Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Today at the hospital

She was sitting up when I arrived, allowing the nurses to redress her gauze. Her back was covered in white and red splotchy skin instead of the familiar chocolate color. Skin that was blistering 2 days ago has now peeled off leaving her covered in raw flesh. Her legs shook with the unbearable pain, and in my heart I pleaded with the Lord to give us both strength. The smell of her flesh, the flies seeking entrance into her net, and even the charred flesh of her face made me grateful I hadn't eaten yet. Several times my stomach protested and I quickly begged the Lord to calm my stomach and my spirit. When the nurses were finished, I sat down on the cot next to hers and told her stories. Her days are filled with pain and boredom, and I yearned to relive even a bit of her suffering. As I prayed over her before I left, she begged me not to disappoint her and to come again tomorrow. Lord willing, I will.

Isaiah 61:1-3 says:

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me,
Because the Lord has anointed Me
To preach good tidings to the poor;

He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,

To proclaim liberty to the captives,
And the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord,
And the day of vengeance of our God;

To comfort all who mourn,

To console those who mourn in Zion,

To give them beauty for ashes,

The oil of joy for mourning,

The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;

That they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.

In Luke, Jesus told the people that He had fulfilled this passage that day, and I do believe He continues to do this each and every day. He came so that He might give life, and healing, and forgiveness, and comfort. Liz has known horrendous pain and suffering both in her body and spirit, and I can only constantly pray that the Lord will bring her healing as well so that she also might become a tree of righteousness for the glory of the Lord. Please continue to pray for her physical and spiritual healing, and for me that I might be a minister of God's love and comfort to her.

Saturday, February 25, 2012


This morning I went back to the hospital to see Liz. My wonderful language helper and friend, Margaret, went with me so that she could translate for Liz's auntie. We were warmly welcomed by Liz and her aunt, whose name used to be Margaret also, but recently converted to Islam and has changed her name to Aisha. As I talked with Liz, I was confounded by her level of comprehension and alertness in spite of the overwhelming burns covering most of her body. She told me how disgusted she was with the media coverage of her situation, as she said most of them were just looking for a story and most of it was lies. I asked her if she could tell me her story, and she said she would be glad to, but later in private without all the people around. As I listened to her and asked questions, I kept trying to imagine and understand the amount of humiliation, frustration, pain, and suffering I would endure if I was in her situation, and my body ached with the realization of her pain. I really don't know if I was able to offer her any comfort or distraction from the pain, but as I prayed for her, I knew that God is doing His work in her and in me through her suffering. She has such a long road ahead of her, and I really believe the Lord has called me to journey with her for now. I feel utterly incapable of the task I believe He has given me, but I know that He will show His strength to me in my weakness. Please, will you join me in praying for wisdom and grace for me and healing for her?

For her physical healing: She was going in for surgery today to try and find a vein in her leg for a blood transfusion and to insert a central line, and she daily will fight against infection in this impossible environment.

For her mental healing: She will now have to come to terms with the reality of her new life and situation.

For her emotional healing: She is frustrated and humiliated with some of the negative attention, and will need great strength and comfort to fight the battle ahead.

For her spiritual healing: That the Lord will draw her close to Him because of this situation, and that as she sees His power and grace, she will learn to love Him with her whole heart.

For her aunt, Aisha: that she will know and understand the power, grace, and loving-kindness of our God because of Liz, and that she will come to trust Him with her whole heart. That the Lord will provide the finances for Liz's care, and strength and comfort for Aisha as she cares for Liz.

