This is the blog post I wrote during one of my last few days in Uganda.

I’m going to take you back to Thanksgiving Day, last Thursday, before Melanie (aka Melon) and Emma left. Kim took Melon to the hospital on Wednesday while Emma and I stayed at Nansana to hand out T-shirts and we all prayed that Melon would get well enough to go to Namayumba on Thursday.

The students at Nansana were so incredibly grateful to receive their blue T-shirts, and it was really cool to see all of them wandering around the compound in the exact shirts we wear back home. This is true of the tie-dye cross shirts as well, but I must be too familiar with that sight. This one struck me in a different way. Segawa told us it would be a good idea to spend the night at Namayumba so we packed our backpacks and headed over.

When we arrived everyone was preparing for the big day, cleaning the compound and making decorations with flowers and balloons. Segawa wanted the event to be held in the main hall, a large unfinished room that will be used for national exams and big events like graduations and meetings. We built a stage in out of bricks, dirt, and a tarp. We made a long line from the window of the main hall to the pile of bricks behind the classrooms, about 50 yards away, and threw 400 bricks to each other one at a time. It was so fun! It was like a game except if you dropped the brick, it would smash on your feet and hurt. After we had stacked the bricks and constructed a short stage, we carried dirt in sacks and a wheelbarrow to pile on top to create a smooth surface for the students to act and dance on. That night the Namayumba choir sang for us and the drama club practiced. Robinah, Zainah, and Nashim helped us get water to wash our hair (a ridiculous spectacle) and then put us to bed. I don’t know how the students stayed awake the next day: they were up singing and dancing half the night!

The next morning, Thanksgiving Day, we rose with the students at 6:30 for prayers, which is a half hour of singing, reading Bible verses and praying. It’s the best way to start a day. Elijah split us all up into different groups to clean EVERYTHING. Emma and I helped clean the lawn, picking up leaves and twigs and garbage. Oh, I forgot to say that all day Wednesday and in the evening I had been using Segawa’s phone to call the hospital to speak to Kim. The diagnoses varied throughout the day, everything from brain swelling and imminent death to aftereffects of malaria and she’ll be fine tomorrow. We found out around 8 pm that she would be released early in the morning and that they would, God willing, both make it to Namayumba on Thursday. Moses picked them up around 9 and they arrived at 11. It was supposed to start at 10 but eh, it’s Uganda.

Thanksgiving Day was AMAZING. Students from Nansana and Namayumba performed dances and sang songs. Students from Royal Junior Academy, led by a man named Joseph, also performed. I’ll talk about that school a little more later: we visited them earlier this week. We all laughed during the drama club’s performance, particularly at Sarah Namuli and Dan Musisi, who played a very funny duo as mother and son. The story of the drama followed Lindah Naluwembe, the girl I sponsor (my daughter), and her trials as a poor girl trying to avoid marriage to an old man and pay for her school fees. The story ended with her attending Segawa’s school and getting sponsored by the Christian Drama School. Segawa made a wonderful speech about the progress of the school. He brought out on stage all the students who were sponsored in chronological order. It was really cool to see 40 students on stage, sponsored by the Christian Drama School. I think all four of us felt moved by the visual representation of the work CDS has done. It’s one thing to see the building or the water tank CDS raised money to build, and quite another to look at the students. I know it was really rewarding for Kim, after everything she’s been through these past few months.

All of us muzungus made speeches and the reverend from Mama Eva’s church prayed over all the Namayumba students. When the parents and guardians left, the DJ played music and we danced with the kids until we were sweating through Mama Eva’s gomes (the traditional dress of Bugandan women). Darkness fell and dust swirled up through us until we were choking on it but we couldn’t stop dancing: we were having too much fun! Even Melon, who could barely walk the day before, was dancing like crazy. It was the perfect ending to a perfect day.

We spent Friday in Nansana and travelled to Kampala with Job to buy gifts and paintings from the craft fair (we are planning to sell them for Heart for People). Melon haggled with the sellers like she had been doing it all her life: it was so entertaining to watch. We went back to talk to the artists together. I picked out a painting, turned to her with an eyebrow raised, and she would start arguing to lower the price. I really missed her when we went back and I had to try haggling on my own!

That night we acted out a boisterous rendition of Peter Pan. A Little Princess was a fairly calm, uplifting performance. Peter Pan was simply insane. We had a lot of girls so Wendy’s brothers, John and Michael, became Joan and Michaela, played by Jemimah and Vivian. Tendo, our resident actress, played Wendy. David (the little brother of Daniel and Florence) was Peter Pan, though he was much more interested in fighting Captain Hook (Kim) with flashlights than listening to the narrator (me). Efa, our Irish volunteer, was an amazing Tinkerbell and Carly and Emma were pirates and Indians. It turns out all of us are completely insane. Emma, Carly, and Kim entertained us all with their singing and dancing to Pirates of Pinzance, Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything (Veggie Tales) and Pirates of the Caribbean. My favorite part was when everything was clapping and screaming “I DO BELIEVE IN FAIRIES! I DO! I DO!” and the joy in the children’s faces when Efa jumped up alive!

On Saturday we worshipped at Namayumba. Melon slept most of the day in the office: it was worrisome how weak she was. But it was wonderful and so uplifting to sing with all the students. All the older ones and most of the younger ones have the music memorized. They will just raise their hands to whomever is leading worship, say the number of the song, and the leader will sing the first line so they are all on pitch, and then they’ll start. We took a picture of each student holding a piece of paper with their name on it and videotaped them saying their name and something about themselves: they all ended up just saying their names and variations on “God bless Christian Drama School.” After worship we all gathered on the lawn and Kim presented gifts to everyone: Bibles, letters from sponsors, DVDs of recent CDS plays, CDs of the soundtracks, scripts, teaching posters, crosses, and 30 digital clocks for practicals and exams. She read Dr. Seuss stories like Yertle the Turtle (which they loved) and the Grinch (which was a little more difficult). I also gave each student a friendship bracelet (made with a little help from Emma and Melon).

