Saturday, June 4, 2016

“Where are you g…..” and then I heard it, my phone ringing in the other room, and I knew what that meant. I got out of bed and got dressed and headed out towards the car.

A 3 AM phone call means only one thing here-a hospital run. As I have mentioned before, our vehicle is the local ambulance. Here is how it normally works: People call our friend, Simon, when they need help and he then determines if it is a real need and then calls us. Normally hospital runs are a quick drive to the village to pick up the person, and then a quick drop off at the hospital. We are normally back within 30 minuets.

So, out we went, with unbrushed teeth, clothes thrown on, and no deodorant. The call was for our friend, Joyce, and she didn’t live that far away. She was over five months pregnant and was having problems. This did not concern us, since she was having difficulties a week earlier and had stayed in the hospital a few days before being released. We stopped in front of her house to pick her up, but before we could get out of the car, a girl came to us and broke the news that the baby has just come out. Distraught, we stumbled our way through the dark and found her just outside her house sitting on the ground. She was quiet and spoke softly as she asked me if we cut the cord or not. I did not know for this situation, so I called the girls on our team who are nurses. They happened to be out of town, but they walked me through several things and told me problems to watch out for. Joyce still needed to go to the hospital, so we carefully walked her to the car and  drove in silence to the hospital.

I kept pleading with God to help me and Jonathan know what to do. We were tired, still kind of out of it, and we had no idea what to do culturally. We needed Him, all of Him, to step in and just somehow use us in this despairing situation.

Once at the hospital, I followed Joyce back while Jonathan, and our friend Simon stayed and waited.

Since this is the part that is more heart-wrenching, graphic and private, I will not go into the details, but it was there, in the light that I saw him. The baby was a little boy. Until now, I did not realize how far along she had been. When my niece was in the NICU I remember seeing babies smaller than this survive. But there he was, born too early, in a place that could not help him. Heartbroken all I could do was hold Joyce’s shoulder and silently cry beside of her and her lifeless baby.

Just down the hall, was the sound of a woman in labor. Cries of newborns were also heard as they were being hushed by their moms. And here, it was silence that spoke what was happening in our room. No cries of a newborn, no pains of laboring a full term pregnancy. Just silence.

She needed a few things, so we had to leave and go pick them up at her house. While we were on our way back, a woman was almost beat to death right in front of the hospital over a land dispute. She arrived at the hospital about the same time we did. My focus was on Joyce as she was wheeled past us.

Joyce had been moved. The hospitals here are big open rooms with many beds side by side. So, there was Joyce cold, laying in her bed beside new mothers and their newborns. I hurt for her. We dropped off her things, and the nurse told us to come and pick her up at 3:00. It was now 6:45 and the sunrise was in full color and painted the sky a beautiful red as we drove back home.

We got home, fed the pigs (yes, we got pigs but more on that later), chickens, dogs and guinea pigs. Then we worked in the garden, and cleaned the house. Before we knew it, it was lunch time. I received a phone call and answered it before looking at who it was. It was Joyce’s husband. He was 15 hours away and had not heard what happened. He gathered something bad had happened and I encouraged him to call his friend and ask, and so he did.

At 3, we went to pick up Joyce. Again, I left thinking it would be a quick trip. We arrived to find out she had not been given any medicine, and so we gathered her things. Before we left, she went somewhere and came back with a small, cardboard box. I then realized that we were going back to her village to burry her son. We stayed in the village for a while, grieving along side of her.

When we left the village, it was 5:00, and time to meet with the believers. While everyone was still gathering, I decided to take a walk to clear my head before it started. During my walk, I was joined by a very sweet, young girl named Abus (meaning beautiful). She was walking to the well to fetch water and asked if we could walk together, so we did. She smiled and giggled the whole time, stopping now and then to pick a small thorn out of her foot or to greet another that we passed. It was a nice little walk, and I am so thankful for that little girl who just wanted to be with me and talk with me. I made my way back to the meeting, and was blessed to be surrounded by believers. They learned the story of the paralytic man and as the meeting ended, the sun was setting. I decided to walk home. As I walked and took in the sunset, I praised God for the closeness that I felt Him. I cant see the full picture, nor can I see how he used us, but through it all, I felt Him close, and I felt His peace.

