A Time To Move Forward

A beautiful African Sunrise greets us as we head out on the long drive to Kampala. As if to say everything will be ok. It’s such a beautiful scene outside my window. The sunset is accompanied with a green and yellow landscape. A light mist still lingers among the trees before the Ugandan heat drives it away. Little huts are scattered across the land, smoke rising from the fires of mothers cooking their breakfasts. So many goodbyes have been said and a lot of tears have been shed. It feels a little unreal to leave a place that has become home and people that are family not knowing when I will return, but I trust the Lord. I know my times are in his hand. I know that this was the perfect time to be here and the perfect time for our departure. I don’t know exactly what lies ahead and this year is full of uncertainty. It’s hard to believe that 5 months have come and gone and it is already time for us to leave. So what do I know? I do know my God is faithful. So that makes me excited for what is ahead. As Heather and I move on to Nepal we are open and willing to do whatever He has for us there. Our desire is to spend some time in the remote village, Swara, sharing the love of Christ. Although this is our desire we want what the Lord has for us. Which might mean staying in Kathmandu, and helping out with whatever is needed. This might include things like babysitting, spending time at a girls home, cleaning, and organizing a possible new office. We are leaving Nepal sooner then we had originally intended to, and our trip to India was unfortunately canceled. That is life for you! To quote Pastor Chuck, “blessed are the flexible for they will not be broken.” That has kind of become a life motto. We will be coming back to the US at the end of this month. Thankfully the Lord has provided new nursing travel assignments for both of us starting the end of February. (3 month contracts to work as temporary staff at a hospital) Heather will be back in San Francisco and I will be back in LA for at least 3 months. We are sad to split up the act again, but are so thankful for the time we have been together serving the Lord. It is really awesome to have had my sister here to serve with and just be with. I am so grateful for the wisdom the Lord has given her and how we both learn from each other. Keep praying for us as we head out into a new environment. We are heading from a blazing hot summer into Nepali winter. Tuesday’s weather is a high of 57 and we have been living in the high 90s. Although we are looking forward to some cool weather, pray we don’t get sick from the weather change. Keep praying for our friends in Soroti and Midigo. I will list a few other prayer requests at the end of the blog. We really appreciate all the prayer and support we have received from all of you. God has really done a lot and I know it is because of prayer! 

As 2017 is just beginning, my goal for this year and every year is simply this, 

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” – Hebrews 12:1-2

I pray that this would be your goal also as we begin this new year. I would encourage you to lay aside the things in your life that may be keeping you from walking strong. Lay aside things that are keeping you from fully surrendering to the Lord. It may seem like a huge sacrifice, but it is worth it. And if you really believe that God loves you, (as Heather talked about in the previous blog post) you will be able to trust him where ever he takes you. You will know that his love is a redeeming love and a love that wants what is best for you. It is a love that surpasses knowledge and with it comes perfect peace and sweet contentment no matter where you are or what your situation is. This my friends is worth more then all the money in the world. It is the one thing that satisfies the human craving for more. My prayer for all of you comes from Ephesians . The book we studied together as a family in Uganda. 

14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith-that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. – Ephesians 3:14-21

I will sign off with a reminder that was looked at last night from our last devotion together. 

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, – Ephesians 6:10-18

Love to you all,

Courtney
PS Here is a list of prayer requests

🔹The Nurses and Midwives will remember what we have taught them

🔹The hospital would continue to grow and to be self sustaining

🔹The church to flourish and keep preaching the word

🔹The new school of ministry that is starting up here

🔹In Midigo pray for the refuge situation, for unity in the church, and a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit

🔹Traveling mercies for us

🔹Wisdom and grace for whatever is ahead

🔹A smooth adjustment and no sickness

Happy New Year

Happy New Year! As 2017 has come I’ve been praying and thinking about what this new year holds. Every year you hear about people’s New Years resolutions. But this year and every year, I only want one thing and that is expressed perfectly in Ephesians 3:19 “and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” I’ve talked some in my previous posts (see post “To Know the Love of Christ“) about why knowing and understanding the love of Christ is so important. Today I want to focus on how the love of Christ changes us and ask you all to help me walk this out better this year. I have been studying God’s love for us quite a bit over the last 5 months. 1 John is one of my favorite combinations of the practical and theological aspects of God’s love. 

