Friday, June 22, 2012

He is the Healer

Michael's strength is overwhelming to my soul. They removed ALL the charred skin from his arm, stomach, side and back. It was shocking to see so much of my own skin color on him. He really enjoyed the Skittles, Starburst and Bubble Gum that Jennifer sent for us. We sent some food for them because the clinic has no cantina or anything so you have bring your own food or you don't eat. The only reason we took him to this particular clinic is because it was too late to take him elsewhere and we knew he needed fluids. Because they don't treat a lot of burn patients, they literally had no gauze or even vaseline. When we arrived they showed us a list of things they needed. We went to the nearest pharmacy but they didn't have any of the things we needed. We went to the next one. And the next one. Nothing. Wilson spotted Kiwola, our dear friend who serves our ministry as our boda boda driver, and hopped on with him to go check places we couldn't get to in our van. Nothing. We went to 4 more and even out to the main road but they didn't have what we needed. After an hour of searching, we headed back home. Thank God we had a little in one of our containers here. We gathered what we had and headed back to Bombo. His grandmother is staying with him while he's in the hospital, which leaves her children (ages 7-14) to care for themselves. Without her there, they have no food or means to get any. On our way out we stopped by their house and asked what they needed so we could be sure to buy it in Bombo and bring it back by on our way home.

I was already getting sick on our way there and after all the running around, I went ahead and got tested for Malaria when we went back. I left home with a 102.8 fever, yet when I arrived they said my temperature was "somehow fine" and the Malaria test was negative. Even still, she wanted to give me a shot for my fever, which she said I didn't have, as well as tabs for Malaria, which they also said I didn't have. I refused treatment and by the time we got back home, my fever had gone up to 103.4. I. Felt. Terrible. I came inside and fell asleep although it was Sunday night, our first "movie night" with our new projector. I missed it all. 

Lights. Out.

The next morning I couldn't get out of bed. George was in meetings for most of the morning but kept telling me that I was going to the hospital in Kampala. I couldn't sit up without feeling dizzy/sick, so I pleaded with him to just leave me alone for a while. In the meantime we learned that the clinic referred Michael to Mulago because they couldn't treat him any further. George felt better about taking him to a burn specialist in Mukono that he knows so the plan was to go to Bombo, pick Michael, take me to Kampala and have someone sit with me while he met with his brother, who'd drive from Mukono, to have him take Michael for us. When we arrived to get Michael, our nurse friends came out to the van to check on me. George asked them if there was anything they could do and they assured him that I did have Malaria but it was hiding. They also diagnosed me with Tonsillitis. I knew something was up with my tonsils because the whole side of my neck was double the size of the other. I came on home and George continued on to Mukono with Michael and his grandmother.

I am feeling much better but my concern is with Michael. And his grandmother. And the children left behind to care for themselves in her absence. His treatment is expected to last at least 3-4 weeks. We need the body of Christ to come alongside us and support this family. Each time we raise money for something, the first thing people want to know before they give is "how much?"  The simple yet complex answer is, well, we have no idea. Each situation is different. We've never had a burn patient before. But I know this - Jesus will specify the amount He wants someone to give. The need here is great and there are more than enough areas in which to use the excess.

There is so much going on right now. Just right now on my mind I'm thinking about the fact that we have a really sick person that needs medical attention NOW and George is going to take her to the hospital.  I would usually do it but 
because the roads are so bad from the torrential downpour today, George doesn't want me out this late in all the mess.  He left home at 7am this morning and has just returned 45 mins ago (it's 9:20pm). He's exhausted but we have to keep going. I'm thinking about Grace who is now stabilized but has a long way to go before she's well. I'm thinking about the fact that we just got a call yesterday that the government is coming to inspect our school and they expect to find suitable living conditions for our teachers, which we're in the process of building but ran out of money and my pleas for help have not been answered yet. And they also expect to find a school that educates 275 students having more than a latrine with 2 pit holes. They come in 5 days. 5. Days. The latrine is almost ready but needs bricks and cement so we can build a wall around it. 

My body is tired and my brain is fried. Some days I wish I could be like the other missionaries I know and drive behind our gate at night and close our lives off for the night. Just for the night. But we can't. Our home is right here where we serve. There's no fence around our property. No gate.  It's 9pm and my husband hasn't eaten dinner but there's no time. He is needed. We are always "on call". People bang on the doors in the middle of the night if they need us. And this is where He has us. We wouldn't have it any other way but we do get tired. Drained. Exhausted. 

Jesus is King and there's nothing we go through that is a surprise to Him. He is Lord and He is faithful to carry us. He is the Healer and we need Him now. We will serve Him until the end of our days, with joint pain, swollen lymph nodes, tears that sting as they roll down our cheeks because of the high fevers, and with headaches that sometimes make it hard to focus on Him. We. Need. Him.

