Thursday, April 15, 2010

Great Adventure

So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man's living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.
-Into the Wild

Every time I read this quote it reminds me of my best friend Reid.  He’s living his own story right now and enjoying his own adventure in Spain.  He has been there since September of 2009 so our conversations now are limited to the internet.  Before I left for Uganda he sent me this quote in an email as an encouragement for the “Journey” I was about to partake in.  To some I may tend to do things that are considered “out of the norm”, but compared to Reid my risk factor is considered mild.  While I don’t consider myself risk-avert I definitely don’t consider myself an “extreme” risk taker either.  Reid is definitely an “extreme” risk taker.  He is one who will do a double back flip off a 70 foot cliff, and whenever we go skiing, even though we usually only go once a year if that, he always wants the first run we do to be a double black!  Somehow I always end up caving in and joining him on these seemingly irresponsible adventures.  I have always envied his complete disregard for personal safety.  I know that sounds like an audacious accusation, but in a sense it has allowed him to live a life of freedom that most of us are only able to read about in books. I believe I tend to do things that would have most saying “what was he thinking?” but by having a best friend like Reid I have been able to find a happy medium in the “risk-factor” area of my life.  I still may come across to some as reckless and irresponsible, but my biggest fear as of recently would be to quench the spirit that is at work within me, and this often requires one to step out on a limb that’s foundation might not be as strong as one would hope.  I don’t know why the Lord wired me the way he did, but I am thankful that I would not be satisfied with a life spent in a cubicle endlessly crunching numbers in a spreadsheet.  Not to take away from those who do this for a living its just not who God wired me to be, but more power to you for having the patience and ability to perform these necessary and tedious tasks.

Everyday in Africa there is an endlessly changing horizon.  There is no such thing as a “secure future” and to alleviate risk, as we Americans are so keen in to doing, is a seemingly impossible task.  Each and everyday brings a new and different sun, and my thirst for adventure has never been as satisfied as it is here.  This week I was able to partake in my greatest adventure as of yet, and it was a challenging one nonetheless.

Each time we visit Mercy Home we usually walk down to the nearest shop (which is about a half mile) to buy tomatoes and onions to add some flavor to the food.  On our walk there this past Saturday Mercy wanted to tag along, so of course I couldn’t deny her this request. We made it all the way to the shop without one complaint, and to reward her for her good behavior I bought her a juice box and a piece of cake, which she devoured in no time.  After experiencing a full belly the walk home was a little more difficult for her so she wanted me to carry her back.  As I started the trek back to Mercy Home with Mercy in my arms I noticed small white bumps on her face that were starting to make their way down her neck and back.  She had also developed a pretty intense sounding cough and her stomach was enlarged even more so  than usual.  At first I thought it was probably just a bad case of worms, but after finally gathering information regarding her family history I started to get worried with what this may be.  Her mom died when she was very young and after this her father, who is 17 now, started losing his mind and was unable to take care of her.  She also has an older brother who has a twin, but the twin died two summers ago for unknown reasons.  After learning all this I got a little skeptical and decided to take Mercy to the doctor to get some tests run.  I wanted to be sure it was only worms and got her checked for HIV and malaria.  I got an up-close and personal glance into the world of fatherhood, and after experiencing a doctor visit with a 2 and a half year old little girl I now understand the importance of mothers.

Mercy was as calm as she could be the entire drive to the doctor office and even got to enjoy another juice box and piece of cake.  We finally reached the doctors office and she was still as relaxed as she could be. Even though she held my hand as if she were clinging to her own life, the odd man in the white suit probing her belly still didn’t seem to faze her.  She was handling herself like a champion, until... out comes the needle!  If you ever want to experience the sound of a two year old thinking the world is coming to an end just show them a 2 inch needle that’s about to break the surface of their skin.  I don’t know who was more traumatized, her or me having to hold her down as she kicked and screamed waiting for the procedure to get underway.  As much as the nurses and myself tried and tried to explain to her that everything was going to be ok and it was all for her benefit she still would not calm down.  The screaming actually intensified to an uncomfortable volume.  It was probably the toughest thing I have ever had to do in my life and in an instant I found myself thinking “Please let me take the needle for her! Let me take the pain I can handle it, just stop hurting her!”  Knowing that this would not be of any benefit to Mercy I sat and watched helplessly as the needle pierced her skin.  Watching her go through this obvious traumatic experience reminded me of how God must feel when he sees us going through hard times.  All I wanted was for Mercy to understand that even though it may hurt in this moment the pain she had to experience was ultimately going to help her in the long run.  I think in a way this is how God feels when we go through tough times.  It hurts Him to watch the pain we are going through, but he lets us go through it anyways to grow us into the people we are called to be.  He just wants us to understand that its necessary for us to go through these difficult times so that we can draw closer to Him and rely on Him for strength through it all.  After everything was done it took some time to calm little Mercy down.  All she wanted to do was curl up in my lap and go to sleep.  I was worried at first that she would start associating me with the man who let her go through something so painful, but after some time passed and I got her a juice box she got over her turmoil.  The doctor visit must have really taken a toll on her because she feel asleep holding onto my arm the entire car ride home.  It was the perfect end to the greatest adventure I have experienced to date.

