Sunday, August 09, 2009

A Week In Review...From Natalie's Perspective

Today is Sunday August 9th. Went to an AWESOME church service this morning! The praise team was amazing, words cannot describe their vibrance & energy during worship. Pastor preached two services back to back this morning. The church was very receptive and welcoming to all of us.

I'm going to backtrack this week...

Sunday Aug 2nd. Arrived at Entebbe airport, got our visas & bags and were greeted by the first team (consisting of Sandi, Debbie, and Rocky), Pastor Solomon and various members of Good News Church. It was dark on the way from Entebbe to Kampala, so I didn't get to see much other than the sides of the busy streets, even at 10pm! We arrived at the guest house & settled in... jet lag caused me to remain awake until 2am!

Monday Aug 3rd. Up at 6:30, only a few hours of sleep, but felt very rested. Went to breakfast and ate outside (it's so beautiful out there). Before I knew it, we were loaded up and all in a van headed to Life Link Medical Center. What busy roads! Shops and vendors line the streets... boda-bodas weaved in and out of traffic & buzzed around us, some within inches of our van. It was sensory overload as I tried to take it all in. Next thing I know, we're climbing out of the van in front of Life Link Medical Center and there are rows and rows of pew-like benches full of people waiting for us. Several people walk up to greet us. I first notice a young lady with a big smile on her face. It was very comforting to be so welcomed as each one took their time to greet us. These greeters became our interpreters (and they are just fabulous!). Since I was to help with the distribution of glasses (along with Martha Foster & Debbie Robinson) we went into a good sized room in front of the medical center and began setting up. We started matching up with our interpreters and I was happy to see that my interpreter Whitney, 15, was the same smiling face I had seen when I first arrived. :o)

Once we were set up, we got straight to work! Debbie took down patients medical history & performed exams, Martha guided patients through the eye chart exam & helped me find the one pair out of 800 pairs of glasses that were right for each individual, and Suzanne ministered to those who had additional needs. After a non-stop, full morning, we took a quick rest out back to down some chex mix & touch base with each other. I noticed a pregnant woman walking around, clearly in labor..., then we were back to it. We had steady patients receiving eye glasses all day. EVERYONE that was seen was fitted with glasses that were perfect for them! No one was turned away this entire week, ever. Once things began to wind down at the center Monday afternoon, we packed up our belongings and immediately became aware of the work still to be done. As previous blogs mention... a baby was born our first day. Before I knew it, the team had moved into the same space we had been all day with a baby clearly in distress. Everyone was working hard to get oxygen and warmth to the baby. Who knew that the plastic cups doctors give you medicine in would become an oxygen mask! Debbie moved swiftly and remained very calm, Sandi held the baby while administering oxygen, Tracey was continuously thinking on her toes through every obstacle the team faced, and Soyini had stayed by the mothers side. It was very touch and go, and I really think that had we not been there, this baby would have survived. Praise God we were!! My favorite part of the evening was hearing that baby make a cry and try to fight off the O2 mask! I was so proud to be among those that were with me all day...

Tuesday Aug 4th. Arrived at the clinic, only to see our room cleared of all the medical equipment that was brought in the night before for the baby. For a second all of our hearts dropped until we were notified that mom & baby were great! They ended up going home, no problems! Many more fit with eyeglasses. That night I emptied two boxes of glasses! I had heard that the sister of a lady who was fitted with glasses the day before had come to the clinic the next day to receive glasses... from 100 miles away! We even had folks from Rwanda coming! Let me tell you, traveling in Kampala is like nothing I have ever seen before; it was not easy for those patients to travel all that distance!

Many of the ladies who needed eyeglasses (reading glasses) were tailors & beaders unable to see to thread their needles. They were so happy to be able to do what they love with ease!! But what blessed me the most were those who needed reading glasses to read their Bibles. Once they tried their glasses on, they would reach into their bags, pull out their Bible, and see if they could read it! Right many people did that! It was awesome! And all around town there are signs, bumper stickers, banners, car decals that say "Praise God!," "Jesus Saves!", etc etc. It's awesome! I think you could stand just about anywhere from the guest house to Good News Church and see something that lifts the name of the Lord!