Melon and Emma said goodbye to the students that evening and we took them to the airport that night. I think Kim blogged about the next few days so I’ll skip to our trip to Lillian’s school.

On Wednesday we went to Lillian’s school for a small thanksgiving. It was scheduled to be two Sundays earlier, but we had been in the hospital with Melon and unable to attend. Segawa tried to call Lillian to warn her that day, but her phone had been stolen so she didn’t get the message. All the parents and guardians and directors of the school waited for 3 hours for us before she called Segawa. The phone connection was cut off right after he told her we were in a hospital in Kampala on Buganda Road. She canceled the event and took a boda boda straight to Buganda Road with one kind teacher, a university student volunteering to teach free of charge named Daniel. The two of them went to each hospital on the road until they reached Case Hospital, the third one they visited. Seeing her walk through the door was like the entrance of an angel. Kim burst into tears immediately, Melon made it to the bathroom before breaking down, and I managed to last until they’d left. Emma had cried earlier that day so she didn’t crack but it was really emotional for all of us. While it was really upsetting that Emma and Melon couldn’t be there Wednesday, Kim and I were so grateful to have finally made it to her school and students.

Each class (nursery through P5) performed dances and songs welcoming and thanking us. The best part was clothing them. At Nansana and Namayumba we just handed shirts to each child, but at Lillian’s school in Namavundu they lined up outside and each walked across the main hall room and stood patiently waiting for us to place the shirt over their heads and their arms through the sleeves. They were so shy and sweet and so excited! They were very controlled as they walked back out through the door after receiving their shirt but once they got outside they jumped up and down and danced and clapped. As soon as we peeked outside they got shy again but it was so… it’s hard to explain. Seeing their joy both filled my heart and broke it. It was amazing to see how happy they were over a shirt, and so hard to realize that the reason they were so happy is because they are so poor. We also handed out cross necklaces. There was a HUGE difference between the students at Kiboga and the students at Namavundu. When the teachers handed out pencils at Kiboga, they were swarmed by the students, particularly the young ones who had not yet been taught manners. It was borderline violent. Several kids were in tears because they had been pushed over in the fight for a single, plain yellow pencil. At Lillian’s school every student waited patiently and calmly as we carefully untied each necklace and put it around the child’s neck. I had to set the bag down because the necklaces were tied very tightly to prevent tangling. One of them fell out and lay on the ground, and one little boy, who couldn’t be more than 5 or 6 years old, bent down and placed it carefully back in the bag. He held his hands at his side and waited patiently for me. I was so shocked. We spoke tonight to Lillian about how incredibly well behaved her students were, and she said that discipline is the first thing she teaches her students. Discipline and handwriting are her two most emphasized priorities.

We spoke to one of her directors, a man named Moses who drove us there and back. He has his own micro-finance institution. In other words, he makes small loans to business owners like Lillian and Mama Eva. But unlike banks he has low interest rates and he really cares about each of his clients. He makes loans out of generosity, not self-interest, like Mohammad Yunus, winner of the Noble Peace Prize from Bangladesh.

We’ve spent the past two days at Nansana. We were supposed to go to Namayumba today but, you know, it’s Uganda. Yesterday Adorable and Barnabas came for a five hour meeting. We went over every email sent and received between me and Adorable from March 20th through May 10th and marked what was from him and what was not. We explained to both of them exactly what happened with the thief and the debt. Barnabas is the man who originally introduced us to Adorable last summer. He was upset that we had not communicated with him earlier, because he would have been able to tell us that something was wrong before we lost all the money from the scam. It was a very stressful meeting. One of Segawa’s nieces, a three-year old named Miriam, pinched her hand and suddenly started crying outside so I just walked out of the meeting and picked her up because I couldn’t take it anymore. It’s the little things, like the feeling of a tiny child in my arms, that reminds me why I am doing all of this. It’s all and always for God and the children.

Today we had to say goodbye to Efa and Carly, which was really sad. I will miss them so much! There is a chance we will see them again on Sunday and I really hope we do. We handed out the leftover tie-dye cross shirts to the boarders at Nansana. That was really rewarding, though it was also frustrating because children I know live with their parents kept trying to get shirts. I kept explaining that we didn’t have enough for them all. I spent a lot of time with the very young children today. There was one point where I had a baby on each hip (Helena and Sam), Praise trying to climb up my leg, and Isaac jumping on my back. There were 8-10 little tiny kids from Baby Class clambering all over Segawa’s truck and whenever one wanted to get down, I had to put down a baby and carry him or her. Flora grabbed my glasses so I had to climb in the truck to get them back. At that moment baby Sam, who can barely walk, decided to climb off the edge of the truck. I had Helena on my hip, Flora by the arm, and reached over two kids to grab Sam’s overalls with one hand as he jumped! He was swinging through the air, three feet off the ground! It was such insanity. I finally got them all off the truck and they immediately climbed up on the parked boda boda. It’s a never ending battle to keep them all safe!

For me, the best part of Uganda is building relationships with everyone. On our first day, Sam ran away from us screaming bloody murder (most babies are afraid of muzungus). Helena has always loved us, but it took a while to gain Sam’s trust. Today he let me hold him and play with him until eventually he fell asleep in my arms for over an hour while Kim read Charlotte’s Web to Dennis and Trevor. Gaining the love of a child is the most rewarding feeling.