1 John 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.

8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.

10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.

14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.

15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.

16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world.

18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.

19 We love because he first loved us.
First off we see in verses 7 and 8 that we are called to love one another. But what is love? We see the answer to this in verses 9 and 10. First, we see that perfect love is sacrificial. God demonstrated His love for us in the sacrifice of Jesus for us on the cross. Second, we see that perfect love is unconditional. God loved us before we deserved it and before we loved Him back. In our culture today, there are 2 main problems with the way we view love, and particularly God’s love. The first problem is that we tend to see love as very performance driven. We carry this into our relationship with God as our Father. We feel His love is conditional. We feel His pleasure when we are obeying, but we feel His displeasure when we are being disobedient. When we are disciplined by the Lord or allowed to suffer the consequences of our sin, we tend to think that means that we are no longer loved or that we must do something good to counteract the sin and once again earn our place as God’s child. That thinking is exactly why it is so important to remember why God loves us. (I’ll talk about this in a min.)

The second problem within our culture is that we associate love with acceptance and approval of whatever someone desires to be or do. We are told that it is most loving to encourage people no matter what and to never discourage or discipline. But what God says in Hebrews 12 is that true love is so much more. True love is looking at the big picture of someone’s life and encouraging or exhorting them to do the things that will allow them to bring honor and glory to God. True love is discipling, exhorting, encouraging, faithful, and gracious. The things God asks of us and the rules He gives us are for our ultimate good and to protect us from harm. Obeying God is hard because it goes against our sinful nature, but God doesn’t leave us helpless. 

These two problems have distorted our view of love and thus distort the way we view God. But God’s love is different! 

As we continue in 1 John 4, we see in verses 11-12 that the practical application of knowing God’s love for us is that we in turn love each other. That means that we are to love those around us sacrificially and unconditionally. Not an enabling love, but an empowering love whose power comes from the Holy Spirit as stated in verse 13. 

Verses 14-15 remind us that when we receive Christ as Savior we become one with Him. Our old nature is gone and the new nature in Christ has come. 2 Cor 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

Verse 16 pretty much summarizes what I am trying to communicate. Knowing the love of God and allowing it to permeate our lives changes us. I’m reminded of 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 which says “For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” The love of God that has been given to me should take over and control my actions. It makes me one with Christ so that He lives my life. I no longer live for my own will and desires, but live out the will and desires of God! 

Verses 17-19 are beautiful conclusion that reminds us that the perfect love of God is not based in fear of punishment, but is based on reverence and a desire to please God from the gratitude and love within our hearts. 
I’ll end with a quote from Helen Roseveare “More and more, I have come to realise that love for my dear Lord and Saviour has to displace all other loves. Nothing else really counts. I must allow his love so to possess me that anything that hurts him hurts me. Equally, anything and everything that he loves, I am happy to love equally. But, even knowing this fact, I found it was not easy to let go of all else…Has he the power to enable us to give all these attitudes to him and to allow the Holy Spirit to deal honestly and truly with all that displeases him? I am not really asking ‘Has he enough power to do what needs to be done in me?’ but rather, ‘Have I enough grace and humility to acknowledge what I need and to allow him to make the necessary change?’ Yet I know that the needed grace and humility are his. And he certainly has enough of both to fulfil my need.”
My heart and prayer for this year is to know the love of Christ more and more so that I can be a pleasing aroma to Him and share His perfect unfailing love with everyone I meet! I pray that you too will know and be filled and captivated by this love!
Now for the update. Mary, our tetanus patient, went home a little over a week ago just before Christmas. We are thankful for her improvement, though she was discharged in order to go to her father’s funeral as he committed suicide. She didn’t have much of a relationship with him, but it’s still very sad and the family could use your prayers! Our premies that were discharged have continued to gain weight and we are thankful for that! Hopefully we will get to see them one more time before we leave. 

