Christmas Ponderings

As Christmas is quickly approaching and our time in Uganda is also drawing to a close, I find my self not wanting to think about leaving. In the short 5 months we’ve been here this place has really become home. Not that it doesn’t have its challenges and frustrations. No, it definitely does and it lacks the convince and comfort that we have in the US. It’s been interesting getting ready for Christmas. (One of my favorite times of the year.) I look outside while listening to the Christmas song let it snow, and I find myself thinking, “Well, the weather sure is frightful just a different kind of frightful. The wind is blowing but it’s blowing dust not snow or rain. And the fire is anything but delightful.” Our decorations are at a minimum, no tree or lights. (Those of you who know me know that I love having a tree and lots of lights!) We don’t have a lot of gifts, and no hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping. (if we lived here full time we would have an artificial tree and lights and there would be more Christmas shopping) But it’s actually kind of nice. Christmas is not about the weather, the tree, or the gifts. It’s about Gods gift to man and the redemption that Jesus brought. And this Christmas has been a good reminder of that. 
God has given us such a love for these people and this country. I have loved being here with my brothers and sister and getting to know them better. Getting to study Gods word together and just talk about life. We’ve made some great friends and gotten reconnected with old friends. I know I’m called back home in the US for at least a while, and I’m excited to be back home and to see family and friends. I know what an extreme blessing it is to live in the US and in California at that. As much as I am excited for getting back to a 1st world country, I know I will have some reverse culture shock that I will have to work through. The grocery store may be overwhelming with the over abundance of fresh fruit and veggies. Being able to leave my house and in 10 minutes have bacon in my hand might bring tears of joy to my eyes. (And I’ve only been gone 5 months) The variety that is available, you can choose from hundreds of restaurants and types of food that are within minutes of where you live. We are so blessed. The bumpy red dirt roads, crowded markets, being the minority, lots of open space scattered with small huts, and cattle roaming around have all become the new normal. And it’s completely ok with me. The Lord has taught me so much here. Lessons that I have been learning my whole life and that I know I’m not done learning. Humility, grace, working not for the approval of man but God are just a few of them. I am humbled to have been able to be here for the time God gave. Humbled that he would use me. A missionary is no one extraordinary. No I fact missionaries are quite ordinary with an extraordinary God. A life of missions isn’t something unattainable. It is just living your life in a different country. You should be living with the same heart and values in the US as you would on the mission field. A lot has changed since I left, and things will continue to change because that’s life. I know the lord has more to teach me in Nepal and then in the US as we go home. I will be tested in contentment in times of want and plenty. I will be tempted to become bitter when people from the Orange County/LA bubble just don’t get it. Just as I have been tempted when people here don’t get it. I guess what I’m saying is that the lessons I’m learning might not change much just the situations in which I am learning them. I don’t know what God has up next for me, but I trust Him! I know He is faithful and He loves me. Even though I worry and fret at times he still loves me and forgives me! Following Jesus full heartedly sometimes feels like it will be a boring life of dos and don’ts, and that you will have to sacrifice too much. In reality it’s a life of adventure, not that it doesn’t have its moments of monotony. It certainly does but even times where life is slow are a time for growth and learning. Sacrifice is involved but I find when I sacrifice I really feel like I get so much more in return for the little I have given up. For those of you who have stuck with me through this long post, thanks for letting me write out my thoughts! 🙂

Now for a few updates from the past week. Mary our Tetanus patient is up and walking the halls with a walker. She is still very stiff, but can eat normal food now and has been out of bed playing most of the day! Thank you all for the prayers for this girl. We are so blessed to see her recover. All the premature babies are home. Our 29 weeker went home Monday, keep praying that she will grow and start eating well. Baby Heather came in for a check up also on Monday and has gained more weight. It was such a blessing to have all this happy news after having the baby with severe asphyxia that Heather mentioned in the previous post. As for us, on Friday we were able to do a fun and extremely beautiful hike to Sipi falls on mount Elgon. It was too beautiful to describe and so fun to get out and excercise. Our sister Lydia and brother Majok got to come with us! Tuesday we hitched a ride with some friends down to Kamapala. We rode true Ugandan style in a 10 seater van with 14 people. You could say it was a little snug! Thankfully we dropped one person off after a couple hours. We stopped in Jinja for some craft shopping, lunch, and a beautiful boat ride on the Nile. After 13 hours (due to a little car trouble and the Jinja stop) we made it to Kamapala and enjoyed some really yummy Indian food! We were so blessed to be given a ride here and a place to stay with our friends. I got to see Star Wars today which I didn’t think I would get to see in theaters so really God has showered us with blessings. It’s getting late here so I should probably get to sleep, but I pray you all have a blessed Christmas and remember the true reason for the season. Remember to show love and grace. Be the hands and feet of Jesus. Display unity in the body of Christ by being of one heart and one mind in a world full of division and pride! Love you all and can’t thank each one of you enough for your prayers. 