Most of the missionaries this summer wrote a last blog summarizing how they felt about the experience. I have held off on posting this because I am struggling to find words to finish off this trip. I suppose it’s never really finished. It doesn’t feel like I’m home yet, because every morning I expect to wake up to the cow mooing and sounds of Lugandan outside my window. I miss the feeling of a small child’s hand in mine and the singing of the Namayumba girls. There are many hard parts about Uganda, particularly about this trip, but saying goodbye is definitely the hardest. Someone once taught me a song about the moon. The last verse goes like this: I had a heart as good as new, now it’s gone from me to you, so take care of it as I have done, for you have two and I have none. The children of Nansana and Namayumba are taking care of my heart for me until I can get back to Uganda next summer, but there is no empty feeling in my chest where my heart used to be. It’s completely full of love and laughter, joy and hope. I’m so grateful to God that I was able to come to Uganda this summer, and so thankful to everyone who shared in the journey whether they were praying or reading this blog. I’m looking forward to sharing more with everyone, and to returning to my friends and my heart back in Uganda.


Healing Rain


Dear Friends and Family,

I began writing this entry as a Word document on Tuesday night before adding it to the blog. I did not finish because we got the modem, and I was able to check my email. I learned from my brother that our mother had died on Sunday about 11 p.m. American time. This would have been 6 a.m. on Monday morning in Uganda which means that my mother went to heaven while Emma and Melanie were in the air flying home. It was strange to learn that my mother crossed the Jordan almost two days before I knew. I did not cry big tears, just the small ones that run down your cheeks like raindrops. Everyone else was asleep. It was just Sarah and I quietly sitting on Segawa’s overused sofa in the dim light of one Ugandan light bulb. (It is strange to be in Segawa’s house with electricity and light bulbs that actually work.) Sarah reminded me that if I had tried to fly home, I would not have made it in time to see my mother. I had an awkward moment yesterday when I was giving a Ugandan friend some “good ol’ Clara Anne advice” from my mother. I found myself talking as if my mom was still alive, and Sarah gave me her sad eyes. All of you have experienced my mother through me. One of the things she always told me was this: “You know how good the show has been by the quality of the curtain call.” She meant that we need to be excellent unto the very end.

Below you will find what has been happening to us since Mel and Emma left. We have accomplished a great many things in the past few days. I am afraid the explanation of Melanie’s hospital experience will have to wait for the October presentation. I forgot to tell you about the wonderful day we had while Emma and Melanie were still here. It was THANKS GIVING DAY at NAMAUMBA. It was held last Thursday, July 5. But I will let Sarah tell you.

Here is what I was writing Tuesday night.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

On Sunday, Sarah and I sent Melanie and Emma home to America with much love and many tears. Yesterday, Sarah and I went to Namayumba to visit the students and to sign 50 Bibles writing, “To Extreme High School, from Christian Drama School of New Jersey, We love you! July 2012.” Now Extreme High School has over 100 Bibles which means that each student has a Bible for worship. Later, we went to Kampala with Segawa and Job to purchase more paintings to sell in America. Sarah came to Uganda with the idea to purchase authentic paintings from Uganda in order to sell the paintings in America as a fund raiser. Last week we purchased many small paintings, but this time Sarah and I negotiated for bigger paintings. It was difficult to bargain without Melanie who really knows how to haggle for the best price. The most exciting experience of the day was running through Kampala in a hail storm. Ugandans have hail during the dry season about once every two years. It was CRAZY! A hail stone hit Sarah’s wrist and bruised it while chasing down a taxi van. Ugandans driving in a hail storm is much more frightening than any Six Flags ride I can imagine and worse than driving in North Carolina during the rare snow storm. I found myself praying for God to save us. In fact, there are few things more terrifying than riding in a Ugandan vehicle at night … with ice on the road.


But today was even more … well … how shall I say, “only in Uganda.” The unforgettable situation could only happen in a place like this. Sarah and I first went with Segawa and Job to visit a school for Heart for People operated by two brothers, Charles and Joseph. We then proceeded to Kiboga. Both the school we visited first and the school in Kiboga have been fathered by Segawa. Kiboga is in a remote location where extremely poor families live. Cindy went to Kiboga in 2008 (you might recall Cindy’s photos of barefoot children wearing torn blue smocks). Many of these children are from refugee families that fled Rwanda during the genocide. The land in Kiboga was given to these refugees by the government of Uganda. Sarah purchased supplies with Melanie and Emma before I arrived in Uganda. Today Sarah and I represented Heart for People as we delivered salt, sugar, safety pins, pencils and notebooks to the Kiboga students and their families. We had 300 pencils and 300 notebooks which were handed out by the teachers who were nearly attacked by the excited children. I have never seen anything like the joy expressed when each child received his or her new pencil. The students were absolutely delighted and beaming and waving each pencil like a palm branch up to God. It was heartbreaking and breathtaking at the same time. The most that students pay to go to school in Kiboga is 15,000 shillings (less than seven dollars per term), but most families cannot afford to pay. I was shocked by how much the pencil REALLY is a cherished item! REALLY!  I happened to photograph the butchering of the chicken that we ended up eating for lunch. So that was a bit unnerving. But the rest of the visit was truly wonderful. They sang for us. We taught each other songs and discussed things with the teachers. I taught “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” and “John 3:16.” Both schools expressed to Sarah their hopes and dreams and needs. They also thanked Christian Drama School, even though we have not done anything for them.

As we were visiting a family to give them supplies, a violent storm suddenly swept through the banana trees and lighting exploded overhead. I mean EXPLODED! We ran to Segawa’s four-wheel-drive Toyota land-rover. Job, who was sitting in the back seat with Sarah and I, tried to block his broken window with a plastic bag. I helped him tape the bag to the window with giant Bandaids from my first aid kit. We knew we had to escape Kiboga before the rain flooded the pot-holed roads. We reached the top of a hill and fear gripped all of us. The road was a river of mud. Sarah, Job, and I were laughing in fear while Joseph and Segawa just stared silently at the road ahead. Segawa started slowly down. The rover slid like it was on ice. Carefully, we came down. I told Segawa he would need a running start to get up the other side. He nodded, deep in concentration. We started up the giant hill and got about half way up. That was as far as we could go. Segawa announced that we all needed to get out and push. So … Job, Sarah, Joseph, and I jumped out into the pouring jungle rain.

