Saturday, 23 January 2010

Bristol-Ankole link visit

On Tuesday of this week I had a wonderful visit from a group from a group who'd come to Uganda with the Bristol diocese, as there is a long-established link between the church of Uganda and the diocese of Bristol. They stopped in Mbarara just to see me, and after getting hold of a kettle and almost enough chairs, I was able to serve them tea and coffee in my little living room. Their visit was a real blessing, to know that people who've never met me could go to so much effort to visit me and show their support. It was also pretty refreshing to meet new mzungus!

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Settling back in

After having been home for a whirlwind spell of 2 weeks, including a three day trip to Iceland (for Dad's 60th), coming back to Mbarara meant I was, ironically, looking forward to a bit of a rest. I got that at the AIM conference in Jinja, staying at the beautiful Mto Muyoni and going to Kingfisher resort every day for conference, and as it also had a pool, there were a few times when the more boring sessions (business, policy etc..) required missing to make time for a dip before dark. Shaking off the remains of the snow in my bones with some choice sunbathing also did the trick!

There was a great speaker, Rene Schlaepfer (yes, his real name, and he is a he). I was a little dubius when he spent most of his first talk making us laugh and cry almost at the same time, but not looking at the Bible much, but it turned into a v refreshing course learning about how Biblical characters dealt with problems like stress, pressure, huge tasks and self esteem. Nothing intense, but plenty of reminders of God's faithfulness and how we should remember we can't do anything without Him (but can do amazing things with Him).

The conference had a sad note in that we heard of the loss of baby Amy while we were there. This was especially hard for the Ward family as they had cared for her for two months and weren't able to be back in time for her funeral. We took the time to have a small memorial between ourselves, and thanked God for her life and the time we got to spend with her.

Now I'm settling back into life in Mbarara, though it's not quite 'normal' as the students aren't back yet so there's not tonnes to do in the evenings yet. I've managed to catch up with two of the girls already, in Kampala and here, and it was lovely to see them but reminded me how much I miss them all. 6 weeks is a really long holiday for a mid-year holiday! They're likely to either come back refreshed or worn out by family time, so we're going to try and have a big get-together as soon as possible so they can chill out and have some fun before settling back into uni life.

Church will start back up then, too (yes, it stopped while the students were away, as not many other types of people attend!) and I'm planning on joining the choir, which should be brilliant fun but a challenge at the same time. I'm more interested in spending social time with the choir than the music, mainly as a lot of it focusses too much on what God does for us rather than praising Him for who He is. That, and the sound system is so loud it's hard to hear them most of the time! I'll need stamina for it, too, as they start at 9.30am on Sunday and go non-stop until 11 (the service starts at around 10.30). I may moan, but I am excited (why else would I join if I'm just going to complain?), as I already know about half the choristers from Saturday girl studies and Navs, and this will be valuable time to spend with them all in a less formal context (i.e. I won't be leading).
My personal crusade to see the music more God-centred may see fruit and may not, we'll see if He has that in mind!

Work has started back well, and it's lovely to see all the staff again. We've settled back into daily friendly banter and I'm frequently targeted by a humour I can't always understand! I have a new timetable, which will see me learning more about malaria and TB as well as the hi-tech stuff I'm doing now, and I'll also be moving around the clinic to understand better how it all works. My machine is driving me around the bend, and as soon as one thing is fixed, another goes wrong. I don't know how Emily (the only staff member in the immunology dept and also the head of the lab) gets everything done, as even with me there doing all the lab work she doesn't leave until 6 some days. I'll be sad to leave her to all that again, but I really do need to start rotating.
Tomorrow my day will include de-rubbishing the lab computer, as it's stuffed full of viruses, stupid game  downloads and other misc junk, and apparently I'm the only person who knows how to do that sort of thing!

