Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend loves at all times.” A friend is valuable! A friend is a blessing from God! Sandra and I have had the pleasure of our friend, Dr. Melody Sherwood, staying with us this month. Melody is completing her final year of a Cardiology Fellowship at University of Alabama-Birmingham this coming June—“Just four more months!” As you might imagine, there are not a lot of board certified internal medicine physicians or cardiologists hanging out around Gulu. However, that does not mean there are not some very fine doctors here. We are friends with two—Dr. Owani Dennis and his wife, Dr. Rebecca. Rebecca works in the HIV-AIDS department at the Gulu Regional (Acholi) Hospital and Dennis has a private medical clinic in Gulu. This wonderful couple has helped us when medical teams have visited on several occasions. Dennis also arranged to meet us at the Gulu Regional Hospital and introduced Melody to the Director/Administrator of the hospital and the doctor overseeing the medical department. Melody has been able to round with and give lectures to the interns and medical students there.
While Melody was here, God used her medical skills in an amazing way to protect our fellow team members, Myron and Holly West in Alexander City, Alabama. Say what? Melody’s medical skills helped Myron and Holly in Alexander City, Alabama? Yes, indeed! You’ll have to stay with me on this. Myron and Holly and their two terrific tykes, Ryan and Rachel, will be joining our Gulu Team this July. They were here last October and we took them around to search for housing. We stopped by a house that Sandra and I looked at when we first came to Gulu in September. It’s a very nice house and the landlord happened to be there, so we stopped and he showed them through. They really liked it and felt like it would work well with their family and even had room for visiting guests. I made contact with the landlord recently and began negotiating on Myron and Holly’s behalf. Through several personal meetings with the landlord and several phone calls with Myron, we had come to an agreement and were ready to forward a copy of the lease for Myron to sign and return with a three months advance on the annual lease so the landlord could make their requested repairs and additions. It is not unusual here to advance some money for parts or materials to complete a job. Now, back to Melody and how God used her medical skills to help Myron and Holly. Melody went with us to our friend’s (Martin and Constance) house to check their sick 4-months old son. The baby had 103° fever and Melody believed he had malaria. Malaria can kill a child so young if they do not receive rapid treatment. We picked up some malaria meds, children’s Tylenol, and something similar to Pedialyte at a pharmacy then went back and gave the first dose to the little guy. Upon leaving our friend’s house, we saw a lady pushing a baby carriage coming from the gate of the house that Myron was planning to lease. We drove on by her, but I felt compelled to go back and talk with her about the landlord and house. This turned out to be a God-appointment in more ways than one. This lady works with malaria daily with Stop Malaria Now, an NGO (non-governmental organization) here and took us to their house (soon to be Myron and Holly’s house) to grab a quick-response malaria test kit and walked with Melody back to test the baby and show Melody how to use this test. While they were over at Martin and Constance’s house, Sandra and I learned from the house tenant that it would be a HUGE mistake for Myron and Holly to lease from this landlord. “He is a liar and cheat and has not done one thing he told us he would do. We wish we had never met him or had any dealings with him.” Also, some of the additions the landlord wanted Myron and Holly to pay for in advance had already been done and this tenant’s lease goes through November! Wow! Thank you, Lord for protecting Myron and Holly. Oh, and the baby? He did indeed have malaria, so Melody was happy about the confirmation of her diagnosis. The next day, Melody and Sandra went back to give the second day’s malaria dose and the baby had no fever and was eating and smiling! We learned where to get more malaria test kits and how to use them. I called Myron and told him that God must really love them the way He protected them from this landlord. Do we serve a great God or what?
Sandra has become friends with a 14-year old girl named Lillian who lives in a village near our house. Lillian has brought some of her friends by our house several times before and after we went home for Christmas. Sandra usually gives them some water and cookies if we have them while she sits and talks with them. It turns out Lillian’s mother and father are both dead and she lives with her aunt in their ot lum (mud hut with grass on top) along with six other children related to her in various ways. Her aunt sells sweet potatoes in a market here and struggles to feed and cloth these children. Lillian had to leave the primary school she attended because there was no one to pay the school fees. Last year, Lillian attended school that allows children to go there without paying fees. The problem is that it takes over two hours walking to get there and Lillian was often late and missed many days. Consequently, she was only in P-5 class (our 5th grade) due to missing so much school. There is a good primary school near her village, but the total cost of fees and supplies equaled about 135,000 shillings (the equivalent of about $52 dollars to us) for tuition, books, paper, pens, pencils, mathematic set, backpack, 2 brooms (soft and hard ones), toilet paper, 2 uniforms, shoes and socks. Of course, this amount was prohibitive to Lillian and her aunt. As you might imagine, we see situations daily that we know an insignificant amount of money to us would help people we meet, but we also have read the book, “When Helping Hurts” and never want to hurt Ugandan people by giving to them. Lillian goes to the same church we attend and she always brings 8-10 children with her. We talked to the Ugandan associate pastor and his wife about Lillian. They knew her from church and her traveling with this couple and us out to Abaana’s Hope on Sunday afternoons for Bible Study. This pastor is also a schoolteacher and knew the school near Lillian is a good one and mentioned that she is at a vulnerable age for some man to take advantage of without someone to help her. Unfortunately, that happens a lot here, he said. We prayed, God answered and we helped. Sandra, Melody and I took her to the school and got her enrolled. We bought her the items and supplies she needed and Sandra told Lillian that God had provided this help through us and He loves her and always wants what is best for her.