Our pushing was useless. We tried putting sticks and branches under the tires. We pulled at everything we could grab from the jungle to push it under the tires. We tried the Ugandan method of jumping up and down in the back of the flatbed to bounce the vehicle out of the hole. Rain water was flying off our bodies as we struggled and jumped. The rain was pounding down from heaven at the same time it was jumping up from the mud. We tried everything. The wheels spun and the vehicle turned sideways. Job announced, “We are stuck in the jungle. This is not good.” So then Job and Joseph walked up the hill and disappeared. Segawa walked the other way and also disappeared. Sarah and I looked at each other. I said, “Now WE are stuck in the jungle. And the cannibals live right down the road.” We had to laugh because we were completely soaked through and covered with mud from head to toe. If we thought seriously about our situation, we would have cried. It had already been explained to us that if you get caught in the mud on the jungle road in Kiboga, you need to find shelter and stay for three days until the road dries out. Suddenly, Job appeared at the top of one hill with about ten young men from the nearby village. Segawa magically appeared, and twenty children from the Kiboga school came slipping and screaming down the other hill toward us.

One of the men had a hoe. He started digging away at the embankment on the side of the road. I failed to explain that the muddy dirt road had a three to five foot embankment on both sides. Ten men pushed and pulled. One needed to have his photo taken with Sarah. I gave him a hard time. Everyone laughed because they figured I was her mother, and I did not approve of him. It was all in good humor. I gave some suggestions based on my experiences in the snow. But no man would listen to me, except Segawa who took my suggestion to put branches under both sides of the tires and roll the vehicle back. A small crowd of women and babies gathered at the top of the slope we were trying to climb. We were quite the spectacle. But at least we were no longer alone. The rain subsided momentarily, and the men rushed to throw dirt under the wheels and into the holes. The children who had been holding our hands were having a wonderful time. The rain broke forth again! The men yelled for 15 to 20 of the children to jump into the flatbed. Segawa rolled the vehicle back. The young men pushed. The children jumped up and down. Sarah and I ran in the mud up the hill. The rover slid back. We prayed with the women at the top. The rover moved up, stopped. We prayed again. It came further. Near the top, I said to Sarah, “We don’t have enough faith!” We prayed out loud. The vehicle reached the crest and went over the top. The children in the back of the truck threw their hands up and screamed with joy. Everyone was cheering. It was like the Americans winning the Olympic hockey game back when we beat the Russians. Segawa drove past Sarah and I so we had to run the length of two football fields in pouring rain with thirty children and the ten men who had been pushing … and the one who wanted his photo with Sarah ran beside me asking if Sarah could stay with him. Ugh! We arrived in the village and danced in the pouring rain with everyone who had been cheering. I’ve never been covered in so much mud! The event united us with the children and the villagers so that we were no longer mzungus and Ugandans. We were all winners on the same team.

I love you so much,

Rev. Kim

Bless the Lord, Oh My Soul

“Bless the Lord, oh my soul, oh my soul.  Worship His holy name.  Sing like never before, oh my soul! Worship His holy name.  The sun comes up, it’s a new day dawning.  It’s time to sing Your song again.  Whatever may pass, and whatever lies before me, let me be singing when the evening comes.  So bless the Lord, oh my soul, oh my soul.  Worship His holy name.  Sing like never before, oh my soul! Worship His holy name.”

This is all I feel like doing right now.  I feel as though my soul cannot stop singing and thanking God:  for protecting Melanie and keeping her alive, for going with a team that worked more than very well with each other, for going to Uganda, for meeting so many wonderful people, for giving me compassion for those suffering from Malaria and HIV/AIDs, for singing with the kids at Namyumba, for seeing people facing hardships and how they STILL praise God, and for the many things that seem so little to us but so big to those in Uganda.

Leaving Uganda was probably one of the hardest things that I have ever had to do, but being there completely changed me forever.  The people were amazing and the country was beautiful.  I was blown away not just by the love there, but the beauty of the people, which is the outpour of their love for God.  As we spent more time in Uganda, my love for them grew more than I could’ve ever expected, but with this love came pain for the conditions in which so many lived.  We witnessed first hand the poverty, the hunger, the unfairness of the health system, and the pain of many.

Since 2008 (when Cindy first came back from Uganda), I have written many papers and done many presentations about Uganda for school in the hopes of creating a spark for people to care about Uganda.  One statistic that I have heard and wrote over and over again is that over 50% of the Ugandan population is under the age of 15.  It’s a statistic echoed constantly for those of us involved with the mission.  During our first full day in Uganda, Job and Moses drove me (by myself!) to Kampala to retrieve my lost luggage.  On the way there, I noticed so many children roaming the streets or walking to school by themselves.  As I was listening to Job and Moses talk about their favorite music (which included Country Gospel….), I wondered where these children’s parents were or how come they were walking to school by themselves or playing in the dirt and eating it.  The statistic than spoke in my head: “Over half of the population is under the age of 15.”  As the wind from driving was blowing the beautiful, Ugandan dirt into my face, I began to secretly cry in the back seat of the car as this statistic was unfolding in front of my eyes.  It continued throughout the weeks that followed, whether we were in Nansana, Namayumba, Kampala, or in the hospital.