Thank you so much for keeping me in your prayers. Prayer letter is finished and should be out soon! Right now I'm heading to the market to see if I can find some nice t-shirts for under 60p.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

In memory of our beautiful little girl, Amy Jerusalem

Last week, during conference, we heard the news that Amy, the wonderful little baby who had been fostered by the Ward family, had died following severe dehydration and an unknown infection. She was HIV+.
We had Amy with us for a little under two months, and although she was with the Wards, she was a daughter to all of us and will be missed by many.
Amy was abandoned in a sports bag in the children's ward at my hospital when she was roughly two months old. She had no sucking reflexes so had never been well fed. The wards and the rest of us, her family, made sure to give her enough hugs to make up for her time without them, and though her time with us was short, it was sweet.
We tested her for HIV as soon as possible, and (praise be to God) thanks to my job at the HIV clinic we were able to rush her results through and make sure she got the care she needed as soon as we could.
Amy brought us closer together as a team, and was a little missionary herself as we had some of the british but non-christian staff at the hospital praying for her.
On new year's day she was passed over to the Kehns, her adoptive parents, but she had already been admitted to hospital that week and was back again when she stopped eating.
Please pray for the team as we handle this tragedy together, and especially for the Wards and the Kehns. We know now that her pain has ended and she's snuggling into Jesus' shoulder, but we are greatly feeling her loss. Please also pray for the new babies we will be recieving soon, and for any family who feels so poor and unable to handle life that they need to abandon their baby.

Above all we remember the Lord's sovreignity, and praise Him for the time we were able to spend with Amy Jerusalem, and be her family.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Back home in Mbarara

Well, I was just about to sit down and write out a new year prayer letter, but the power's gone out and I only have 4 mins left on my laptop before the battery goes out. So I'm going to bullet point some of the contents so everyone out there can know I'm still alive and excited about these next few months in Uganda:

- I'm back!
- Work starts tomorrow and we're starting a new drug trial which means double work for everyone
- I'll be joining the choir at St Luke's (my church) as soon as the students come back at the end of January
- Have just come back from the AIM central region conference in Jinja, and spent some time thinking about what it means to be a long term missionary, and talking to some real live ones
- We're thinking of moving as we had a burglery over the holidays
- There are also some more sensitive things which are deserving than just a bullet point.

Please pray we have power back within a week!

Sunday, 3 January 2010

In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps

It's been a few weeks since I updated this blog, sorry! This is mainly because I left Uganda on the 19th to come home for Christmas, and I didn't really think many people would be interested in my UK-based Christmas. But my time here in the last two weeks has actually helped me interpret my time in Uganda, and God has given me a lot to think about. Returning home about a third of the way through my time in Uganda gave me time to process how things are going so far and what everything that's going on right now means for my future.

I've been thinking a lot about what it means to 'feel at home'. Of course I feel at home in Bristol, it's where my family and some of my closest friends are, and where I lived the first 18 years of my life. It's the ground from which I launched into 'grown-up life', and God used my childhood here to teach me huge amounts about himself and where he's pointing me to go. But once I'd settled into life in Uganda, I felt for the first time that this is where I should be. I'm happy and comfortable, and although there have been times when it's been really, really hard, and some big sacrifices have been made, all those experiences have placed me somewhere where I really feel 'at home'. The person I am, that I was created to be, fits here, like a piece in a puzzle. I am still a great sinner, and my rebellion against God has contributed to the hard times, but as he shapes me I slip more and more into a comfort and a peace that knows no words, a peace that passes all understanding, and reassures me that 'His ramparts are ever before me' and I am sitting in the palm of His hand.

Basically, all this translates into 'I want to be here forever'. I don't think 'here' is Uganda, 'here' is a much more general 'Africa', but it's not just location, it's vocation and the types of relationships I have here. I love being in a team of missionaries who are working together yet all doing different jobs. I love the relationships I have with Ugandans, where we learn from each other and laugh at our differences and see God in some similar and some totally different ways. I love working in the lab, not doing research but performing tests that will each make a difference to a person's health, and being a valued member of the team there, where my skills are valued and useful. I want to learn more and more so that eventually I can teach lab skills and disciple and be discipled by the people of Africa. God has shaped me and put me here and though it can be hard and stressful and sometimes plain odd, I'm home.

If you know me you'll know that I've always loved Africa and more and more recently I've talked about moving here long term or even forever. But doing real life here has cemented those desires, and not blown them out of the water. And I'm even more sure now of the vocation I will have here, that of a lab technologist (not a researcher) and missionary.

The implications of this are that I have little need for my fourth year of university, as I already have all the skills and knowledge base I need to work in an African clinical lab. I have need for more biblical training, and I'm swaying towards the idea of AIM's TIMO (Training in Missionary Outreach) - a two year course living in an unreached people group and doing biblical studies and practical mission, or the Navigator Connect course, a discipleship course with very good biblical training based in Glasgow. Or Bible college. All very different options.. Please pray, as these are all very big thoughts for a little person like me, and I'll need God guiding my steps as I make my plans!