We got home, ate and while we were eating dinner, the phone rang again. It was Simon, and this time it was a woman who was far into labor. We jumped up and met her along the road. This time, we were on the other side of the emotion. We were excited and when we dropped her off, I told her I would meet with her and her new baby in the morning. We will see what tomorrow brings.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Dorcus, the Mother of my Mother

I had just finished toasting some bread over the fire. The sun was barely peaking up over the horizon, and gave us just enough light to read. I sat down with my hot cup of tea ready to begin the day when Jeremy, our team leader, came over and asked to speak to Jonathan and I. We casually got up and joined him away from the fire and the others. He was joined with Robert, another trainer. “I just received an email from your dad,” Jeremy began. “He wanted me to let you know that your grandmother had passed away.” The wave of grief washed over me fiercely and I broke down dropping my toast on the dirt. Jonathan took my tea out of my hand and held me as I sobbed. 

My Senior Prom 2004
So, who is this woman who caused so much deep grief in me that morning? To let you in on my intimate relationship with my grandmother, Dorcus, I will have to take you back 13 years. You see, Dorcus had 8 children (4 girls and 4 boys), and the youngest girl was a wonderful woman named Donna, my mother. 

My mom is 2nd from the left

When I was 16 years old, the Lord called my mother home. It was after her death that I clung to my grandma. She was the last part of my mother that I had. After mom’s death, grandma opened her home up to us and we lived with her for several months. We grieved together, and she quickly became the nurturer that I was longing for. She not only became that to me, but to my sisters as well. She taught me how to cook, and told me stories of mom I had never heard. Most importantly, she taught me how to pray. She was a prayer warrior and her whole day was wrapped around worshipping her Lord. She called me her morning buddy, and we would sit at the table in the mornings and talk for hours and hours. We would laugh and cut up and also miss mom and cry together. 

So many memories were made in that kitchen
Anyone who knew her knew that she just loved people, and she had a sassy side. A lot of people say that is where I get it from. She loved to pick and cut up with people and make them laugh. We would go to Wal-Mart together and spend hours shopping, talking and cutting up. She made me laugh so much. 

  As we were leaving to come back to the field, I visited her one last time. We both knew it would be the last time, so we both stalled when it came time to say good-bye. She gave me a few pairs of her earrings and sat me on her bed. She took my hands and told me she loved me. Then we hugged and cried for a while. I told her I loved her and how thankful I was for her. As I let go to leave, she held my shoulders, and looked my in the eyes. Her beautiful blue eyes were filled with tears as she said, ‘Ill see you in the morning.’ “Ok grandma, “ I said, “Ill see you in the morning,” and I walked out the door.

The trainers were very gracious to both Jonathan and I and let us skype into the funeral. It was a cold evening as we sat in front of the computer thousands of miles away from our grieving family members. However, the blessing of skype allowed us to grieve with them as we celebrated her life. Her church had a video from a women’s gathering of Grandma’s testimony. The projector came down, and she comforted us with her story. As we listened to her and watched her, we laughed and cried knowing that she was celebrating with her husband, daughter, siblings and parents who had gone before her. She is the only person I know who preached at their own funeral, and it is proof that she always got the last word. We are so thankful that we were able to ‘be there’ for the celebration of that very special lady, my wonderful grandmother, and other mother, Dorcus. 
To best sum up what she means to me, here is a letter I wrote to her in November, but I never had the chance to mail it to her:


I am not sure when you will get this letter, but Merry Christmas & Happy New Year. Well, since it is a week before Thanksgiving, Happy Thanksgiving. You have been on my mind a lot, so I decided to write you a letter. We were discussing people of prayer and you immediately popped into my mind. I thought about how you have always been a prayer warrior in my mind and I wanted to let you know. I’m sure you (knowing your humble spirit) would disagree. But grandma, you should know how much people look up to you. I’m going to miss cooking with you at Thanksgiving, but I am so thankful for those memories. I love and miss you, but also know that we are right where God wants us to be. He is so faithful and good to us. There is such a deep fulfillment in our hearts. Thank you for being such a good example to so many people. Thank you (and grandpa of course) for raising your kids in a Godly home. Mom and dad passed that on and Jonathan and I are on the mission field because of your faithfulness. I think about our times together often; about cooking, goofing off, going to Wal-Mart, K&W, and Chic-fil-a. Those are  important memories to me and I am so so so thankful for them. I love you and Ill see you when I see you. 