Within the first week, Sarah, Melon (as many Ugandans called her) and myself taught English at Nansana.  I taught P3 English mostly but there was one day I taught P5 and another day in which the three of us taught the baby class….which was BEYOND chaotic. As a funny little story, Teacher Jennifer had to get some other preparations done for the Thanksgiving Day, so she asked the three of us to teach baby class.  As we entered the room to teach, over 20 little children EXTREMELY excited to see mzungus greeted us.  As the class went on further, we became overwhelmed because the children were going CRAZY!  They were flipping people off benches and climbing up the bars on the windows and jumping up and down.  We tried singing with them, which helped at some points, but they were just too excited.  At one point, we found Sarah screaming “Are we in the market?!!” expecting the children to respond with “NO!!!”….which never occurred haha.  At some point or another, Mel and I also chimed in with different things that the teachers there say with our Ugandan accents, but it never worked. When Teacher Jennifer returned, she gave us a look and just started laughing.  It was just like a scene out of Daddy Day Care or from a nightmare of a teacher the night before her first day of class.

Anyways, while teaching P3, I noticed one girl, named Deborah, who was sitting on the bench crying while everyone else was singing “John 3:16.”  I went up to one of the other classmates and asked what was wrong.  They explained that she was hungry and was in pain from a wound caused by acid being spilt on her legs when Deborah was a baby.  This was not the first time a child in my class was crying because they were hungry.  The same happened in my P5 class and when we were desperately trying to teach baby class.  To see the pain in their eyes was just terrible.  We later learned more about Deborah’s home life. 

One day when we were home from the hospital (before Melanie went back again), Deborah and her sister approached Sarah and I, asking if they could show us their home.  We said yes and Sarah went to the room to get two power bars to bring to their grandmother as appreciation for inviting us into her house.  We walked about a mile up and down a long dirt road to a hill that was just across from Segawa’s, which was outlined with poverty.  When we approached Deborah’s “house,” we encountered the worst I had seen.  The house was maybe 6ft by 6ft and was attached to an outdoor kitchen.  We came across babies with snot all over their faces and flies flying around them while they were sitting in the dirt.  We then met the grandmother, who was morbidly obese while her grandchildren were starving.  It turns out that she doesn’t really feed her own grandchildren.  Part of the reason is because her job is to feed the children in surrounding houses (which is why there were babies laying on the ground)…when I say “feeding” I mean she breast feeds children for a living.  When Sarah presented to her the power bars, the grandmother was grateful but gave the tiniest pieces to the children and ate the rest herself.  To smell what we smelt and witness what we did broke both Sarah’s heart and mine.

Many things in Uganda were overwhelming and I didn’t realize until I returned home how much it had an effect on me.  While in Uganda, I realized how much need there is, for children who had become even more apart of my heart.  They were suffering and I couldn’t figure out what to do to help.  As the children became closer in my heart, my heart broke more for them because of their suffering.  For any of you who has a loved one suffering, you know what I am talking about to be in despair for their suffering.  You would not know they were suffering though unless you got to know them better because of the joy that many of them have.  I remember one of the first nights in Uganda when Sarah, Mel and I went to Namayumba, we had prayers with the students.  Prayers in Uganda is completely different then it is here.  Prayers include what we include in “worship”, such as singing hymns, listening to bible stories, and then spoken prayers followed by more singing. All of us were sitting on the grass in front of the school and the electricity wasn’t working so we were in COMPLETE darkness under the stars.  I have never felt so close to God in my entire life.  It was like God was right there and we were singing to our Father who was right in front of us.  “Music is the breath of God, and prayer is the melody that makes it sing.”  This is the quote that I could think of.  After this, and experiencing these prayers further through the weeks, I experienced how close the people in Uganda can be to God because they have no distractions.

Now, I am not writing these stories to make you feel bad or to guilt you.  These are real stories and real lives of children that we personally encountered. We should not pity the Ugandan people because of what they don’t have, but we should envy them for what they do have.  One thing I will miss most about Uganda is the simplicity; how there is nothing to distract me from the close relationship with God, such as singing to God under the stars.  I have not experienced it to the extent of the Ugandan people, but when you have little and have nothing to distract you, it is fairly easy to feel how close God actually is.  So when people say “God is with you and carrying you,” it is hard to experience this in America unless you are going through a troubling time.  In Uganda, you literally feel God’s presence constantly because there are not material possessions to distract you.  God was our comforter when Mel was sick in the hospital and when we didn’t know if she was going to make it.  He was our comforter when we saw the poverty.  He was there to laugh with us when we needed comedic relief in the hospital.  We saw Him in the faces of the children and we heard Him in the voice of the Namayumba children singing (especially in the voice of one girl named Susan, who has an AMAZING voice).  God was ever present and I felt Him most when I was singing with the Extreme High School students.  My soul could not help but to sing and worship His holy name.  It is still singing and I pray that what I experienced will never flee but will stay with me forever.  I can only pray that I can help all of you feel what I felt and how awesome God’s love is for you so that you may also (no matter how bad you think your voice might be) sing to our Father; the one who connects us to those we love even though we are thousands of miles apart.

I love you all with all of my heart and thank you beyond anything for your prayers.  They helped more than you could ever imagine.  God answered your prayers, and we were kept safe. Rev. Kim, Sarah, Melon, and I have been on an amazing journey together which all of you are apart of.  I can’t wait to further share with you about the people we all love.

Most lovingly in Christ,


God is still good.