Merry Christmas

Love,

Courtney

Here are a few pictures from the hike

We have had all the neighbor kids over a lot since it is Christmas break. The house has been full of noise and laughter and painting. So much fun!

Monday I taught a BLS class

Here is Mary with her walker

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Here is a short clip of her walking

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Silas and I at his first movie theater experience. 

Jinja at source of the Nile.

Overdue updates!

Just wanted to take a few minutes to update everyone on things here in Soroti. First off Patient updates…-Mary is our 8 year old tetanus patient. She is doing well and having few tetanus fits. In fact she hasn’t had any for the last couple days. We are hoping to wean her sedation meds a little to work on transitioning her home. She still can’t sit up on her own or walk, but she can open her jaw a tiny bit more and is able to have her legs bent most of the time. Her stomach is still very taut, like being in a constant ab workout. Keep praying for her and her family. 

-Baby Heather she was able to go home a week ago yesterday! She came back to us on Monday to get a new NG tube and have a check up. She looks great and is gaining weight! Mom is doing a great job with her at home. Keep praying!

-Baby Esupu: Just after the last post we had a baby referred to us that had a very distended belly. Unfortunately we found out via ultrasound that the belly was full of fluid and it looked as though the kidneys were not working. We attempted to drain the fluid from his belly, but within 12 hours it would reaccumulate to the same size of bigger than it was before. We had to make the decision to tell the parents there is nothing more we could do. The parents weren’t quite ready to give up hope, so they took him to the main government hospital in Soroti (we call it main for short) to try to get help there. After hours of no help they returned to stay with us through the night. In the morning they tried to take him back to Main in the morning, but he passed away before they arrived. His mother was heartbroken. Please continue to pray for her. 

-Baby Julian: A week ago Tuesday we were asked to attend a CS at main to take care of a 29week baby and transport it back to our hospital. It was quite and adventure walking through Main’s operating theater. In the US the OR is extremely strict and guarded…not so much here…I had to close my nurse eyes while there so that I could focus on getting the baby back to our hospital safely. We got to take a ride in our ambulance and transport the sweet baby girl back to Bethesda. We are so thankful that she has done really well and is gaining weight nicely. 

-Apio and Acen: our nurse Irene’s twin baby girls came in to visit and I got to snuggle them and see how much they have grown! They are doing great!!

-New baby: Last night we were sent a baby that suffered significant lack of oxygen during the delivery. By the time the baby reached us she was only gasping. We attempted resuscitation for a while, but ultimately she was unable to breathe on her own and we allowed the family to hold her as she passed. Please pray for her mother and grandmother. It’s always so sad and breaks our hearts when we lose a patient. Yet, our hope lies in the One true God who gives life and is love! 

Other news, Lydia is home from school til February. We are loving having her around! Yesterday during the day we were able to visit one of the orphanages in the area. We have tried many times to go over he last few months, but it never worked out. After our visit I’m pretty sure it’s because we would have ended up bringing a kid or two home! Today we had the staff Christmas gift exchange! We had so much fun laughing together and get giddy like little kids! 

The staffing at the hospital has been much better this week, so we have spent more time at home working on some admin things and unfortunately for me, time in bed with migraines. Please pray for us to be able to pass as much knowledge as possible in these last few weeks! Our time is flying by!! Tomorrow we are taking the day off to hike to a waterfall with one of the missionary families. It will be good to get out in nature and just enjoy Jesus! 