I am pleased to report that both the malaria and the HIV test came back negative!  She does however have a lung infection and a pretty bad case of worms.  Because the kids sometimes don’t even get one meal a day they often get so hungry that they start eating dirt and anything else they can get their hands on.  Needless to say every one of them has worms and no way to pay for the treatment to get de-wormed.  They are supposed to get de-wormed every 2 months but because of lack of funds they haven’t been since September of 2009.  It costs about $10 a child for the pills and there are 102 now who still haven’t been de-wormed.  We are now trying to feed the kid’s everyday and working to de-worm as many as we can.  Because of this funds are starting to dwindle.  We estimated the price to feed the kids everyday for a month is around $1300.  Under normal circumstances I wouldn’t ask this, but if anyone reading this desires to give any contribution to helping the children of Mercy Home please donate.  I have quickly realized I cannot do this without help and I thank all of you who have already contributed.  Checks can be made out to Asbury United Methodist Church and given to Suzanne Owens.  She is the one who makes sure the money gets over here and is used in the manner in which you want it to be used.  If anyone desires any more information regarding this please feel free to email me at and I will be sure to get you in touch with the right people.
And a special Happy Birthday to Patrick.  Allen and I had never made a cake before but we tried our best for Patrick's birthday.  I think it turned out pretty good if I must say so myself!

Monday, April 5, 2010


It's hard to believe I have been gone for almost a month now.  The time has been passing extremely fast, and we haven't even had our first team come in yet.  Allen made it safely, and it is good to have a familiar face around.  He also brought along with him some baseball gloves, so it has been really nice to be able to enjoy America's favorite past time in the evenings now.  We moved into our apartment today and spent the majority of the day cleaning it up.  It looks a hundred times better than it did before we moved in, but it did require an abnormal amount of elbow grease.  At one point we were still trying to get the smell out of the kitchen only to come to the realization the smell was coming from us!!  I am relieved to finally be in our permanent place of residence, but am going to miss the fellowship I have been able to share with Alfred and Jon in the past weeks.  Those are times I will cherish forever and an open invitation was offered to both to come and hang out with us at anytime.

This Easter was a different one for me as you can imagine.  I was in a foreign country without my family and was with only one of my closest friends.  You think something would be wrong with this picture, but it was the first time in my life I was able to fully appreciate the power of the resurrection and what Easter means to the Christian faith.  I started to really think about my own faith and what this day means for me and my own salvation.  I find it kind of funny how the "Christmas story" is only mentioned in two of the gospels while the resurrection is mentioned in all four and yet it seems we still celebrate Christmas as the pinnacle holiday for the Christian faith.  This theology seems a little backwards to me, not that Jesus' birth and being born of a virgin aren't worthy to give God praise and all of our worship,  but it was the resurrection that was the birth of my own salvation. That is what I am most thankful for and why this Easter meant more to me than any other I have celebrated.  This Easter was the first time I celebrated for the right reason, and with a heart full of thankfulness for the cross and awe for the power my God has to bring the dead to life!  He is risen!

The past few visits to the Mercy Home have been heartbreaking and humbling once again.  Two Saturdays ago I started to get a little frustrated that Mercy would not call me by my name.  I got David to come translate for me as I talked to her to get this situation figured out.  He asked me what was wrong and I told him I just wanted her to call me by my name and not just "muzungu."  He said it was typical for all children here to never call someone who is older than them by their first name because that would come across as disrespectful.  I told David that since she wouldn't call me by my first name to find out what she wanted to call me.  I heard the word come out of her mouth but had to double check with David to see if I had heard correctly.  She had asked if she could call me Dad!  If there was ever a moment in my life where I was left speechless, this was it.  I had not the slightest clue what to say to this request.  I am very thankful for the time I get to spend with Mercy.  Each day at the Mercy Home is a new adventure and a new story is brought to life.  As much as I have grown to truly love Mercy I couldn't let her call me dad.  So for now I am Ancle (Uncle) Jay.  It gave me great joy this past Saturday listening to Mercy call out Ancle Jay over and over again as she held my hand and guided me around the complex.  I also have decided to become Mercy's official sponsor.  I want to make sure she makes it all the way through school and has every opportunity to make something of her life.  I've never had the appreciation for child sponsorship programs like I do now, and have even become very thankful for all of you who already do sponsor a child somewhere in the world.  I believe it is a necessity and I am fortunate enough to be able to see the impact these sponsorships have on children.  I thank you for your faithfulness and willingness to give to help save a life!

With the addition of Allen to the team I am pleased to announce that we are now able to feed the kids every Wednesday and Saturday.  This still may not seem like much, but when we told them the news the expression of joy on their faces was enough to know that YOU are making a difference.  It's in places like this where the Gospel is being brought to life.  There's no talk of the hot theological debates that have Christians everywhere ranting and raging, only the promise of a Savior who came and died for all so we could live a life of freedom to serve one another in love.

"For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised." 2 Corinthians 5:14-15