For my last blog I decided to share my last journal entry:

Right now I’m at Entebbe airport sitting next to Emma waiting for our plane. We just said goodbye to Segawa, Kim, and Sarah. It didn’t seem right. I’m not ready to leave Uganda. I feel like my heart is breaking. I feel as if the Malaria I got robbed me of precious time with the children I love so much. I sound bitter, but I’m not. I know God’s plan is greater than mine. I just feel like there was so much I wanted to do that I wasn’t able to. I wanted to visit Lillian’s school. I wanted to teach the students at Namyumba how to read music like I taught Segawa. I wanted to show them my ukulele. I wanted to bring soap, salt, sugar, safety pins, books, and pencils to Kiboga, but God wanted me to get Malaria. Severe Cerebral Malaria. It was awful and there were times I thought I was going to die, and I know Kim, Sarah, and Emma thought so too. Through it all, I felt God was with me. He gave me  the peace that surpasses all understanding. I kept telling everyone, “It’s OK,” because I was OK with whatever happened. Life is a vapor.

Even though Malaria took up most of my trip, the few days before I got sick were filled with playing soccer, doing laundry, singing, dancing, cuddling, and teaching. Every day was so fulfilling. Each day felt like weeks- but in the best way. I was amazed at the bonds that were so strong and created so fast. I know it is because of the love of God we share and the deep love we have for each other.

One of the most wonderful experiences was teaching at Nansana. I taught P1, P2, and P4. I taught P4 adjectives and long division. I taught P1 and P2 most of the time. I taught them vowels, nouns, verbs, adjectives, and articles. They are so smart and so anxious to learn. Their ambition is inspiring. They watch me with respect and work so diligently.

On my second day of teaching, I had been teaching for a couple of hours and thought we could all use a break. I took them outside and we played for a few minutes. Then I asked them, “shall we play one more game or go back inside?” They all enthusiastically said that they wanted to go back inside to learn. Their eagerness to learn puts American students to shame. That same day after I taught some more, a girl named Jemimah came to me and told me her head and stomach were hurting. A teacher nearby told her to go home. Instead, I took her to Segawa’s house and gave her food, water, and medicine. She was appreciative but quiet at first. Finally she said, “You are my mother.” I told her “Yes,” and she explained that she didn’t want to go home because her grandmother would tell her to go to sleep because she has no money. Jemimah told me that her mother and father were dead. I held her until she felt better. When I got outside, a little girl came to me because her finger was cut and bleeding all over her hand. I got my first aid kit and bandaged her up. Then I saw a boy with a wound in his leg. He was trying to clean the dirt out of it with a stick. I cleaned the wound and bandaged him up as well. Before I knew it, several children were coming to me with deep infected wounds, some still bleeding. God gave me strength and calmness to take care of each one. Soon afterwards, Esther brought us lunch. I couldn’t eat knowing the children were hungry. I gave them my food and went to the room where we sleep. I cried because I felt so overwhelmed. There was so much I wanted to do for these children. So much I wanted to be. I wanted to be their teacher and their mother. I wanted to clean and bandage their wounds. I wanted to feed them. I felt helpless as I sat in the room crying asking God what He wanted me to do. I have always been a problem solver. I love fixing situations and making everyone happy, but this was one problem I could not fix. God taught me then, and continued to teach me through my Malaria, that I am not in control. Every time I jerked or twitched violently, there was nothing I could do to stop it. I believe it was God’s way of showing me, in the most physical way, that I am not in control. God decided to keep me alive and He is in complete control of Uganda and my life. Now I’m just waiting to see what plans He has for me next.

I have been forever changed by my experience in Uganda. I no longer care about food or things or being entertained. I care about singing and talking. I care about hugging and laughing and holding hands. I care about praising God and making Him smile. The people of Uganda taught me to care about what really matters, because that is all they have. They have an incomparable love for God and an inspiring love for each other. They know that God is good all the time, and now I do too.

Mission versus Mother


Before I begin to explain the details of our experience, I want to thank all of you for the many prayers that have been lifted up to God on our behalf. We have checked our prayer chart many times, and it was a great comfort to know that our Christian Drama family has been praying every hour. I burst into tears this morning when Emma showed me that Kelly Desch was praying for us. Oh, how wonderful it is to know that long time friends and students are with us in God’s spirit. I find myself wondering if Kelly Ebersole, Caty Salvatore, Ben Woodruff, and Anna Peterson have left for Haiti yet. Our prayers are with them now.

Last night was the first time I was able to connect my mobile phone with my brother, Randy, regarding the status of my mother’s health. It is clear that my mother will be going to heaven soon. Randy and I wept together across an ocean. I was standing in the dark on the dirt road in front of Segawa’s house and laying face down on the hood of Segawa’s well-worn truck. The cow was mooing softly and the dance music from the local bar interfered with Randy’s voice. My brother explained all the pain my mother has endured over the past several days and that she has only said his name once in three days. I assured him that I agreed and supported all his decisions about her care. My mother is currently in hospice now and resting peacefully with help from morphine. She is not alert.

I spoke with Randy and my husband about whether or not I should try to fly home before my mother dies. This is an extremely difficult decision for me to make. I love my mother very, very much. She has been everything to me. When I delayed my flight to spend time with my mother, I sent our missionaries ahead of me knowing that I needed to follow to accomplish what God has called us to do. Melanie’s illness convinced me that I came to Uganda to help her survive. Last night, my husband advised me that I needed to consider not only my own feelings, but also the feelings of others who don’t understand the mission. I returned to Segawa’s living room to the welcoming arms of the other white volunteers (Carly from Canada and Efa from Ireland). All of us discussed the situation with Segawa and Esther. I cried myself to sleep. (As I write this, David is singing, “Jesus never fails, never, never fails, Jesus never fails. I’m so glad of that.”)