Your (favorite  ;-) ) granddaughter,

Holly Lesley

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Language Interruptions

It was only two days after my overnight stay at the cattle camp, and we were back into every day life. The team had left and we had started back our language classes. It was a routine day, when all of a sudden our teacher got a phone call.  I was only able to hear a few words of ½ a conversation but I knew something was wrong.  I heard the words tall grass, buffalo, tree, car, and man.  I thought to myself, wow, my language is slipping this doesn’t make any sense.  Finally our teacher connected the dots. One of the men we had just met was taking his cows out to find grass when out of nowhere a Cape Buffalo appeared. It charged directly at him and the 2000 lb. animal flung him sideways into a tree.  The animal’s momentum carried him past the man but he quickly turned around to attack one more time.  The man was able to crawl into some tall grass and hide until the buffalo finally left.  One of our teammates was needed to go pick the man up in our vehicle and take him to the closest hospital.  It was nothing short of a miracle that the man not only survived, but also suffered no major wounds. He was discharged from the hospital a few days later.  As we begin to ask questions we found at that, while we slept right beside this man two nights earlier, we had actually met him about a week ago. He was one of several men who had decided recently to be a follower of Jesus and be baptized. Pray that he will use his miraculous story of survival as a testimony to the power of His savior.

                                          Visiting our teacher Ngole's home

The man featured in this story is one of these four men whom we had the privilege of watching be baptized.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Camping at the Nawi

Camping at the Nawi. 

The Nawi, when translated, simply means cattle camp or corral.  I had heard that a few men from a recent volunteer team were going to go share stories and “camp” at the cattle camp.  I had visited these camps several times, but I have never had the opportunity to stay the night.  I was thrilled when they asked me to come with them, but as soon as I accepted the invitation I began thinking to myself “what have I done?” 

The cattle camp is where all the “warrior” age men take the cows during dry season to find grass.  Sometimes it is days away, while other times it may simply be over a mountain range or somewhere a little closer.  Thankfully this time it wasn’t too far away, but it was far enough away that we knew we were nowhere near the comforts of home.  Each person brought with them a bottle of water, a cloth wrap to use as a blanket, and a small stool, called an ekicholong.  There were no tents, there was no food, we wanted to be as close to the Karamjong men who were staying there as possible. 

We actually had a four-course meal.  The next paragraph is not for the faint of heart, nor for my mother who will kill me when she finds out what we ingested.  Anyway, The first coarse was a very large, hollow gourd full of fresh cows milk passed around until we finished it.  The second course was a different, bigger gourd of homemade “yogurt” at least that is what we told ourselves mentally, It was quite chunky and it was about as horrible as it sounds. It took a lot to get it down, but we each did our part as the gourd was passed around.  We took as much as we could and smiled as a group of nationals watched in anticipation for us to try this delicacy. The third course was cow’s blood cooked over a fire. It had the consistency and taste of liver and was actually my favorite of the four.  A little salt however, would have gone a long way. The last course was all three courses mixed together in a container and passed around.  I then chewed about 4 pieces of gum and passed the rest around for everyone to try.  My American friends greatly appreciated the fresh taste of mint.

The moon was full, the night was cold, the fire was warm, and our bellies had about a ½ gallon of warm milk inside them.  If I weren’t laying on a rock and a root I would have fallen asleep by 9:00.  However we stayed up another hour or so listening to the team tell 4 different Bible stories. They did a great job and presented a very clear Gospel.  I feel like after all we had to eat and drink a church should have sprung up right then and there, however contact has been made and Christ has been preached and shown.  We slept about fifty feet away from a few hundred cows.  I kept thinking I hope my friends, the Turkana people, don’t decide to go cattle raiding tonight as they often do.  In the back of my mind I knew where several nearby rocks were in case I needed to find cover in the middle of a gun battle. That was the last thought I remember before the cowswoke me up about 4 hours later.  The men had a very long journey the next day to find enough pasture to feed their cows.  As they left at 4 am so did we.  It was a great cultural experience and helped to show a glimpse of what this ministry may look like in the future.

* Please check back in one week to hear an update on this story.  Also, continue to check back as we have several stories scheduled to be released over the next few months.

We are back!!! At least for now

Well, it has been awhile since we updated you all on our blog and for that I apologize.  Our blog is a place to share everyday stories to give you a glimpse into our everyday life. Here you will see more adventure and the liter side of life in the bush as we tell some of the stories that don’t make it into our newsletter.  It has been a long and difficult road these past few years as we hurried up to wait.  One day we would be thrilled with excitement thinking our departure would be within weeks or months, other times we would be depressed, thinking "there is no way, ever, we are going to be able to go back. Then all of a sudden as our story has so often unfolded God opened a door and swung it wide open. We were given clearance, sold our house, quit our jobs and boarded a plan in a matter of a month.  God is so good and his timing is everything.  Thank you all for your faithfulness to encourage us both in the States and as we have returned to Africa.