Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Parasites, Scabies and More...

What do parasites, scabies, malaria and an unreached people group have in common?

I just returned from Uganda, Africa where the Lord used disease to bring Himself Glory. The Karamojong Tribe in Northern Uganda are an unreached people group. They are a nomadic people who pillage and steal cattle from the other tribes in Uganda. They are frowned upon among the people because of the havoc they reek in villages. Most Karamojong are not welcomed among any of the people in the market, and churches. They also can't get jobs and are just tolerated at best.

The heart of a man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps. Proverbs 16:9

This trip to Africa was like all others. Hard work and planning was the prelude before the actual travel. We needed to fundraise, send letters, and organize garage sales. Originally Bryan and I both planned to go on the trip. We would visit our missionaries in Uganda, cross the border to Kenya and spend time with Pastor Cyrus and the kids at the orphanage. We worked hard to earned money, and had several donations but we just didn't bring in enough for us both to go. We needed to make a decision, put off the trip again, or go with what the Lord had provided thus far. We had prayed for the Lord to show us and he opened the door for just me to travel and that is just what I did.

Once in Uganda, almost a day later than planned, I was greeted at the airport by my dear friend Tonya. We had big plans for my stay, sick babies, visiting ministries, vision casting, and travel to Kenya. We arrived at her house at 5am and slept for a couple of hours and when we woke, Tonya was sick with a fever. I spent the day at a program down the street that cares for sick and dying kids, (pictures to follow).

Day two in Jinja, Uganda started off well and ended bad. Some how I picked up a mean parasite and well you probably know what that means but I'll tell you anyway, vomiting and diarrhea. I pretty much would have rather die, but that wasn't going to happen. It was just miserable enough to beg for mercy and lay in bed and not move. By day four I had recovered and was ready for the mission field, or so I thought. Day 4 also was the start of high fever for Tonya's son, who tested negative for malaria shortly there after.

In the back house lived Aunt Sara and Mama Maria. Maria is Karamojong. She has three children living with her, Phillip, Angela and Longoli. If you follow my blog you may recognize the names of the children (if you want a quick background click here to read the story). Phillip and Angela were Tonya's foster children. Tonya had been caring for Phillip and Angela for a few months while searching for their mother. Maria had been separated from her children for about a year previous to Tonya meeting them. Once Tonya had the children in her custody, and Maria found her children, Tonya starting to form a bond with Maria and helped Maria to form a bond with her children.

Tonya then invited Maria to live with her to make the transition for the kids from Tonya to Maria easier on the children. When I arrived Maria was very welcoming and I was immediately drawn to her. She sat on a mat in the side yard listening to the Proclaimer (a New Testament reading of the scripture in her language).

In between being sick and laying low, I would venture out back with Maria to talk, the best I knew how, using sign language and common threads between women. I invited myself to sit on her mat and hold her precious 2 month old baby girl and she willingly and joyfully excepted.

About day five, we started to make our plans for our big travel to Kenya to visit Pastor Cyrus and his wife Eucbeth. Our ministry has adopted Pastor Cyrus' orphanage and I try to make regular trips out there to see the kids. Day five was also the day Tonya and I started itching! Some time in the morning Tonya was telling me of the bites on her body that she had been complaining about for a couple of weeks. I began to see some bites on me too, but figured that it was Africa, so what else would I expect.

While sitting on the couch one night I saw these tiny, tiny, bugs crawling on me and assumed they were hatching spiders. So I remedied that situation, I got off the couch! If you know me, you know I HATE bugs of ANY kind. Day six, Tonya is really itching and can feel things crawling on her and I can feel things crawling on me, more little spiders! I proceed to pick these buggers off of her neck like a monkey would groom her baby and she did the same. Gross I know, but necessary for the story! So we groomed ourselves and sometimes each other, as needed. After a while we decided to put the bugs in a ziplock bag, and head for Al Shaffa clinic for a twofer, diagnosis of bugs and a malaria smear for Tonya's son who still had a high fever.

The Doctor informed us that we were infested with scabies, a microscopic bug that burrows under your skin and lays eggs (look it up if you don't know), and another negative malaria test. The remedy for the bugs was to treat ourselves with a "poison" lotion, literally, and boil all of our clothes and linen. Easy for people in America, but hard and time consuming for people in Africa. We did what we had to and bought 15 bottles of "poison" and treated the whole compound and ourselves.