Saturday, February 18, 2012


Today, I asked Sharon to tell me stories in Luganda. We've been doing it for a couple of weeks now: she'll say a sentence and I'll translate into English until we've completed the whole narrative. Today I asked her if she had any story, and after thinking a bit, she said yes. She told me the story of Liz, a girl who goes to her university. Liz is in her first year at Uganda Christian University, and was dating a guy who was going to the Islamic University here in Mbale. On Tuesday, her boyfriend came and told her that they should stop living together and take a break from the relationship until they had both finished their studies. Liz must have been heartbroken to an incredible degree. Upon reaching home that night, she decided life wasn't worth living anymore and covered herself in kerosene. I really can't imagine the depression and pain that convinced her to light that match and set herself on fire. Miraculously, she survived and was taken to Mbale hospital for treatment. Her whole body and face, except for her legs, are severely burned. While it is a miracle she has survived this long, doctors are still unsure if she will make it. As Sharon told me the story, horror and pain washed over me as I tried to comprehend the pain of this young girl. When she was finished, we sat together in somber silence for a while, and I quietly talked to the Lord and asked what I should do. He said, "Go."
But Lord, how can I go and talk to a girl who doesn't even know me and is in that kind of suffering?
What could I really say to comfort her and speak truth to her heart?
Who am I to pretend be able to offer her comfort from her suffering?
Would her family really even allow me to see her?
What good could I really do?

He simply responded, "Go, and I will give you the words to speak."

So we went. Together, Sharon and I waked the 15 minutes to the hospital and found the wing Liz was staying in. The nurse brought us to her bed where she was lying covered from head to foot under a cloth dome and a mosquito net that covered her body to protect her from the flies. The nurses stood at her foot trying to find a vein in her toe (the only untouched area available) to insert an IV, but they failed. While we waited for her aunt to appear so that we could ask for permission to talk to Liz, I listened to her soft moans and prayed desperately for her relief. Before her aunt came back, the nurses asked all visitors to leave so that they could begin treating patients. Sharon thought she had seen the aunt outside, so I asked if we could go and talk to her. We carefully approached the group of women that the aunt was seated with, and greeted them. I explained that I would love to talk with them in Luganda, but I was still learning, so Sharon agreed to translate as I talked with the aunt. We asked how Liz was doing, and how Auntie was doing as well. She said that she had so many problems, but was unwilling to talk about them at the time. I asked if I could pray for her and Liz, and she readily agreed. After praying over her, I asked if I could come back again and visit, and she said yes.

As I sit here, my heart aches. I know what it is like to watch a loved one in horrendous pain, helpless to soothe the suffering. I can only imagine Liz's pain now as her mental and spiritual pain is only augmented by the physical anguish she now endures. My heart breaks for her and her auntie. And I long to share with her the comfort, peace, and healing only the Lord can bring. I don't know what He will lead me to do in the days to come. But I do know that He has burdened my heart for Liz, and I pray that He will burden your hearts as well. Please pray for her. Please pray that her heart, mind, soul, and body will be covered over with His grace and healing. And pray for me as well, that I might be an instrument of His mercy to her in the coming days.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A Cultural Question

I was an Awana kid. I loved it, and still love what I learned because of it, and if you asked me the question "what is love," I would probably answer, "God." Because of the verse in 1 John 4:8. A much more difficult question is "What is being loving?" Or in other words, "What action best demonstrates love to the other person?" While I was in the States I pondered over this question in relation to many circumstances, but I have found that living in a different culture only magnifies the difficulty of answering that question tenfold.

Case in point: the piki men. or just men in general here. Because of my brightly colored skin and the imagined bulge in my pocket, hardly a single man in Uganda wouldn't want to be my boyfriend or husband. Add to that the fact that I naturally tend to smile, laugh, and in general be overly friendly, and I haven't been able to convince them to look elsewhere. While their frequent marriage proposals can cause much amusement (like the time a guy tried to use baby formula in a pick up line?!?!?!), it has also left me with a question to ask myself. What does truly being loving to them look like? While my first instinct is to smile at them, ask them questions about their family, and be 'kind' to them, I'm left wondering, is that really loving? In a culture where answers to strangers are typically short (and to my mind curt), my friendliness can be interpreted wrongly as interest. I have been told that it would be kinder to not lead them to believe they can win me by smiling and laughing with them, and instead I should adapt the cultural norm of short, to the point answers to questions. Talk about tough. This goes against everything that I have been my whole life. If people are friendly, I will be friendly as well. If people smile, I smile back. (that is unless I beat them to the smiling first!) If people ask a question, I answer and ask another one back. It's who I have always been. But now I have a choice: to stay the same, or to adapt to this new culture. Do I choose to hold on to what I value about my past culture, or choose to value something in this new culture more? Tonight I'm praying for wisdom, and conviction, and true compassion and love for people that is expressed in a way that they will easily understand. What are you praying for?