We have just one week before we fly out of Uganda to Nepal on Jan 9. We can’t believe how fast 5 months went! Please be praying for this week as we finish up at the hospital and spend time with our siblings. This place has become home and it feels a bit weird to be leaving, but both Courtney and I are excited for all that God has planned next. The details for the end of our trip have been changed many times in the last 5 months. The final result of all those changes are that we will now only be in Nepal for 2.5 weeks and will not going to India at all. Though things did not go how we thought, I have full confidence and peace in God’s perfect plans! He again is reminding us that He is in control and to just let go and trust Him. Even our time in Nepal is not completely planned as God has asked us to be flexible and allow Him to live through us. So, pray for us to listen well to His voice and obey as He speaks. We thank you all for your support of us throughout this trip and can’t wait to get home and tell you more in person!

Much love in Jesus,
Heather

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

Here is a short clip of her walking

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 😦

When Words Fail

As I sit on a small plane headed back to Entebbe (central Uganda) from Arua (Northern Uganda/West Nile) I just thought I would jot down my thoughts from our time here. It’s hard to put into words what is happening up here but I’m going to try! The past 2 weeks we have been in Midigo, a place very dear to our hearts. We have been coming to this area for over 15 years. We have many friends here who we consider family even though we only get to see them every few years. Senior Pastor Charles and his wife Levenia are our dear friends along with many others. We wish we had more time with them, but are so grateful for the time He allowed us to be there. The first 5 days of our trip were spent joining a team from Promise Child and Frontline Missions. We got to tag along with them as they were basically doing a surveying trip to see what kind of ministry would be possible to do in the newly formed refugee camps that are about an hour drive from Midigo. So we spent most of our time the first week in Bidi Bidi and Yoyo refugee camps. It was blessing but also a sobering and humbling experience. There is a very great need here. One that I know we can’t fill, but one I wish I could. It really breaks your heart to see the need and not be able to do much physically. Not only are there physical needs of food, water, and clothing but there are also great spiritual needs. People are dealing with the heartache of war and the trauma of seeing loved ones slaughtered. Depression and Post Traumatic Stress are common among most everyone I talked with. People are now beginning to get settled and into a new routine but the wounds of war and the need for spiritual peace are still very present. Calvary Chapel Midigo has been able to start a church there for the believers to fellowship. Our hope is that Christ’s love would heal these broken hearts. We know it is only through him that true peace can be found, and these people have left all behind in search of a peaceful life.
 One man, Steven, translated for us as we went and met with different families around the newly started church told us his story. He, his wife, and 4 children fled from Juba (the Capital of South Sudan). In South Sudan he was in the military on the side of the government, but as the war grew worse he took the rebel side because he felt the tribe in power was discriminating against all the other tribes. (Tribal wars are very common in this region and have been going on for centuries.) As they fled from Juba to Uganda they took nothing with them, not even their Bibles, except for some money to buy food with. They knew anything they brought with them would be taken away from them by soldiers. They traveled on foot for 3 weeks. Steven carried his 2 oldest children and his wife carried the younger 2. They slept in the bush every night plucking leaves from bushes and trees to make beds. Many times rain found them sleeping out in the open or walking. Once they made it to Nimule a city on the border they were able to get transport to the camp. They were then given a small plot of land some grass mats for sleeping or sitting on and tarps to put up temporary shelter until they could build their own huts. They are given beans and corn flour every 15 days. Steven, like many other refugees, has started a small garden to grow some greens to add to their diet. He and his family are grateful to God for keeping them alive and bringing them to a place where they feel safe and can start a new life. It’s not without its challenges though as often there is not enough water to go around, food is not abundant, and the children are often sick.
Steven’s story is the story of many of these refugees. It is stories like these that really touch your heart. You wish you could just stop the wars and end hunger but you can’t. Though we weren’t able to meet any physical needs we were able to sit down with these people and try to encourage them, but What could I even say to these people? How could I help them in the midst of all their suffering? I have no great wisdom or special ability. Who am I to even have to opportunity to sit with them? I am no one, but my God is some who can heal them, give them hope, and ease their suffering. I am thankful for the opportunity I had to just be with these people. We listened to their stories, and told them of Gods love. We played with their children, and saw huge smiles light up their faces. We sat with a young girl, and helped her prepare her greens for supper. I pray that we were able to encourage at least a few of these precious people. I have been in many different refugee camps and have been into the bush of Sudan several times. These people went from an over 50 year war between North and South to getting freedom from the North and having a few years of peace into a new war basically between Dinkas and all the other tribes of South Sudan. Most of these people have grown up not knowing anything but war in their homeland and have already lived as refugees at least once. The good thing about these particular camps is instead of just a tent and food the refugees are given a plot of land. This helps them to start to create a new normal, have their own space, and build their own houses (which are huts here). They are free to move around Uganda and start new lives here. Please continue to pray for our brothers and sisters in the camps. Pray that God will provide for these people and that they will see it as the Lord providing and not man! 