Now at this point there are far more stories to tell about wood eating bugs in my bed, toads in my bathroom and the sort, but I will spare you the details in order to keep this from turning into a novel (dangerously approaching one already, I know). But lets suffice to say that the devil was on the hunt to destroy every ounce of hope and every opportunity to share the Gospel with anyone outside of our compound. BUT God determined our steps.

At some point, as I am sure you would understand, I began to get discouraged. I kept asking God why had he brought me halfway around the world to get all of these sicknesses. I could have been sick at home. My personality is such that I began to feel bad for the people who poured themselves and their finances into this trip. Nothing but sick was happening. I couldn't even go love on sick babies in fear I would make them more sick! I kept being reminded that God knew every part of this story already and I had to trust in that, but my plans to travel to Kenya were slowly fading, especially when I found out that Cyrus had contracted a bad case of malaria.

We spent many days at home with Maria. I had brought Maria some gifts from home and we spent time laughing together, clapping at new outfits she would try on and model for us and holding and loving on her babies. One gift in particular struck me. Someone had donated a Bible coloring book. The color book was for kids, with pages from Genesis to Revelation. It was used and some of the pages were colored in, but it was new to them! I had gifted it to Phillip, but Maria was the one who was captivated by it. Then it dawned on me, of course she was her tribe was mostly illiterate! This appealed to Maria because it was story made from pictures!

She began to point at the pictures, loving calling us Mommy, and saying the charters in the story by name. "Mommy, Abraham! Mommy, Jesus! Mommy, Moses!" She knew each one, it was astonishing. Then in her own tongue she would sing! The songs were unfamiliar, but ministered to my soul. I could pick out words like Jesus or Abraham. She new it all. "Mommy, Angel!, Mommy", pointing to the Cross. The words that I once couldn't understand came to light.

Someone had gotten to Maria, long before Tonya or I came along. Someone had told her about Jesus. Her understanding my not have been focused, but it was a start. What joy it was to see her sad eyes come to life, a tool of communication in a kids coloring book. At times we would look out the window to see what she was doing and we could see the color book next to her on the mat and Maria there flipping the pages.

The days went by and our Kenya window closed. I wouldn't be able to visit the kids I so much in Kisii. I kept asking God to make clear for me the reason for all of this illness and the steps he determined for me. Our scabies were gone, Tonya's son received treatment for malaria (even thought he tested negative) and we were all feeling better. Only 48 hours before our return to the states and Pastor Cyrus called and said he was taking a bus to come and see us! Praise the Lord!

Cyrus arrived what a reunion, and with Cyrus we had a perfect translator. Maria had her own tribal language and spoke Swahili, Cyrus' native tongue. He was able to tell her all that Tonya and I wanted to say. We talked about Jesus and how he loved her. We talked about the kids how she would care for herself once we were gone. Tonya had been thinking how wonderful it would be if somehow Maria would be able to go with Cyrus back to his compound and live with them. She asked Cyrus what he thought and he loved the idea.

Cyrus asked Maria if she would come and live at the orphanage with him and his wife. At first Maria was tentative and said that she would do whatever Tonya did. But we explained that Tonya was coming back to the states for awhile and wanted Maria and the kids to be cared for.

Karamojongs are notorious alcoholics and drug addicts. They put their small children on the streets to beg and then spend the money on little food and lots of drugs. They are sober on rare occasions. But Maria had a definite interest in caring for her kids and most importantly, Jesus.

When asking the question to an American, "What does poverty mean to you? List everything that pops into your head." What do you think of? I thought of several things, no food, no water, no shelter, no work, no education, no clothes, etc. But when that same question was asked among the poor, the very objects of poverty, around the world in various different cultures and countries, the answer was astounding. It was NOT based off of material things like food or water or housing. It was based on one thing, SELF WORTH! These people didn't have anything to say about their lack of watter, or food, what they said was, they feel useless, like they didn't matter, their life was meaningless, they had no self worth (When Helping Hurts).