Please prayerfully seek the Lord and ask if He is leading you to come alongside us.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

pray for Michael

Horrific, horrific nightmares that kept me stirring around all night and then a 6am feeding of a precious little boy that didn't want to go back to sleep right away. Woke up around 10am, long past our morning devotional time. Fed Grace and was getting her ready for her bath when George walked in to tell me he wasn't feeling well and to ask if I would drive someone to the hospital. The hospital? Today is Saturday. The doctor is here. The nurse is here. What could be beyond their help? I heard the words boy, burn, fire, not good, you wouldn't believe it. My mind started to race. I immediately felt like it was someone close to me but how could I not? They all are.  George said it is Charles' son. Charles passed away last July after we fought so hard to care for him. "It's Emma, isn't it?" I asked. He said no. Charles only has one other son and he's much older and a father to several of our sponsored children. I figured it was him. Still would be difficult but at least it's not a child. He told me we would be going to the hospital within the army barracks, which I hadn't been inside before. Jackie was going to get us through the admission process.  We loaded up and headed down the driveway and turned left at the end, heading in the direction of Charles' house. His oldest son lives next door with his family. We slowly passed by his son's house as she told me where to stop. We stopped AT Charles' house. One of my favorite little boys ran to greet me. His name is Michael.  I couldn't help but notice the cloth draped over his arm. I asked how he was doing and he pointed to his arm. My heart SANK. It was him. 

{first picture I ever took of him - his profile picture taken in Dec 2010 
for sponsorship for the 2011 school year}

{I got a care package that contained sweets in March of last year
and I sat on the front porch after school one day and shared with the
children.  LOVE Michael's eyes in this one}

{seriously the cutest picture of him}

{his sponsorship picture for this year}

I had all of one whole minute to plead with God to not let it be this child. He got into the van followed by Charles' widow. I knew for a fact that Charles only had 2 sons, so I had to clarify if this was his mother or his grandmother.  It was indeed his grandmother but since she's his caretaker, people often call her his mother.  We started our journey and I prayed the entire time. All 12 long, dusty, bumpy miles. The same prayer because I couldn't let my mind wonder elsewhere. "Lord, heal Michael's body. I know we will never be whole until we get to Heaven but heal his body as close as Your will allows before he gets there. You are enough.  You are the ONLY One.  Show Him Your goodness through this, Jesus.  Bring him closer to you."  I didn't want to see his arm but when we got to the 3rd barricade, the officer wasn't so willing to let us through without first examining Michael by looking into the back of the van. When that covering came off his arm, it is only by God's grace that I could put the van into gear and get through that gate. Blisters the size of my hand, oozing liquid, and appearing as if someone heated up his skin and put their fingers in it to position it wherever they wanted it. My mind did not believe what my eyes saw. Disturbed. Even the officer, who's seen no telling what, gagged. I pulled through the gate, made a u-turn out in front of the hospital and dropped them off at the entrance. I offered to park and go inside with them but Jackie said the process would long and even I knew there was nothing I could do for them.  And since we have the only vehicle in the village, it was important to let her handle that and get back in case it was needed for someone else.  

I made my way back home, fed Grace, prayed in general for how hard life is here, and thanked God for His many blessings.  Before we knew it, it was 5pm - time for Youth Bible Study.  When that was finished, I asked George if he had heard from them and he said they bandaged it and sent him back home.  BACK HOME?  What does that even mean?  How can you send someone in critical condition back home?  Had there been some sort of mistake?  Was there just not a doctor available?  Did they need money?  I'm not familiar with the hospital on the base, but surely there was some misunderstanding.  I hurried down to the house, grabbed the keys, and asked Wilson to come along to translate (to get info from Michael's grandmother).  When we got there, I was just broken.  Michael was sitting on a stool in the front yard as if nothing was wrong.  His arm in the exact condition as when I dropped him off 6 hours earlier.  Still in pain.  Just sitting there with remnants of white ointment smeared all over his arm.  His grandmother wasn't home so we went to find her.  The doctor's exact words were "The burns did not go to the bone or to the heart, so there's nothing else we can do.  Apply this cream on the burns, take this medicine, and return on Thursday."  THURSDAY?  Today is Saturday.  THURSDAY?  Are these people insane?  How can you leave a child sitting in the yard as if nothing happened, looking like THIS?  I couldn't.  I just couldn't.  