This week we spent time in the Midigo hospital. We were able to do 2 classes with all the medical staff. I went over the Nursing process, proper communication between healthcare workers, and physical assessment. Heather taught on Neonatal resuscitation. It was a great time with the staff and we really enjoyed teaching them. We were left wishing we had more time to be with them and do more education classes. After the classes we helped out around the ward. It was a blessing to be with our favorite nurse Sister Annette. She has been working up here for over 15 years now. Her face is lit with the joy of the Lord and she has the biggest heart of anyone I have ever met. She is truly an inspiration to us. It was good to meet the new staff as well and to catch up with our old friends there. As our time came to a close we hopped on a plane to go back to Kampala for our brother Anei Peter’s graduation. Next week we are headed back home to Soroti. Praise report: our Visas were extended until we leave with no charge! 🙌🏼 that was a huge blessing. Anyway sorry for the long post thanks for all the prayer and support. 

Love to you all,

Courtney


When Jesus Makes the Wheel Fall Off

Some think of this saying as a metaphor for life and hard times…but we actually mean it literally this time, but more on that later. This week in Kampala has been good. Some fun mixed with rest mixed with business and a little sickness. We took Majok to a movie theater for the first time and saw Queen of Katwe. (If you haven’t seen it and are wondering what like is like in Uganda, this movie is excellent!!) Charles and his family took us to a Ugandan museum and the wild life education center (the zoo). We ate some yummy food and lots of fruit and veggies since they aren’t readily available in Soroti. Majok got some business things done and we also got some necessary things done. Then Sunday we set off for the long drive to Midigo. It is usually a 10-12 hour drive, and the roads have improved so much that it’s really not too bad. Everything was going great and we even got to see some elephants cross the road in front of us, though Majok wasn’t so happy about that. (Part of the drive goes through one of the national parks.) We had been out of the park for about 30mins or so when there was a loud bang, the car jolted and we heard terrible scraping coming from the left front tire. God graciously allowed Charles to smoothly pull over to the side of the road. I thought we had blown a tire, but when we got out to look the ball joint holding the tire to the car had broken and the whole tire had quite literally fallen off! God was so good in that when the tire fell off, it got wedged beneath the car and saved us from losing control or flipping over! We are so thankful for His hand of protection over us. We immediately called people to come help us and for the police to come and guard us as well as direct the traffic around the car as we couldn’t quite get off the road. There is no AAA or tow trucks here, so instead we had to wait for friends to pick up a mechanic and the parts we would need to fix the vehicle. It took, oh, about 5 hours for them to get to us. (We were about 3 hours from the town they were coming from.) During our five hour wait no one was worried or upset. We were just hanging out and talking, though I’m sure Charles was a bit stressed with trying to figure everything out. Once things settled a bit, Levenia needed to find a toilet so she and Charles went to a house just off the road to ask if they could use theirs. (By toilet I mean a latrine, a building with hole in the ground) Charles sat and talked with the husband while he waited for Levenia. The husband had told Charles his children were sick and when Levenia came back he asked if he could pray for them. The husband readily agree, but as soon as Charles began praying, wife began rolling on the ground and growling and grabbing at them, clearly acting demon possessed . Charles and Levenia prayed for Jesus to free her from this demon. We could hear the commotion back at the car and began praying as we figured out what was going on. Once the demon had left and the