Saturday, March 31, 2012

Her Burial

She's been buried next to her mother who died over a year ago from AIDS. There were so many people there. Her family is quite wealthy, and her story was so widely publicized that everyone around town knew where she was to be buried. I managed to keep the tears in check through the waiting for the body to arrive (it took several hours), the last prayers, and the traditional throwing a handful of dirt on the coffin. But when I was brought to Aisha and saw her burst into fresh tears seeing me, I lost it as well. I sat with her in the dust among the throng of people pushing and shoving for a better look at the grave, and we wept together. I don't even remember what I said to her. Soon, they were calling her away and I went to Mary. Again we hugged and sobbed together as I thanked her for doing her best to care for Liz and she wept that it had been in vain. I sat with them for some time, and Aisha told of her final moments on earth. At the very last, her pain was gone and she quietly thanked Aisha, closed her eyes, and died.

I still can't believe she's gone. I still feel like surely there must be something else to do. I need to go talk to the doctors. I need to find some new treatment. I need to fall on my knees in prayer for her yet again. And then I remember, it's over. I have done what the Lord called me to do for her, and she's completely in His hands now. Just like she has always been. May He show her mercy and grace.

It's so hard not knowing exactly where she is now. While I have hope that she had believed, I will never know for sure this side of heaven. Now I am left begging the Lord for the salvation of her family. I know that He is at work, and by His power, her death will not be in vain. He came that He might conquer death and bring life, and my prayer remains that He will conquer the sting of Liz's death by bringing new life to her family. I ask you to please continue to pray for her family now that she's gone. Pray that this will be the turning point for them to come to Jesus, that He might have all the honor and the glory from this story.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Liz is dead

Last night Liz died. Two weeks ago they moved her to Mulago hospital in Kampala, and the last report I had from her aunties was that she was improving with more consistent dressing changes. Then, yesterday a friend of mine visiting Kamapala went to visit her at Mulago. He found her when she had been transferred to the ICU ward and he was not allowed to enter and speak to her. He said that she had gotten worse and frequently wasn't in her right mind anymore, constantly talking but not making any sense. Last night I prayed for her again and woke this morning as usual to go to language lessons. After my lessons, I found out from my friend Sharon (who started this whole thing with me) that Liz had died in the night. Knowing that crying isn't acceptable here, I had to flee the room before sobbing into my hands. Later this afternoon I got confirmation from her aunt that she is dead, and they are moving her body even now from Kampala back to Mbale. Tomorrow I will go to her. To be with her family and to grieve my friend.

In my head I ask myself, why does this hurt so bad? I knew her for only a short time. Just 5 weeks. But in those 5 weeks the Lord bound my heart to hers and I learned to care for her with His own love and compassion. I just knew she was going to be well. I just knew the Lord had saved her from her own hand because He had an amazing future for her. I just knew that inspite of the inadequate medical care, the disgust and judgement of those around her, and her own internal battles, the Lord was going to do a miracle and heal her!

So what happens when the miracle doesn't come? What happens when Jesus delays and instead of bringing healing, allows death? Like when Mary and Martha spent 4 days weeping and mourning the loss of Lazarus after begging Jesus to come and heal their brother. Like Mary, I simply want to fall at His feet and cry with Him. To mourn sickness and pain and death. To weep and to pray for His comfort and companionship.

Because I know that this is all for His glory. That He is accomplishing His good and perfect plan even through death. And right now, I just need to be with Him. To cling to Him with perfect confidence and assurance that He is good. Realizing that maybe the bright future on earth that I had imagined for Liz wasn't good enough, and even now He has a more perfect plan in motion.

As I go to her family tomorrow, I'm lost. I was never very sure what to say to them when Liz was alive, and even less now that she's gone. But I know my purpose in being sent to them before was to be the living, breathing love and compassion of Jesus, and that hasn't changed. So would you please pray? Pray the the Spirit gives me words of healing to speak, and silences the words that could damage. Pray that my face, my tears, my words, and my actions would all be used to demonstrate the love and mercy that He would so love to offer them as well. And pray with me for His return. For the day when there will be no more death or pain, and He will wipe away every tear from our eyes.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The end of the story...or possibly just a page turn?

They've moved Liz.!..!..!. Please excuse my strange's only because I'm still not sure whether that's disappointing or exciting. On Friday I was quite surprised to find out that the doctors here in Mbale suddenly decided they needed to transfer Liz to the main government hospital in Kampala, the capital. Mulago is the hospital where they transfer most serious cases to within the first week, but for some reason, Liz was kept here at Mbale main hospital until almost a full month after she was admitted, and then she was suddenly and unexpectedly moved.

I'm excited that she should be receiving better care at Mulago now (read more experienced doctors and staff, better facilities, ect.), but I'm also really disappointed that I can't keep visiting her. I'm also disappointed that she might not be able to use the gel sent for her either...but I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me back up.

About a week ago a friend in the states had heard about Liz's case and sent over some great burn gel. Initially, the nurses had basically said if you want to use your own medicine, just take your patient and leave the hospital. On Monday, with my knees shaking and my voice trembling, I went to the hospital early in the morning to request that the doctors use it in Liz's dressings instead of just the Vaseline they had been using. I sought an audience with the main doctor, and after waiting for several hours, I finally got to sit and talk with him. I was surprised to find out that he himself was only an intern, having received his M.D. just last year. He said that he didn't have the authority to grant my request, and I should come back the next day with documentation on the gel to speak to the consultants (big wigs) of the hospital who visit once a week.