This morning, Melanie, Emma, Sarah, and I sat under our mosquito nets on our beds to discuss the situation. I am in this dilemma of mission versus mother. I asked, “What would Jesus do?” And I thought of Jesus on the cross giving His mother to John. Carly and Efa secretly listened from the other side of the wall. Melanie was praying and received an answer that I should stay in Uganda. Emma agreed. They piled together with me in Sarah’s bed. We talked for over an hour about the importance of the mission in Uganda and the consequences of either decision. I cried. Emma had words of wisdom that I cannot recall. They all agreed that there is more to me coming to Uganda than helping Melanie. I know in my heart that I said goodbye to my mother the last time I saw her ..(as if I would never see her again). I am holding on to the memory of her laughter when Mark and I acted like ducks dancing around her intensive care bed wearing hospital gowns and masks. Efa entered our room and confessed she had been listening. She gave me a big hug and said every situation is different and that she would not think of me differently based on the decision I make. She also added that she never imagined how hard it is to be a minster and an example to many people. I am trusting God that the decisions I have made were in line with God’s will. I trusted God when I delayed my flight, and now I am trusting that God wants me to stay to fulfill the mission.

PART THREE will have to come next.

Held in God’s Hand


Dear Christian Drama School family and friends,

I did not intend to write in this blog because I was going to let the experience of Uganda be explained through the unique perspectives and words of Emma, Melanie, and Sarah. We did not foresee that we would be rendered speechless by a monster called malaria. We kept collective notes whenever we had a chance to recover from the horrible things that were happening. Melanie suffered from acute malaria parasites that were attacking her brain and making her jump and twitch involuntarily.

In the next few pages, I am going to attempt to provide a chronological and detailed account of our encounter with the medical situation in Uganda. In some ways it is shocking and heart breaking. In other ways, the doctors and nurses are the most helpful and faithful care givers I have ever known. Even the people who work every day to clean the floors prayed for Melanie as they passed. I found myself thanking God for the people who came to Uganda to establish modern medicine here. There must have been many pioneers and missionaries and generous donors who worked endlessly to bring modern health care to Kampala. One nurse told me there is one doctor for every 100,000 people in Africa. Another nurse told me that every 10 minutes a child dies of malaria. I had no idea. I could not imagine the devastation that has been caused by mosquitoes and the hundreds of thousands of people who suffer from lack of simple health care because there just are not enough doctors. The other shock is the cost of Ugandan health care as compared to American health care which is so outrageously out of control.

We are the lucky ones because we are white people. White people are loved in Uganda and treated with the highest courtesy and respect, especially Americans and Canadians. Everywhere you go, children yell out “Mzungu!” (which means “white person”) and they wave or run to you. Not only did the hospitals take Melanie ahead of Ugandans who had been waiting, but they allowed me to use the computer in the doctor’s library and the telephone at our nursing station. I had to beg for help, but still, they responded with deep compassion. If we had not been treated so well, Melanie would have suffered much worse, which is hard to imagine. I suspect Ugandans love white people because white people probably brought good medicine to Uganda along with so many Christian schools. But I could be wrong.

Our personal encounter with malaria nearly killed all four of us … emotional, spiritually, mentally, and physically. We took turns being “the brave one.” But Melanie was by far the bravest because she had to endure the horrendous sickness and treatment under Ugandan conditions. Her faith was remarkable and selfless. Melanie and I spent seven days and six nights living in the Triam Clinic in Nansana and the Case Medical Center in Kampala. We spent many hours visiting the Mulago Hospital for an EEG and the Kampala Hospital for a CAT scan. Sarah and Emma spent most of that time with us. It took all three of us to carry Melanie in and out of the clinic bathroom, through corridors, and onto beds. We became a well-oiled potty machine, a hospital transport team, a mother with three daughters, a Christian family on our knees praying, singing, and reciting scripture throughout the hardest moments. Melanie recited chapters in 2 Corinthians and the book of James. Emma was our steadfast “rock.” She made us laugh and kept us from losing our minds. Emma was able to lift Melanie the best as well as all of our supplies. She also took notes in critical moments when Sarah and I were tending to Melanie. Sarah was the fierce and compassionate “brains” who had the sense to deal with medical insurance and call the US embassy for help. Sarah protected Melanie’s dignity, held Melanie when I could not, and made sure we had something to eat. I was the “mom” and “nurse” who slept beside Melanie every night to hold her because her jumping body felt better when she was being held and to keep her from pulling out her IV drip. I changed her when her clothes were soiled, held her over the toilet when she could not hold herself, and showed the Ugandan nurses how to shift or roll her body using American nursing methods. I also paid all the bills through a chaotic system, consulted the doctors, defended Melanie’s desires, contacted the USA, and kept track of all the medicines and results. Through it all, Melanie had great courage and a sense of humor.

The most harrowing and life threatening event was our ambulance ride from the Case Medical Center to the Kampala Hospital where Melanie underwent a brain scan which would have been easy if she had not been thrashing and jerking violently. The other complication was Melanie’s fear of needles. Even so, Melanie endured having the IV needles placed in her left wrist twice, her right wrist three times, and the inside of both elbows. She also had three blood tests, injections in her bottom, injections of dye and medicines which burned her arms, and a nurse who tried three times to start an IV when Melanie was completely swollen from both shoulders down to her fingertips. The only saving grace is that Melanie never vomited (though the other patients suffering malaria near us did). I believe that Melanie, Emma, and Sarah are feeling a bit robbed, as I had felt before coming to Uganda. They feel malaria has robbed them of precious time that could have been spent with the children in Uganda. What they are unable to see at this point is how much we learned from being immersed in a critical health care situation. Melanie was able to remain calm most of the time because of her relationship with God, but we do not yet fully appreciate how valuable this experience has been. I no longer feel robbed and I know God really was holding us in the palm of His hand. My sufferings have been so much less than anything that Ugandans endure every day.