Maria, like most Karamojongs lacked self worth. No one respects her in her culture expect her own. She can't and won't work which creates this horrible unending cycle of poverty and low self worth. It is a vicious cycle that consumes and devours thousands maybe millions of lives around the world. Moving with Pastor Cyrus would provide the Godly model of working, going to church, caring for others, community, and discipleship which brings about WORTH!

Maria, Phillip, Angela and Longoli are all in Kisii, Kenya now. Phillip has started school and has a "smart" school uniform. Maria is being mentored by Eucabeth, Cyrus' wife. Angela is making new friends and Longoli is growing and doing just fine.

(Phillip in his school uniform)

So what do parasites, scabies, malaria and an unreached people group have in common? Answer, God's perfect plan. It is simple, had we have gone to Kenya as planned, we would have missed this opportunity for Maria to move with Pastor Cyrus! God determined our steps, now that is worthy of praise!

(Eucabeth, Phillip, Maria, Longoli, Cyrus and Angela)

As for Maria, will you please join us in prayer. This will be a long road for her, breaking the bonds of addiction, changing her place of living, and learning to trust Jesus for everything. Our prayer for Maria is that she would fall madly in love with her Savior and then return to her people where she can share God's truth and this people group can change status from unreached to reached!

The Source of the Nile

Angela and her new baby

Me and Maria, looking at pictures of my tribe (kids) she was amazed

Rejoicing with Maria over Gods goodness

The untold story of my wood eating beetles, this is the saw dust after one night!

One of the many beetles in my bed

Girls carrying water from a muddy, dirty water bed

Bujagali Falls

Angela getting her baby tied on her back, The African way

This is Harriet. She is over one year old, but the size of a 6 month old. I fell in love over and over with these kids. Harriet suffers from malnutrition and HIV/Aids. She is currently being treated for both.

I had the privelege to love on some really sick babies. This is Harriet.

My other heart throb, Abby. Her mom and dad are young about 13 and are from two different tribes and are cousins and not married. When the elders of the tribe found out about the baby they planned to kill her because she was a disgrace to the tribes. She was recued and brought to Rene, who runs malnutrition rehab center in Jinja, Uganda. Abby is awaiting adoption.

One, two, three...swing

Tonya with Maria and the kids (with one extra)

The slum in Kampala

Cyrus and I having lunch at Two Friends Restaurant

Maria and Longoli, so beautiful

The sunrise over Jinja town from Tonya's balconey

Lake Victory in the morning and the view from Tonya's house

My dear friend Seggy and I, having coffee


praisinyahweh said...

I came upstairs to go to bed and was treated with such a lovely story of God's grace, timing, and provision. It just goes to show that God intends the crosses we bear (no matter how temporary or long-lived) for His Glory. How me must embrace those moments when things just do not make sense and know that they are not a mystery to Him ... and trust .. waiting with great anticipation to see what His hand will create from it. So, thank you friend for sharing .. I go not to bed full of humble adoration for the one that I call Father ... and great thankfulness that there are no beetles in my bed frame. Ewww.

Elaine Littau said...

God bless you dear one. The love you shared met many needs that you may not understand until heaven. I am thankful for you and your life of giving.

Elaine Littau said...

God bless you dear one. Your gift of love is precious. Thank you for all of your efforts. You are an inspiration.

Elissa Hill said...

Wow! What a amazing, different, God guided trip!! May God's hand be close upon his children!

gweenbrick said...

I wanted you to know that I just started a blog for the heck of it, and all I could think to write was a bunch of complaining. Having looked at yours, I am reminded of how large the world beyond our own concern is and how some people strive beyond all means for the betterment of others. I can see that you are a genuinely good person and I thank you for your blog

covnitkepr1 said...

I’ve been following and enjoying your blog for a while now and would like to invite you to visit and perhaps follow me back. Sorry I took so long for the invitation.

Kelline said...

This is an incredible story of faith in Christ, Drea!! This is an incredible story of love and the driving force behind why we do what we do for the glory of our Father! You went through so much during this trip and came out with a happy report. That's beautiful and I enjoyed every word. It ministered to my soul greatly and as I type this, the answer to my question, "why do people in Africa hurt so much?" has been answered. So God can be glorified and show His love through us!!!

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