woman returned to her senses, Charles was able to share the gospel and both of them accepted Jesus as their Savior. Immediately the family began to tell the neighbors what had happened. As the woman explained to them she said that she heard the demons say, “why have you brought these people here to disturb us! Let’s beat this woman before we flee!” And that is when she fell on the ground. Even the police officer who came to check on the commotion was amazed at the power of God. Jesus literally had our tire fall off to bring His salvation to this family and prayerfully more through them! They are in a rural village, so discipleship will be hard, but Charles got their numbers so that he can keep in touch and continue to encourage them in Jesus. Please pray with us for this family that God would fill them and that they would be able to learn more and follow Jesus faithfully! Our small detour was so worth 2 souls! By the time our friends and the mechanic reached us it was about 11:30pm. We then had to wait for them to fix the car which took another 3 hours. Finally around 1:45am the car was fixed and we finally arrived in Midigo around 7:45am without further incident!
We were all exhausted from not really sleeping all night and sadly didn’t make it to church, but in the afternoon we spent time with Pastor Brent and his team (including a couple of our Nepali friends!) just walking around the town and greeting people. Court and I have been brushing up on our Lugbara (the local language) and I am happy to report that the children understood the few phrases I was using! I do love this village as it was the first place in Uganda to steal my heart!
In our devotion time tonight one of the guys, Tony, shared from Exd 3:7-12 about God calling Moses. He reminded us that God can take anything even a stick and use it for His glory. As I was reading, God spoke to my heart in verses 11-12…”11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” 12 He said, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.” There are two key phrases that I want to point out. The first is “Who am I…” Moses is standing before God and saying who am I that I should be your messenger and used to deliver your people? Why me? The most interesting part for me is how God answered Moses’ question. Which is the second phrase “But I will be with you…” God didn’t build Moses up or give him a pep talk to build up his self-esteem. He didn’t tell him, “wow, you are so great and you can do this!” No, God knew that Moses couldn’t do it nor was He the most gifted person for the task. In fact what’s interesting is that God didn’t really even answer Moses’ question. He just told him, “I will be with you…” What God spoke to my heart in that moment is that it’s not about who I am, but it’s ALL about who God is and that fact that He is WITH me! I think we often are asking the wrong question when God is asking us to be His instruments. We feel we need to be someone or something. We are so self-focused and don’t think God can use us or we think we are so great that He should use us. The reality is that we are nothing, but when God is with us we have everything and nothing can stop us. We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us! It was a beautiful reminder once again that all God needs from us is surrender. He will do the rest, we just need to let Him have His way with us!

Laying at His Feet,
Heather

To Know the Love of Christ

The other day my dear friend Hollie and I had a conversation that has stuck with me and has had me thinking and studying further. Here’s a small excerpt of our conversation, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye.- Psalm 32:8

‘Eyes up here.’ – God 
I love this verse. I feel like every time I read it, God is like- Hollie, what are you looking around for? Why are you looking so intently at yourself, trying to fix it? Why are you looking for direction in this environment, in this situation? Why are you looking to your fellow humans- they don’t know!…how can He instruct me with His eye, unless I’m looking RIGHT AT HIM…do you know how IMPOSSIBLY DIFFICULT it is to look Love Himself in the face?”