The girls have suggested that I explain my comment about being held in God’s hand. It is one thing to think or believe you are held in God’s hand. It is completely different to have experienced it. It is like understanding how a person can ride a bike versus actually riding the bike. As you know from a letter I sent to you before coming to Uganda, this year has been hard for me and now my mother is dying. During my flight to Uganda, I was praying and happened to raise my shade to look out the window. It was 12:20 a.m., and my altitude was 38,807 feet. I was amazed and awed by what I saw. I have never seen so many stars. My mouth dropped open and tears flowed from my eyes. I was so high up that the stars seemed to go underneath me. I felt completely surrounded by the heavens. I knew I was in the hand of God. I have trusted God through many years of troubles, the near death of Luke and other times. But my experience with God was forever changed during my flight to Uganda. So when Melanie became sick shortly after I landed, I was at peace. I was confident that we were held and that God would not let us fall.

I must stop writing now because it is 2 am and everyone is asleep. PART TWO is coming next with a daily description of what happened.

“Why Do You Love Me?”

Hello everyone!!!  It is great to finally get to a computer to talk to you all.  I am sorry that we have not blogged sooner.  We have been unable to get on the internet for a variety of reasons. This is the blog I wrote before Melanie was sick but didn’t get a chance to post it until now.

For the past four years, Cindy and the other CDS missionaries have been telling stories about the children here in Uganda.  To come here and see it all is completely different, and for me to explain would not do any of it justice.  Words could never express or describe how much love is here at Nansana and Namayumba.  It has been difficult to see the poverty around here and to see the conditions so many people live in, but this all seems to just fade away because of the love that overflows from the children. While I have always known how much we love the children in Uganda, I never understood how much they love the Christian Drama School.

On our first Saturday here, Sarah, Mel, and I went with Segawa to worship at Nansana with the boarders of the school.  We all crammed into a small classroom and everyone sang joyfully to God.  It was amazing to see how the children cared for each other, like one four year old carrying little baby Helena, or Elena (literally the cutest baby ever!!).  However, this was not what shocked me most. I was surprised at how much the children love us. First, Segawa has been having all the children and teachers at both schools praying for Kim’s mom and all of the children genuinely care about how she is doing: they ask us all the time, “How is Reverend Kim’s mother?” 

After worship, many of the children came to us asking how people in Drama School are doing.  They were mentioning them by name and I had no idea how they knew so many of us.  Then, throughout the day as more children came to visit us in Segawa’s house, I noticed that every one of them had been looking through a binder.  When I went up to see what they were looking at, I realized it was filled with all the letters written in 2010 (the ones that had our pictures, our hand prints, and a letter from us).  I was amazed!  They were quizzing each other on different names and faces.  Over the past week, the children have continued to do so while we all snuggle and sing in Segawa’s living room.  This was not the only example of their love for the members and helpers of the Drama School but for me to continue…I could go on forever.

When we went to Namayumba on Sunday (before Rev. Kim arrived), we met all of the students at Extreme High School! It was amazing to finally see their faces.  The students were hugging us and telling us how much they loved us.  Throughout the day, we were teaching each other songs that we knew (including “Give Me the Hope of a Brand New Day” and “Just Cross the Jordon”) and teaching each other games (including the most intense game of Duck Duck Goose I have ever played). This continued throughout most of the day.

As things started to settle down from working, I was sitting with a bunch of Senior 1 girls under the tree outside of the school.  They were asking many questions about Drama School and America.  The girls kept looking at each other and I knew they wanted to ask me a serious question but I didn’t know what it would be.  I finally said, “What is it you want to ask me?” They looked at Tendo (one of the leaders of the grade) and she finally asked me one of the hardest questions I have had to answer: “Emma, why is it that the Christian Drama School loves us?  We have done nothing to deserve your love, yet you all love us so much.  One day Cindy came and now everyone seems to love us so much.  We don’t deserve it.” 

I had NO idea what to say.  Of course, I know why but it was hard to put into words.  All the girls were staring at me with their big, beautiful eyes anxiously awaiting my response.  After pondering it a minute I finally said, “We love you because you changed us.”  They didn’t know what I meant and I further explained, “In America, everyone has so much and where we are from, many people are rich.  People are so focused on their video games and objects and looking to material things to fulfill themselves.  Once Cindy came to Uganda and returned home, she told us stories of you all and showed us pictures.  She shared how beautiful you are and how much joy you have despite suffering.  Mostly, she talked about your love for God.  Because of these stories, students and families in Drama School were no longer fixed on helping themselves, but instead focused on seeing God in your faces.  You have helped us love others more than we love ourselves.  Most of all, each one of you has helped us all become closer to God and to remember what life is truly about. That is why we love you.  You have changed us all forever and have brought us closer to God.”  They were amazed and one girl was so happy she began to cry. 

While we can never actually save anyone like Jesus, we can still help and I believe that Jesus can work through us to be the answer to prayers for others. What many of you might not realize is that we, as members and families of CDS, have been an answer to prayers for hundreds of orphans, children and their families.  As Tendo had said, we have never seen the children at Nansana and Namayumba face to face, but we still love them.  God has placed this love within us for a reason and while can not change the world, God can work through us to change the life of one person (quote that is slightly altered from the book “Kisses from Katie”). Many of these children suffer from HIV/AIDs, have abusive parents, go days without eating, or are orphaned.  They didn’t really have a future because they couldn’t afford to go to secondary school.  Everything changed by one person’s journey to Uganda and portrayal of the love that pours out of the children. Kids who had no future can now receive a quality education and have people who love them so much and would do anything for them.  Segawa said that we have become their parents, teachers, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, and everything else to them.  We, as a family, have helped change the world for many children here, with the help and grace of God.  That is what we are called to do as Christians; to love and to “care for orphans and widows in distress.”  It is while we are going through this process that God FURTHER reveals Himself to us in the form of those who are hurt or broken. Even if you are not PHYSICALLY here in Uganda, the love that is shared between the Christian Drama School and the two Ugandan schools has changed all of our lives forever.