Tuesday found me back at the hospital perhaps even more nervous than before with print outs of all the documentation I could find on both the gel, and why using Vaseline on 2nd and 3rd degree burns actually aggravates infection. As I did my best to humbly present my request to the 5 doctors before me, I was so nervous! Surprisingly, they were really friendly and receptive! They agreed to use the gel instead of Vaseline and invited me to come as they examined the patient and instructed the nurses on her new treatment. As I fought to restrain myself from dancing and leaping for joy out of the hospital, I still didn't quite manage to subdue the grin on my face.

It was such a good day. Not only did the doctors accept to use the gel, but her auntie Mary invited me back to the family house! We went and saw their home as well as a picture album stocked full of Liz's family pictures. Recently her family had been using the gel on Liz's face, and it was showing incredible improvement. The open wounds were now closed, the skin was growing back on her lips, and the discolored areas were also returning to normal. Even so, I was surprised to see the recent pictures of her. If I had met her on the street, I wouldn't have recognized her. She had been a beautiful girl, and I just pray that the Lord will restore what was destroyed....with added inward beauty!!

With the small victories and hopes of more to come, I was so hopeful and excited! Which is why it was such a surprise to find Liz had been moved. I still don't know what to think. But I am convinced of this: my God is the one holding every fiber of her being together, and He does not change. Today makes exactly one month since the fire. It is truly a miracle she has survived thus far, and I believe in a God of miracles who will continue to work!

As far as my role in her life goes, I have her auntie's phone numbers and I will try to keep up on her progress by phone as much as I'm able. I don't have any idea if I will ever have that relationship with Liz again, but I can only pray that the Lord would work in her heart and that He might use what time I had with her to bring her back to Him.

I know that I'm different now. My comfort zone has been stretched beyond anything I could have imagined. My stomach has been proved stronger (through desperate prayer!!!) than I would have believed possible. And my heart has been broken yet again for the desperate need of these people for a growing, living relationship with their Savior. I am beyond thankful for the privilege of being here and participating in that work!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

More about Liz

Yesterday was the hardest day yet visiting Liz. Last Friday (5 days ago), she had been taken to the surgery theater to be put under general anesthesia, scraped all over her body to remove the dead flesh, and dressed with new bandages. During the following 4 days, infection spread across her body, and that is how I found her yesterday. The pus seeped through the bandages all over her body, and the flies swarmed her net just waiting for their chance to enter. The sight and smell of the infection was simply overpowering. She was in so much pain and all she could do was cry and moan, occasionally making eye contact with me and giving a slight nod to acknowledge my words of encouragement.

I couldn't understand why the doctors hadn't redressed her wounds. How could they allow the infection to go unchecked like that? The anger welled up within me, as I asked her aunt what was going on. She said that the doctors had asked them to first buy a box of Vaseline, and then they would redress her that day. Even though they had bought it, the doctors just never showed up to treat Liz, so the whole day she spent crying out in pain. Tears welled in my eyes as I turned to my friend and asked if there was anything we could do. The conclusion was that the only way she could get good care was by being moved from the public government hospital to a private one. When we asked if it was possible to move her, the aunt said no. Her father and family said that she is simply getting what she deserves for trying to kill herself. They will pay for basic care at the government hospital, but they will not allow anyone to take any extra measures for her care.

People around town have drawn the same conclusions. Why go and visit her? Why buy anything for her comfort when she just did this to herself? She deserves what she did to herself.

My heart just cries out with the truth and the pain of those statements. It's true. She does deserve the consequences of her sin. She deserves it. But so do I. I deserve the pain and agony of my sin just as much as she does, but the Lord showed me grace and favor. While I was still in the stink and filth of my sin, Jesus loved me and demonstrated that love for me by His sacrifice (Rom 5:8). If He showed me such unmeasurable love and kindness, how can I not in turn show Liz love and kindness? Even while she is in the stink and filth of the infection of her body because of her sin, I know that I can do nothing less than show her compassion and grace even as I was also shown.

So I will continue to go each day. Even if I'm only allowed to bring milk, and to offer a kind word and a quick prayer. I will continue to beg the Lord for her healing, both physically and spiritually, and I pray that my love for her will also be a testimony to her family.

Today she was finally taken back to the surgery theater for redressing. It took most of the day, but when I saw her this afternoon, she was in new bandages and a little less pain. Please pray that next time it won't take so long!

Please pray that Liz and her family would choose to reject the lies of the destroyer and believe the truth of God's grace. Please pray that my words and actions, though at times culturally inappropriate, would still convey the great love and compassion the Lord has for her and has given me for her.

Please pray against the infection of her body. Her survival thus far is a miracle, and she will need many more throughout the coming days.

Please pray that the Lord would give her favor in the eyes of the medical personnel, so that they would give her the kind of care she so desperately needs.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Margaret and family

Baby Racob. Be still my heart. Can't handle the cuteness.

My friend Rebecca. Oh the laughs this one brings!

My teacher Margaret with her youngest two.

I'm so grateful for the incredible gift the Lord has given me in this family! When my heart is heavy, the children always bring joy. When my mind is weary, Margaret gives encouragement. Thank you Jesus for your daily blessings!