being of the people of Uganda. It has been an exciting day, and we’re all very tired. But it is exciting to see how God is moving in and through our team. God is so Good!

Well, I’ll close for now. Check out our photos on the VWM Online Photo Album. There will be several albums, so be sure to check them all out. They all start with, “Uganda-”. Be blessed, dinner is calling my name! :D

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Well, we’re off!!! It’s a beautiful day. No rain. Light snow flurries when we left Roanoke, but not much. The Lord held back the freezing rain from hitting Roanoke, even though all the surrounding areas got hit with bad weather. God is so good! We are riding down I-81 right now…just passing mile marker 235. There is such an air of expectation. As we’ve all heard from the prophets, 2007 is the Year of the Open Door, and that is what we are standing on for this mission trip!

Pastor has been preaching a series on the Year of the Open Door (which you can listen to online on the Valley Word website.) This is the season, the set time for spiritual Zion (the church) to walk in favor:

As you pray for us, keep in mind some of the scriptures that Pastor has been using in his messages:

Revelation 3:7-8
7 And to the angel (Gk: angelos- messenger…could be translated pastor) of the church in Philadelphia [Valley Word J] write; These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth; 8 I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.

Psalms 102:13
“You will arise and have mercy on Zion; For the time to favor her, Yes, the set time, has come.”

We appreciate you praying the word over us. We look forward to bringing you a good report!
Until next time…

Sandi and the Team: Pastor Eddie, Chris, Debbie, Suzanne, Aaron, William C., Rocky, Shaun, Joshua, and Tim

Monday, February 12, 2007

T- minus 46 hours and counting!

Wow! I am so excited! In less than 48 hours our team will be on a plane, Uganda-Bound. Things have been very intense the last couple weeks as we've made final preparations for our trip. A tremendous outpouring of donated medical supplies and medications has come in...roughly an additional $200,000 worth of stuff. Talk about God showing Himself mighty on our behalf! Much thanks to Western Virginia EMS, Carilion Health Systems (yet again!), and the many other companies that have donated equipment, supplies, and medications. One company donated 9400 doses of an antibiotic that (not-surprisingly) is used to guessed it: Malaria! Since that is one of the major diseases that we'll be dealing with in Uganda, it was definitely a God-thing.

The other way that God has proved Himself mighty on our behalf has been in the area of finances. I have to praise God for the church family of which I am a part. Not only do we have an 80-90% Tither rate, but our people not only tithe...they give over and above the tithe. Actually, we just have a church full of people who love to be a blessing to others, to the Kingdom of God, and the work of the ministry. On behalf of the Mission Team I can echo Paul's prayer over the church of Philippi. They were the only church that regularly communicated with Paul in regards to giving and receiving. They understood the principles of partnership, and so do Valley Word folk! To use the Apostle Paul's words, "my God shall supply all your [those who have partnered with us in any capacity regarding this mission trip] needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus." I pray that fruit would abound to YOUR account, because of your willingness to sow into this missions project.

I will be posting pictures and blog entries while we are in Uganda, so check out our Online Photo Albums and click on the album entitled, "Uganda or Bust..." Thanks to all who are supporting us with a prayer covering. We love and appreciate you all! Bye for now...

~ Sandi