Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Home and alive

Quick update.. (wow, two in two days, are you impressed?), I've actually made it back to the UK, and with very long braided red and purple hair. I had a lot of positive comments in Uganda (including a few enquiries as to whether I'm married based solely on the hair) but it'll be interesting to see what people's reactions will be in England.
A couple of examples so far would be my dad with 'Wow, very African', and my mum with 'Oh my GOD!' (that was actually the first thing she said when she opened the door when I arrived home). We'll see what the next few days bring and I'll let you know.

The only culture shock I've had so far has been a getting very confused that it was 9.30pm and still light outside. I had honestly thought it was 6.30pm!

On a more serious note, these next few months will be a very busy time of working at my old school in June-July, searching for temporary work for August and preparing and fundraising for Connect, which will start in September in Birmingham. For more information on the Connect programme click here. I have to raise at least £8,500, which is a pretty daunting amount and I'm rather nervous about what lies ahead, but I'm trusting that God has lead me this far and has always provided, so He will continue to do so because He is faithful. Phew!

Update: I just want to boost the amount of people who see this post here - Calling all hairstylists. A very good friend of mine wants to train to cut mzungu (white people's) hair as there are no jobs really anywhere! So if you're a mission-orientated hairdresser, or know any, have a look and spread the word!
Update #2: Having been into work, my mum is still the only person who doesn't like my hair.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Goodbye Africa.. for now

Well I'm here in Uganda, two days after I was supposed to leave! My flight was cancelled (again, the previous one was as well) and I was rebooked for this Monday. Hopefully I'll actually make it home this time. It's frustrating as I needed to start work at SMRT on Monday and will now miss at least one day, and my birthday is on Wednesday and I won't have time to organise anything!

So these will be my final greetings from Africa for at least a little while.. I'll be back here as soon as humanly (or Godly) possible, but until then, I'll be in Birmingham. Yes, it's official! I'm moving to Birmingham, not Glasgow, to work with the Navs there. I'll keep updating this blog about my journey towards career missions in Africa.

I'm very excited about what God has in store for this next stage.. please keep praying :)

Friday, 4 June 2010

June newsletter

Lou’s Prayer
Letter
‘Declare his glory among the nations, his marvellous deeds among all peoples. For great is the LORD and most worthy of praise.’ Psalm 96:3-4 !

Dear Friends, This will be my last newsletter from Uganda, though not my last ever. I feel like I should try to summarise my time here, but that would mean this would end up pages and pages long, as there’s no way to fit it into any kind of concise document..! So instead I’ll try and give you an overview of this last month or so, and where God seems to be pointing me for the next stage in my career in missions.

During this last couple of months I had to both settle in and prepare to leave, and it’s quite a feat to do both at once! Settling back in was surprisingly easy, considering the change in living situation and my altered attitude to life in Uganda after the circumstances that brought me home in March. God has surrounded me with His presence, so though I have been through a few spiritual struggles, His comforting Spirit has never left me and this has made the transition far easier. However, I’ve certainly lost any vestige I may have had of a rose- tinted view of Africa since February, but in it’s place has come a greater love for Africa despite it’s flaws. It’s a romantic, exotic place, but great evils do happen here (just like on any other continent). I now have personal experience of this, but God has used this to increase my desire to live and work here and try to be His messenger of salvation to its people.

Most of my classes have now ended. The university students have finished and gone for holidays or to work, but we did have a fun-filled end-of-term party at our house for all the girls we worked with the day before most of them left (see picture below). I introduced them to the wonders of pass-the-parcel, ‘Squeak piggy squeak’ and The Chocolate Game, and they all went down pretty well with enough squealing and giggling to wake the dead! Both university groups will continue to meet next term, in August, and I am praying either for someone else to come and continue dedicated discipleship of these girls or (ideally) for them to begin discipling one another as peers. I will be sitting down with the leader of the Navs discipleship class before I leave to discuss implementing more formal discipleship relationships (possibly groups) between the students, which is very exciting and I’m so sad I won’t be around to see it happen!

I have one more discipleship class with the GETS girls (a formal, full-time discipleship programme for school leavers – Girls Empowered To Serve) before I leave, and I have the joy of handing that over to an intern from the US who is here until their programme finishes.

This is my last week in the lab, though I wish I could have much more time, as there is so much more to learn. My final department has been DNA PCR, which is the procedure used to test whether children under 18 months have HIV. During my time at the lab I have become proficient or had some experience in the following: DNA PCR, CD4 cell counts, haematology (including, importantly, malaria testing), phlebotomy, urinology and TB microscopic testing. There are a couple of other things I have to try to fit into this week, but I now have a wide range of skills under my belt, and I praise God so much for the opportunity of working at this lab.

Two weeks ago Helen, a research technician from Southampton who’s working in the AIM office in Kampala, joined me and it was great not to be the only white in the lab for once. People had to use my name for a change instead of just calling me ‘muzungu’..

Next week I may have the opportunity to visit a couple of other HIV ministries that AIM works with,including a very basic clinic ministry on the Ssese Islands on Lake Victoria and the large Mildmay hospital in Kampala. These are on opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to size, funding and equipment so I’m looking forward to possibly visiting them and getting an idea of other types of HIV ministries within Uganda.

I’ve been struggling a bit with being over-tired, so I’ve had to prioritise how I use my time and whom I see. This will be especially difficult this week as I need to say goodbye to as many people as possible as well as go to work, teach a class and pack up everything to leave for Kampala at the weekend. I’m hoping this tiredness won’t follow me to the UK, as I fly back on a Friday and start a summer job on the Monday. Thankfully, this past weekend has been a mini-holiday during which I travelled to Jinja to go white water rafting on the Nile (an early birthday present from my parents – thanks!) and stay at Mto Muyoni resort to visit Yvonne, another short-termer with AIM I know from my orientation in Nottingham. That’s her with me in the picture.

In September I will begin an internship with the Navigators in either Birmingham or Glasgow (I’ll find out very soon where I end up and what kind of student ministry I will be involved in). This will be a year of additional training before going back out to Africa on long-term mission. I will use the year to apply to mission agencies to become a long-term member (a long process often lasting up to a year) and do the required Biblical studies, but the bulk of my time will be spent working with a student ministry. This will involve discipling students as well as going through intense discipleship and development myself, to prepare me for the mission field. The Connect programme has been described as ‘hard but good’ and I’m looking forward to it with excitement but also trepidation! I am considering this the second step towards long-term mission (this year having been the first) and it will also require me to live on gift income and prayers. More information to follow shortly..

I would like to thank all of you for your support. Thank you for sending me to this place, and I am so glad that God chose to bring me to Africa by relying on you. You are all dear to me, and I have been well aware of the fruits of your prayers in the past year. I would like to humbly ask that you please continue!

Please praise for:
  - The time I have spent here, though sometimes an intense struggle, as it has increased my love for the
people of Africa and my desire to return here 
- The students at the university I have had the privilege to work with, that they will disciple one another
and live lives that proclaim God’s glory 
- The lab I work at, for it’s unceasing work with HIV patients even in these hard financial times 
- The AIM team and all the missionaries working to aid development in Mbarara and make the Lord’s
name known in this nation
Please pray for: 
- An increased awareness of the truth of the Gospel in Mbarara, that people would seek Jesus for Himself
and not for earthly riches 
- That I can balance my time effectively in this last couple of weeks, including possible ministry visits,
packing and goodbyes 
- My preparation for the Navigators Connect programme beginning in September and possible reverse
culture shock when returning home
Thank you! Blessings, Lou