We hope that you will prayerfully consider supporting our trip to Uganda. Please consider donating to the TEAM as we are all in this together. You may write a check to Project HOPEFUL NFP or click on "donate" below. All donations are tax deductible. THANK YOU for your support!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

100 day.... whaaaa?

Schools do this {weird} 100 day celebration thing.
Yea, yea, yea.  I know why.  It still just cracks me up!

We kicked off the morning by getting that done.
This may be the only time I ever purchase Fruit Loops for my children....
enjoy it while it lasts, stinkers! 


This 100 day party is brought to you by Kellogg's.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Joy and Pain Together

Some more thoughts from Carissa.....
Today I learned about joy and pain and how they sometimes go together on the very same day.

After another trip to the pharmacy in the morning, we met the other van at African Hearts.  We had told many people to come back on Wednesday, and I think they told more people.   When we arrived people were already waiting on benches outside our little makeshift clinic, babies on their mamas and children milling about.  Today was emotional, more than any other.  I don’t think I’ve ever felt more emotions in one day.  The people came in, the doctors talked with them, so many children, some very, very small babies.  We tested for malaria a lot today, and there were so many positives that I lost count.  In the middle of one of the hours, Deb & Lynsay tested five children for HIV.  Two came back positive.  I didn’t know until I saw Deb.  Her raw emotion told me the news.  It was hard to hold it together right then.  The tears welled up, but there were people waiting and things to do, so I pushed it away.  She is right, children do not ask for this, are helpless to prevent it.  One of the little ones had malaria on top of the HIV.  Really?  It was too much.

We took a break midday --  just about when emotional overload was getting the better of us -- and ate Moreen’s delicious lunch.  At every meal we have rice, potatoes and some sort of vegetable and fruit.  They make delicious peas...nothing like we have; it’s thick and nourishing yumminess.  Or we have beans.  Fruit grows in abundance here, bananas, pineapples and mangos.  It brings refreshing balance to the meals.   The break revives our spirits, and we move back into the clinic and carry on.

I gave lots of instructions on antibiotics and malaria meds.  It is strange to hand a preteen boy a sack of meds for he and his brothers, no parents around.  Will he remember that they need to take every pill, that every pill is so important?  Somber eyes listen to instruction and nod.  I think even the little ones realize the meds are rare, to be taken seriously.   Kind of like when my boys were diagnosed with Type 1.  The reality that insulin meant life hit them early and serious.  They listened to every word the nurses and doctors said and were intent on following directions.  Perhaps that’s how people receive the medicine & instructions here.  I hope so.

The line outside didn’t seem long, but at every glance it seemed the same length. The docs treated patients longer than planned, and we turned away the back half of the line, sending them home with vitamins at least.  Hard.  And then the joy came.

It was time for the children at African Hearts to perform.  They are a talented group of young people.  They danced for us and sang.  Boys drummed out lively beats while the girls danced.  Their smiles and African whooping about...well, I have no words.  I will never forget it.  It reminded me of my little G, how easily she dances and how music delights her so.  Such joy in the midst of this place.  African Hearts is an oasis of love and learning for these children.  They also thanked Monica and Anna for the many shoes they donated, and Deb spoke briefly too.  I felt blessed to be in Uganda today, blessed to experience the body of Christ here.  I wish William & Christian & Gia could have shared these moments with me.

Today I felt ripped apart and gently put back together by my heavenly Father, showing me His goodness and grace and joy.   Ugandans are beautiful.  I see them walking with sad faces.  Then I see joyful faces.  There is much to be sad about here, yet there is joy in the simplest of things.  They sing, dance, play instruments, and make beautiful things out of not very much.  I love how the children express their creativity here.  I feel like our kids could learn much from them, how to take the joy from the day God has given us and use the resources we’re given to the fullest.  These kids live this out well.  One little girl made me a tiny green purse out of a folded banana leaf.  George talked of how he used to cut chain link fence and tires and make things.  I saw a boy pushing a thin tire with a forked stick, running so fast, expertly guiding his tire...a moment of childhood bliss on a dirt road in Uganda.  He was happy.   I don’t think he needs to keep a gratitude journal -- something I’ve tried and failed to do, you know, to remind myself how grateful & happy I am.