Wednesday Aug 5th. Refer to Monday & Tuesday... just no babies being born! I helped an extremely near-sighted boy receive a pair of glasses that allowed him to see across the street clearly! Also took our first walk up to the Good News Church. Took a few pics of the students from King Solomons Academy next door. Really enjoyed the pic of Tracey surrounded by the students when she knelt down to look at a child's workbook. ;o)

Thursday Aug 6th. Spent the morning fitting people with eyeglasses, then we moved to the church... it was so great! There, Suzanne lead us in performing various low vision tests while Tracey ran diabetic screenings. Both ladies are extremely professional, yet maintain a coolness about them that put the patients at ease! It's awesome watching everyone in their "element". God is doing amazing things through this team! My interpreter, Whitney & I got to spend some time talking about all sorts of things! She was surprised to hear that we didn't have impalas, gorillas, elephants, giraffes, zebras, lions & tigers roaming around our country! And that we drove on the right side of the road, with our steering wheels on the left! We talked about how both of our schools are set up, and how one day she'd like to become a doctor, and she even tried to help me with my Lugandan! I am so thankful for all of her hard work this week!

Friday Aug 7th. Friday was probably my favorite clinic day because we performed vision screenings for the kids at King Solomon's Academy! The kids there were so well mannered, all of them, and were very good for us. Some didn't know their alphabet, so I thought of creative ways to test their vision, by recognizing shapes & lines. I tested a three year old by pointing to a bird and asking "Is this a bird?" he sweetly nodded "yes", and then I pointed to a bug and asked "Is this a bird?" He looked at me like I was crazy & nodded no! Most of the kids were very happy to be able to read & see the board after receiving their glasses. One boy could not see more than 2-3" from in front of his face. He had to literally stand nose to nose with the blackboard to work at school. After fitting him with glasses, he was able to stand across the room, and read to the bottom of the eye chart! Friday we left the clinic around 4pm, much earlier than our previous days. We rested a bit & then met up for dinner at the guest house, where they were having a cookout! The food was great and you just can beat Ugandan coffee & tea after a nice meal!

Saturday Aug 8th. Went to Life Link, where there is a football (soccer) field. We walked around to the site of the new school (building in progress) while some of our team tested out the goodies in the solar dehydrator on top of the building. A lot of the "neighborhood" kids came by... they know Tracey has "sweeties" in her bag! (dum dum lollipops) They call us Muzungus (white people), and they call Tracey "Muzungu sweetie"! Then back to the field where the soccer, I mean football match, was beginning. I was very impressed by the talent those athletes had! They were amazing! (And the Good News team won!) There were a lot of kids around, wanting to hold my hands, touch my arm. One girl was particularly attached to me & would shoo away any other kids trying to get close, as if to say "my muzungu!". During intermission, Rocky & Sandi walked through a crowd with an interpreter and evangelized. I believe 4 people were saved and invited to come to Good News Church the next day.

We got back to the guest house & then headed out towards downtown Kampala. And I must apologize for not mentioning him earlier, but Bryan is the name of the guy that has been faithfully driving us around all week long. He is an excellent driver, and even parallel-parked in an impossible space so we would be closer to our destination. There are a lot of big buildings, many being built still. We went in what looked like the garment district in NYC... There were bolts of colorful fabrics, lace, and trim at every turn, and tailors sitting on the sides of the street with their sewing machine ready. Can't even begin to describe all of the sights & sounds!

So, now you're pretty current with some of what God's been doing through this team this week. Everyone at Good News Church appreciates us, and the support Valley Word Church gives to them. They keep telling us what a blessing we are to them, but I feel like they've been more of a blessing to me.

Monday, we will go back to Life Link Medical Center and work on training the staff there. I'm looking forward to seeing my new friends again!

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