We ended up bringing Michael and his grandmother back to our place so we could figure out where to go from there.  I had no clue what to do but I knew doing nothing wasn't the answer.  He needed fluids, something for pain and something to start fighting infection.  He wasn't going to get that at home.  We had 2 options - take him to the clinic in Bombo or set him up at our house and sit with him throughout the night.  The obvious choice was to have him stay but the only issue with that is taking the responsibility away from the grandmother.  This is one of my biggest struggles serving here.  We can't do "too much" for people or they will literally hand their children over to us.  Help is viewed entirely differently than it is where I'm from.  That's another blog post of its own, but the worst thing we could have done was to open their home to him.  Again, it all goes back to holding the parents/caretakers accountable for the children.  Breaks. My. Heart.  So we explained to them that the treatment they received on base and the medicine they were given was not what was needed, and that we needed to seek further treatment.  Right before we loaded up into the van, it hit me that we would need money.  Money.  What a novel idea.  Money for treatment.  That was a given.  I went to George and he reminded me that we had nothing.  We never do.  In all of the panic I hadn't thought about money.  Should I?  Why isn't there money there for situations like this?  There NEVER is.  Not once.  I was mad.  Mad that we never have what we need to help people.  Mad that this culture prevents us from helping people for "free".  If we chose the obvious choice, we would hurt while we thought we were helping.  I've been down that road before.  Actually several times.  I will never make you understand the complexity of the issue, so I will suffice it to say that to this very day, it is still a huge, heartbreaking struggle for me.  

We headed back out for the long, dusty, bumpy road, as we were going just 2 miles from the hospital we went to earlier today.  Halfway there I noticed it was 7:55pm and I knew that the lab technician has to be called in if we arrive any later than 8pm and last time I went at 8:30 when I had malaria, there wasn't even a doctor there.  But the nurses would be there.  They're Indian and are the sweetest nurses I know.  Michael would be safe there.  We just needed to get there before the doctor left.  When we arrived, it was darker than usual and I just did NOT have a good feeling about what we were about to find inside.  I didn't recognize anybody when I walked in.  The receptionist wasn't the same.  It's a Catholic clinic and not one Sister was in sight.  I asked if one was around and was shocked at her reply.  "Everyone left at 6pm to go to a conference.  Even the doctors."  I looked at the people with me and said, "How frustrating.  How is this God's story for Michael?  Sure, we can do what they do, but we have this issue" pointing to the grandmother.  We just had to pray.  And we did.  Not a minute later, in walked a couple of familiar faces.  I was so shocked that all I could say was, "I. Am. Sooo. Thankful. To. See. You."  Three faces that made my heart jump.  The receptionist.  The lab technician.  The doctor. Of course I only needed the doctor but my favorite number is 3. Only God.

I explained our day to him - how he'd already been "treated" at the barracks and how they'd sent him home with ointment and some medicines, which I'd already looked at and found to be "discharge meds". Totally not what he needed. Completely wasted our time going there but that was not my decision. It was actually a "better hospital" than the one we were standing in. The doctor confirmed that the meds weren't going to even touch the problem and he was admitted right away. Within minutes, an IV was started. They hadn't eaten so we drove into Bombo Town, bought them some water, coke, and some local food, and took it back to them. When we saw that he was stabilized and that the grandmother was doing her part in caring for him, we felt it was time for us to leave. On our way out, I asked if I could pay tomorrow and they said yes. So thankful that in a country where people go for treatment and walk out because they can't pay, that they trust us enough to take in our patients and allow us to pay the next day (or at the end of the visit in some cases). That is all God because we had nothing.

I broke down as I walked out to the van. It's hard to listen to God's voice when everyone around you is saying the same thing - "He/She doesn't need to go to the hospital."  "We've seen worse than this."  "That is just burned on the outside.  It will heal."  "If he needed anything else, the other doctor would have done something."  "He just needs to drink a lot of water.  He'll be fine."  No one has a sense of urgency.  I always feel like I'm on a deserted island, standing between someone who needs help and someone who can help.  But I never can connect the two.  I never have the money.  Or this parent doesn't want to take responsibility.  Or this person is acting like I'm just the crazy white person who gets freaked out over nothing.  Tonight, I cried and I cried hard but I felt God comforting me.   There will always be someone who thinks I'm crazy.  Shoot, even I think I am sometimes.  There will always be someone whose seen something worse and doesn't agree with me "wasting my money" on this kid or that kid.  But each and every single child is our responsibility.  We are just blessed to serve His children in this way.  They are important to Him.  We. Are. Responsible.  

Please pray for complete healing in Michael's body.  Pray that Jesus will meet him right there in that hospital as he struggles to sleep tonight.  Pray that the nurses are diligent enough that they check on him and ease his pain as much as allowed.  Pray that God will move the heart of the grandmother to not continue scolding him for playing near the fire and will instead use this time with him to strengthen their relationship.  Pray for the children she had to leave behind to care for this one - a house headed by a 14 year old boy.  A family near and dear to my heart.  Pray that they come to know Jesus in a way they've never known Him before.  And pray for those of us who struggle to serve them because we never have what we need.  We have only Him.  And He is enough.