After the clinic we made the 1/2 mile drive to the boys’ home.  We drove through the gate just in time to see the milking of the cow.  We piled out and assembled in the middle of the dirt and grass front yard.  Then the Converse shoes were passed out to their owners.  The team had asked the boys what color Converse shoes they’d like and their sizes.  Fresh from the States and new, the Converse shoes were a bit hit.  The boys’ smiles were priceless!  As I look back at the pictures, I love the smiles of the team giving out the shoes!  

That evening we ate dinner with the boys, and Heidi, the “auntie,” told us about their ministry and what a day looks like at the boys’ home.  They have an hour devotion & prayer time every day.  In that morning’s devotion they had talked about old self vs. new self and how all things become new when we know Jesus.  A powerful message for these boys, a reminder that they are not defined by their past, but they are seen as the wonderful men they are becoming, full of Jesus and His light and righteousness. 

The boys get up at 5:30 and do chores, go to school.  These boys are from the slums of Kampala, where some were on drugs and knew nothing about God, family, love or hope.  As we played, ate dinner together and talked in the small, cozy room with chairs around the parameter,  I once again marveled about being in this place in AFRICA, for heaven’s sake!!!, and seeing the CRAZY AMAZING things God is doing here with these boys!!! HE LOVES THEM!  Hallelujah for a God who cares not only about boys in slums, but also middle-aged suburban (blah) women and overindulged American teens (in fact, all of us are overindulged!)...and knits them together!  What in the world?!  He is SO good to us, so patient with us...transforming with grace our hearts and lives! 

I go to bed with a smile on my face amidst some sorrowful thoughts about the day.  Joy and pain in my heart at the same time.  Jesus knows all about this, and I’m happy to give it to Him and sleep.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

On the shores of Lake Victoria

From Carissa DeAngelis..... on Tuesday's work....

In the morning we went to the pharmacies to load up on meds.  As Lynsay & Deb talked to one of the pharmacists, one of the other pharmacists behind the counter asked to see the pictures in my camera.  People here love to look at pictures...so I showed her pictures from African Hearts.  I explained to her the ministry, that these were street children.  She looked at the picture of several girls dancing in uniforms, with smiles on their faces and said emphatically, “These aren’t street children.”  I said they were and she shook her head.   It reminded me of Lutaya’s talk on Monday, how people always tell street children they aren’t worth anything now and will never amount to anything.  Yes!  These children are on a completely new path, to the glory of God! 

The trek to Lake Victoria was indeed a trek.  Maneuvering around stuck taxis after torrential rains along a rutty dirt road takes awhile.  Sometimes we were flying down the dirt road, which is why most of my pictures are blurry glimpses of life in rural Uganda.  I am keeping them anyway.  Rural life is quieter and beautiful fields of rice and other unknown crops would suddenly appear and then suddenly disappear as the tall grasses shielded our view alongside the road.  We saw coffee trees and banana trees, huge 4-feet tall ant hills (white ants that come out at night to catch and eat), and many beautiful flowers dotting the landscape.  We saw poverty.  Babies sitting in the dirt in rags.  Boys with swollen tummies.  Simple shacks practically falling over, people sitting outside the front door observing the lonely road.  Chickens, goats and cows meandering about.

I think it took over three hours to reach the shore.  Once we arrived, our first collective thought was “bugs!”  There would be lots of them.  We saw lots of them.   So we piled out of the van and reapplied deet...deet spray, deet wipes.  We smelled lovely.  The locals must have thought we were nuts.  In actuality, the bugs weren’t so bad. 