 That last line of looking Love Himself in the face is what I have been chewing on this last week. What does it mean to look Love (Jesus) in the face?
A few days after that conversation we had our sibling devotion time in Ephesians 3:14-21. I was particularly struck with verse 17-19…that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Do you see what I saw? God’s love is incomprehensible to the human mind and we need His strength to know it!! Ok, so how does this tie in with looking Love in the face? It is said that the eyes are the window to the soul. If we are looking at Jesus and seeing Him in truth, we will be able to see His love for us. Knowing God is knowing love because God is love. 1 John 4:16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
God calls us to have our eyes up and focused on Him, on Love (Heb 12:1-2, Psalm 121:1, etc), but we can’t do it. We can’t keep our eyes looking up on our own. Hollie gave me a great statistic that supports this fact, “The average time a human is comfortable holding eye contact in Western culture is 3.2 seconds.” Yup, that pretty much sums up my human ability to keep my eyes on Jesus…3.2 seconds and then my sin condemns me, or the world distracts me, or my circumstances discourage me. It’s so so hard to keep our eyes up and focused on Love. In fact, it is impossible for us as humans to comprehend the love of Christ, to lift our heads and our eyes to Him. So, how can we do it? God…it is He who gives us the grace and the strength to know Him and His love! That is why Paul prays for the Ephesians to have strength to know the love of Christ. It is why the psalmist says “But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.” Psalm 3:3. 
So now the questions is how does asking God to lift our eyes to look at Him and know Love help us? Well for one thing, knowing the love of Christ fills us “with all the fullness of God” according to Ephesians 3:19. It causes us to trust God and know the way we should walk according to Psalm 143:8 Cause me to hear Your lovingkindness in the morning, For in You do I trust; Cause me to know the way in which I should walk, For I lift up my soul to You. It reminds us of our frailty and His power in Isaiah 40:26 Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name, by the greatness of his might, and because he is strong in power not one is missing.
Have you ever had an experience of reasoning with a young child (yours or someone else’s) about why you want them to do something? You try to explain why it’s good for them and why you are asking them to do it, but they just keep arguing like they know what’s best. It’s frustrating, right? You just want to tell them, “If you understood just how much I love you and want your good, you would just trust me and do what I’m telling you to do!” Now, God has way more patience than we do, but He tells us the very same thing! Over and over these last few months God has been gently scolding me, “Heather, if you could just understand and believe how much I love you then obedience wouldn’t be hard, sacrifice wouldn’t be hard, trusting me to lead you wouldn’t be hard, loving others unconditionally wouldn’t be hard!” Sigh, but it is hard! I’m not grasping His love as quickly as I want and sometimes that leaves me discouraged. But again Jesus reminds me “Look up! Don’t look at what you can’t do or what you haven’t grasped, look at ME!” I must remember and cling to Ephesians 3:20 “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,” His power in me is teaching me to look at Him longer and to know His love deeper and fuller. As I continue to trust in His ability to work in me, I will grow and I will know Him and His love more and more! So my dear brothers and sisters, look up and behold the One who’s love for you is steadfast and never failing, and then let His love consume you!
Psalm 34:4 I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. 5 Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.

Also, please be in prayer for a sad baby that was delivered in our hospital in Soroti today. She has severe hydrocephalus, bilateral cleft lip and palate, and some other defects. She is stable currently. The plan is to let the mother recover for a few days and then send them to a hospital in Mbale where they do shunts and cleft lip and palate repairs. It’s hard to know what the prognosis will be. Please pray for the baby and the family. The mom has been trying for a baby for a long time, so this is hard and sad for them. 💔 Also pray for the nurses as they care for this baby for the next few days!