Fast forward to the Saturday following her first week in school. She was at our house helping Christine wash and clean. Christine has taken Lillian under her wing and told her that it would be responsible of her to help us this way. She also shared important things with Lillian that she had also shared with her own daughters. After cleaning up, she and Christine came into the house and talked with Sandra and Melody. I was at our bedroom desk on the computer and heard them all giggling like little girls. Melody was videoing Lillian and Christine with her iPhone and you’ve never heard such laughter. Later at dinner, Sandra told Melody and me that Lillian told her that a friend of hers asked to borrow her new shoes to wear to her village this weekend. Sandra asked Lillian if the friend would return them tonight and she said no, her friend would not be back until Sunday evening. Sandra told her that probably was not a good idea and Lillian responded with, “I told her, ‘of course you may use these shoes, they were a gift from God.’” Remember, this is someone who has never had a new pair of shoes in her life and yet willingly opened her hand to give them to a friend to wear. Sandra said she felt about 2 inches tall and was greatly humbled by Lillian’s generosity. She quickly told Lillian that she was absolutely right and should have loaned her friend the shoes God gifted her with. We thought we were teaching Lillian about God’s love and it was she who taught us! It is amazing how often God uses these precious Ugandan people to teach us what we need to learn about Him. “Blessed is he who is generous to the poor.” (Proverbs 14:21) I can’t help but wonder if it is a double blessing when the poor are generous to the poor.
I know some of you have been keeping up with our growing chicken flock so let me give you the latest—we’ve added five new broilers that are strictly for eating. I was told they do not reproduce or lay eggs. They are just for eating. So, how do we have these broilers if they do not reproduce? Where did they come from? I have asked several people and have not gotten a good answer yet. Christine’s aunt gave her and Melody and Sandra a big rooster when they went by for a visit. It was huge! Notice the past-tense? Yes, it started fighting all the other chickens as soon as they released it. Christine said it was “very rude” so we (Melody, Christine, Peter, Sandra and me) chased it all over the yard and finally caught it, killed it and ate it. I really wish you could have seen Melody and Sandra chasing this rooster like they wanted to actually catch it. For such a large chicken, it was very tender. On a sad note, we also lost Ebony (our black hen) and two baby chicks (unnamed) due to Diazinon poisoning. Wikipedia defines Diazinon as: “Diazinon (IUPAC name: O,O-Diethyl O-[4-methyl-6-(propan-2-yl)pyrimidin-2-yl] phosphorothioate, INN – Dimpylate), a colorless to dark brown liquid, is a thiophosphoric acid ester developed in 1952 by Ciba-Geigy, a Swiss chemical company (later Novartis and then Syngenta). It is a nonsystemic organophosphate insecticide formerly used to control cockroaches, silverfish, ants, and fleas in residential, non-food buildings. Diazinon was heavily used during the 1970s and early 1980s for general-purpose gardening use and indoor pest control. Residential uses of diazinon were outlawed in the U.S. in 2004.” Ok, that was probably more than you really wanted to know, but the point is you can still buy it in Gulu and it is extremely effective for killing ants. Unfortunately, it is also effective for killing chickens that eat those ants. Fortunately, we only lost two of the ten baby chicks and not their mother, Carmila. We also learned to sweep up the dead ants before the chickens can get to them. Lesson learned!
I am delighted to let you know that we’ve come to an agreement with Onen Santo and his wife, Beatrice, to be our Property Managers at Abaana’s Hope. Santo is currently serving as Pastor of the Gospel Assembly Church in Gulu Layibi and will begin employment with us on March 1, 2013. He will live in the Caretaker apartment during the week and come home to Layibi on weekends until their 5-year old, daughter, Patience, completes K3 and the family will join him at Abaana’s Hope. We are praying with Santo and Beatrice about a calling by God to be our first House Parents. They have been through a 15-week Biblical parenting program that was adapted to the Ugandan culture. In addition to Patience, they have a 4-month old son named Jubilee. After a trip to show Abaana’s Hope to Santo, we took Beatrice and the children a few days later. After looking at the Caretaker Building, I took them to see the Grist Mill and noticed that Patience was not with us. I questioned Santo and he said she would be fine. We left the Grist Mill and toured the Staff Housing buildings, the passion fruit vineyard, the nursery plants, the borehole (fresh-water well) and the kitchen area. We were gone from Patience 45 to 50 minutes and she continued to sit by the Caretaker house where her Dad had told her to sit. How many 5-year olds do you know who would do that? Santo provided us with an impressive CV and Sandra and I have been with Santo and Beatrice on several occasions including attending their worship service and hearing Santo preach. The worship was God-honoring and his sermon was doctrinally sound. Santo and Beatrice joined us for our Team Meeting last Saturday; then Santo went to the bush with us and led the adult Bible study Sunday afternoon. Melody led the children’s Bible study where we had an interesting guest—a baby monkey! The little girl who had the monkey wanted us to buy it for 2,000 shillings (about 80 cents) but Melody thought it was so small that it needed to be placed back with it’s mother. The little girl told us they ate the mother the previous evening. I must admit that I was tempted because how many of us have actually owned a monkey? Sandra convinced me that our 14 chickens and 1 dog were enough for us!
One of the voids at Abaana’s Hope is Ugandan input for making important decisions. We have been praying for God to leas us to the men He has prepared and called for Abaana’s Hope, and we feel such peace about inviting Santo and Beatrice to join our Uganda Team in Gulu. We are excited to have this important element for future decisions and believe God brought us to this special couple. We ask that you pray with us that He will continue to bring Ugandans of His choosing to fill future key management positions at Abaana’s Hope.
All glory to Him,
Royce & Sandra