God has been blessing us so much during our time here and we are so thankful for all He has done! Pray for us to finish well, and for our hearts to be prepared to leave. Goodbyes are always hard! We love you all and are so thankful for your prayers and love for us!

In His Grace,

Heather

Back in Soroti

We have been back in Soroti for a little over a week now. Things have been busy, good, sad, thankful, pretty much the whole range of emotions. Last week was pretty busy with just getting back from Kampala, organizing all the new things for the NICU, Thanksgiving x2, and our dear friends Hannah and Aaron moving up to Northern Uganda. Where to start? Well, first of all, let me say a HUGE thank you to everyone who bought or donated things for our NICU. We are currently well stocked and so so blessed to have much needed equipment. I want to say a special thank you to the UCSF NICU and a NICU in Oregon that sent us much needed supplies that can only be found through medical suppliers! Most everything has been put to use already by our tiny baby girl! Speaking of which let me tell you about her. One week ago Sunday a 28 week 1 day old girl was brought to the hospital. She was very cold and needed oxygen, but was able to wean off oxygen quickly. Since then she has lost some weight, but is finally starting to gain some back. She is still a peanut weighing in at 960g or about 2lbs 1oz. I have spent a good amount of time with the mom teaching her how to care for the baby. She is doing really well and can care for the baby almost completely by herself. They have been so appreciative of our care for them and the baby they decided to give her ALL of my names, but I’m trying to convince them not to use Kusunoki! Haha! So pray for sweet baby Heather to grow, and most of all that she will know Jesus. 

Thanksgiving ended up being a very busy day for us at the hospital. We had a premature transport from another hospital. Plus some other busy patients and only one nurse on duty. Thankfully the premature was stable, so we were able to sneak away for a quick lunch with our American missionary friends. We were able to bring Majok along to experience American thanksgiving, and he enjoyed it…except the turkey…he refuses to eat turkey because it is too ugly and looks like a vulture. Haha! 

Since we didn’t get much of a thanksgiving, and Dr J absolutely loves turkey and stuffing, we had thanksgiving 2.0. The day after thanksgiving consisted of Courtney and I cooking all day and learning how to butcher a turkey…let’s just say both of us are very thankful for groceries stores!

We have been very blessed to make some sweet friends in our short time here. One such friend is Hannah. She has become a sweet sister to me and I am so thankful God blessed me with her friendship! She and her husband Aaron, and her sweet cousin, Elizabeth who has been visiting for the last couple months, moved up to Midigo last Saturday. We were sad to see them go, but we are excited for all the plans God has for them. They work for a mission organization, Water For All, that helps local communities build and maintain wells. It’s an great organization and we love their mission and how they work!! I’m so excited for them to work around Midigo, a place so dear to our hearts!

This week has been less busy with social activities, but we have kept somewhat busy at the hospital. Today our missionary nurse friend, Jennifer, brought us an 8 year old girl with tetanus. It’s pretty much torture to watch this poor girl who is stiff as a board with an arching back, her jaw locked pretty tightly and having muscle spasms with any stimulation. The worst part is that she is completely conscious and aware of what’s going on and feeling all the pain. These are classic tetanus symptoms that you learn about in school, but I’ve never had to watch someone go through them. My eyes definitely teared up as I sat next to her and held her hand and prayed over her. Her eyes were desperately begging me to help her and make the pain stop. Once the toxins bind to the nerve endings, there is nothing we can do except wait for new nerves to grow. If she survives, recovery from tetanus takes months. She is on sedatives to help relax her muscles, and she is much more comfortable than she was. However it’s still possible for her to progress to a point of needing intubation and ventilation which is not really an option here. Please pray for this sweet girl. 😦 Also, we may need help paying for a medication that will help neutralize any toxin that is still circulating in her blood. I’ll let you all know when we find out if it’s possible to get it and how much it will be!

This post has gotten quite long so I will end here, but know that Courtney and I appreciate each of you and your prayers for us and these people! We only have 6 weeks left in Uganda, so pray for us to use our time wisely!

Serving our King,

Heather

1)Mary, the little girl with tetanus

2)Me and Baby Heather

3)Courtney holding Baby Heather

4)Thanksgiving 2.0

5)Butchering the turkey😝

6)Oh I got a haircut! Thanks Tanya!

7)Saying goodbye to Hannah 😦