-Heather

From Soroti to Jinja to Kampala to Midigo: An Update on Life in the Pearl of Africa

Hi everyone,Just wanted to give you all an update on what is going on with us in Uganda! All our NICU babies are home now. Baby Alice Benesther our 34 weeker is doing well has caught on to breastfeeding and is getting bigger. Our 32 week twins, Apio and Acen (pronounced “a-chin”), went home a week ago. They came back on Monday for a check up and had gained some weight but also had just pulled out their NG tubes. The Dr decided to send them home with out them and to see how they would do. They came back on Friday for their check up and had lost weight. Please keep praying that they start eating better and gaining weight again. We wish we could keep these babies at the hospital until they can eat on their own like we do in the US but parents can’t afford the hospital bill. 

Alice Benesther at home


Heather and I with Apio, Acen, and Alice


Our newest premie came in on Thursday at 9 days old. He was born at 30 weeks and his name is Joseph. He was born at a different hospital weighing 1.1 kg (2lb 7 oz) he was sent home at about 7 days old with a NG tube for feeding and weighed 1.03kg (2lb 4oz). Parents were referred to our hospital after the baby pulled out his NG and appeared to have difficulty breathing. When he came in he was stable but very malnourished. He was not getting enough calories to grow. We put the tube back in and got him started breastfeeding. He went home the next day. We think he will do well as long as he gets enough milk. 

This week we will be getting 2 bags from the US filled with lots of goodies that you all donated for our hospital and our NICU specifically! Just thinking about it makes our nurse hearts rejoice. We are so blessed by and grateful for everyone’s generosity with the donations. We even got some donations from a few different NICU hospitals across the US. 3rd world nursing is an interesting, challenging, and rewarding thing. Flexibility is key because you have no where near the resources that you are used to and most of your supplies need to be washed and then reused for the next patient. Their is no room for waste. People die from things that are easily or at least successfully treated back home. I can definitely say when I go back to work at home I might have some culture shock from the over abundance of supplies and the amount of things we waste and take for granted. As much as the pharmacy in a hospital at home can drive me crazy (when I get my meds delivered late or have to keep calling to get what I want), I will be very grateful when I don’t have to mix my own D10 from D50 and D5. And when I can have a nice 1L bag of fluids instead of a plastic 500ml bottle that leaks all over the floor no matter how much you try to stop it. It will be a dream when I can run to the supply room to see a plethora of syringe sizes available and that they don’t break so easily! I could really keep going, but I think you get he idea. So that is what makes us so excited for everything that is coming! We really can’t thank everyone who has donated enough! Our goal is to get this NICU running and all the training done before we leave in January. 

Mixing D10 in plastic leaky bottles


Everything at my parent’s house waiting to get packed


We also want to say a big thank you to our home church, Calvary Chapel San Juan Capistrano, who did a fundraiser for us last weekend! Also a huge thank you to Bad to the Bone who donated all the food!! (If you haven’t been there you need to go! Our personal favorite is the Jalapeno burger, but everything is really yummy!) We are so blessed by everyone’s generosity! The money will help cover the cost of bringing the bags of NICU supplies and some other expenses that have come up since we did our original budget.

This weekend we are headed to Kampala with our brother Majok for our sister Lydia’s parent visitation/meeting at her school. Yesterday we took a local bus to Jinja. We were the only mzungus (white people) on the bus. It was a bit bumpy but a good experience. We had a fun touristy day. We went to the source of the Nile. This is where the White Nile River begins it eventually joins the Blue Nile in Sudan and makes its way to Egypt! This spot is particularly unique because about 30% of the water bubbles up from an underground spring. It’s been about 10 years since I’ve been to this spot and Heather had never been there. It’s a very beautiful, peaceful place with a lot of birds, monitor lizards, and even some river otters . We enjoyed some yummy food at Java House. Not only is it a treat to get American style food, but what makes it even better is that the service is so fast! So we get our food in 20-30 minutes instead of an hour to two hours or more:) (it’s the little things that really get us excited some times) 



In other news, we are headed up to Northern Uganda later this week to work in a small rural town called Midigo. Heather and I have been there many times and we really love these people and are excited to get to see some of our old friends. In this area there has been a recent influx of South Sudanese refugees. In the last few months a small village, called Bidi Bidi, with mostly farming and cattle land have received about 160,000 people. Most of these are women and children. A lot of children have been orphaned.(Here is an article from the Washington post about what is going on https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2016/10/28/three-months-ago-it-was-a-tiny-ugandan-village-now-its-the-worlds-fourth-largest-refugee-camp/ ) South Sudan is near and dear to our hearts as our siblings are from there and we have done a lot of work there over the years. Please be in prayer for these people for health, food, comfort, and safety. The need is truly overwhelming but we know that God is a God of miracles. Be in prayer for us as we minister to them. We will be up there for about 2 weeks and will be serving with a team from Calvary Chapel West Grove including one of our friends from Nepal. It’s such a blessing to see the body of Christ come together to serve! Also, internet access is not very good up there so we might not be updating as frequently.

We appreciate all the love, support, and prayers. Please continue to pray for us as we follow where the Lord Leads.

-Courtney
Prayer Requests
Good health, wisdom, guidance , and endurance for us 

Sudanese Refugees-health, food, comfort, and safety

That our NICU babies would continue to grow and do well

That the staff at the hospital would continue to have a desire to learn and grow

Our sister Abong Lydia to do well in school.

Our brother Majok Abraham to find the job God would have for him

Our brother Anei Peter as he goes back for Med school in January 

Our brother Santino Aguer that he would have a desire to follow after Christ and be responsible 

I am not Amazing

Rom 7:18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.

I’ve been seeing and hearing people say things like, “You guys are amazing and doing amazing work.” Sometimes it feels like people set us apart into some special category that they will never reach. But I’m here to tell you the truth…I am not amazing! I struggle against sin everyday. I often make poor choices and I can be quite selfish. You see lots of beautiful moments in pictures, and those moments are beautiful…but you don’t see my tired moments where I am cranky with Courtney or when I really would just rather stay in bed a bit longer! I am no different than any other human, except one thing…there is one thing that has made a difference in my life. It’s the one thing that can force me out of bed and can change my bad attitudes and gives me the love that makes me willing to sacrifice everything. What is that one thing? It’s Jesus! He is the only good in me and His Spirit working through me brings forth beauty!

As human beings we long to find acceptance, belonging, and love. We seek to be beautiful and whole and to have purpose and meaning. Yet, most of the time all this world gives us is brokenness and rejection. No one is alone in this. Every human on this planet has experienced some level of brokenness or rejection. Though you may see a reflection of “perfection,” many are hurting and seeking to find their place just like you. This world has taught us that life is like a carnival house of mirrors. If you find just the right mirror and just the right angle, you can hide who you really are and reflect something the world calls “beautiful.” The problem with this is that it is a distorted beauty. The image we have projected is a lie. Even if we earn people’s affection and attention with it, we are still left feeling lonely and afraid of what could happen if someone wanders through the maze and finds the “real me.” Sometimes we have done such a good job of hiding who we really are that we even deceive ourselves into believing the lies. But what Jesus offers is freedom! He offers you to be set free from the burden of trying to reflect perfection and instead just reflect Him! You see, from the beginning humanity was created to be reflectors or mirrors of God’s image. This is our true identity!

Adam and Eve’s sin in the garden brought brokenness and death to this world. But the amazing part is the story doesn’t end there! God sent Jesus to live a perfect life and to take the punishment for our sin by dying the death we deserved. Now, all we have to do is accept the forgiveness that He offers! I can tell you from experience that Jesus is real and true and changes lives! I can tell you that knowing Him and knowing that I am completely and perfectly loved by Him is what drives me to do what I do. It’s all Him! It’s all His work! I am simply His vessel.

My prayer as I share pictures and stories is not that you will look at me with awe or praise the works of my hands, but that you will see my Savior and that it’s HIS amazing work! Most of all, I pray that if you don’t know the love Jesus has for you, that you will seek to know it! And if you need help, I would be happy to introduce you to Him!

1 John 3:1 See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. 

Much love,

-Heather