Along the lake there’s a tiny town of sorts.  I still am not sure of the name.  It’s not really a town, more like an undefined area that’s part road, part farm stand, part hangout.  And then you see a couple buildings in a row.  One is just a three-sided room lined with people waiting.  The other has a tiny 4’ x 7’ room, our pharmacy.  And a larger room, room for our three docs, a Ugandan doc, and their patients.  We prayed and jumped in.  The pastors and people from True Vine translated for us, which was really nice. 

The day was crazy.  Maybe because I was in the teeny-tiny room, maybe because it was super loud outside, kids running around with the teenagers and playing games and the lines were long, many, many people seeking medical treatment.   We probably saw a couple hundred patients.  I explained many, many times how to administer medicine with a syringe.  If I dosed them right then and there, I had to tell them to close their mouth around the syringe while I pushed the medicine into their mouth.  They had no idea how to do this.  That amazed me!  Our babies receive medicine like this practically out of the womb.  It’s so normal.  Not here.  I had to show them how to draw the med up..they did not know how to do this.  The translators were wonderfully helpful.  It was a long day for them. 

The teens did intake and dispensed deworming pillows and put ginsen violet on fungal infections...with gloves.  They played with the children, blowing bubbles, singing songs, playing games and -- but only if you’re Ethan -- wielded the handy-dandy pocket knife.  I didn’t see Ethan much.  I was inside, he was out.  Sometimes I heard “Where’s Ethan?” His pocket knife has really come in handy.   We all call him to open various things, split packs of pills, split the pills themselves, etc.  Glad he insisted on getting a pocket knife for this trip.

Someone brought us chicken at the end of the day, and we had a quick picnic before the long drive home.  I think this day was hard, but rewarding in a way that’s hard to put into words.  It was incessant, intense.   It was sweat and heat in a small room with sick people, but there was no room to process this, no time to think.  The poverty was breathtaking at times.  Sometimes it was not pretty.  But I feel God used us there.  He changed our hearts along the shores of Lake Victoria,  in the remotest place I’ve ever been.  When you see an old woman smiling at you, beaming at you, full of life and joy, those are the moments that are life changing.  You marvel at how she made it this far.  I marveled at the smile lines on her face.  Her smiled and twinkling eyes told volumes about a life lived in the shadow of the Most High God.  I knew she knew Him in the most intimate way.   I think I could have prayed with her forever.  I want THAT when I am 90.

One sweet woman kneeled after I prayed for her, in thanks.  She was so thankful for the doctors, the meds, the prayer.  How can that not impact me forever? Lynsay, one of our amazing docs, said that she would ask patients why they didn’t get meds at the nearest hospital.  They said the hospital does not have any medicine.   What?!  It is incomprehensible.   She saw a couple babies who she thought would probably not make it much longer. 

The car ride home was pretty quiet, most people slept.  I talked with the driver.  He and I  mostly asked each other questions.   Stuff like “What do you think about my English” to “Do people own land out here” to “If you served one thing when I came to visit America, what food would it be?”  It was fun.  I learned a lot about Uganda and its culture, and he learned about the four seasons and that I do, in fact, have a washer and dryer (he doesn’t). 

I saw many people, mostly girls and women, carrying the ubiquitous yellow water jug on their heads.  Deo (our driver) told me they were walking back from the well.  Which was miles away.  I asked him if the well had clean water.  He said no, it’s dirty.   Ugh.

We saw kids in uniforms walking home from school, high school age.  He said they got out of school at 4:15.  It was 6:30.  Things I can’t fathom at every turn and I am sure I am forgetting many of them already.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Special needs; special provision

By Danae Badman, 17 years old

Today was our team's free day in Uganda, so we all went ARVing along side the Nile River.  It was amazing.  We passed by so many little houses that families were living in.  As we passed by on the ATVs, most of the children would run out of their houses yelling, "sweeties!" which means they want candy.  Thankfully, we brought some sweeties to hand out.  There is no other feeling as when you hand a child who seriously has nothing (not even a shirt) a piece of candy or a toy.  The point is that the look on their faces is just priceless.

After the ATV trip was complete, we went to lunch, did a little shopping, then headed over to a special needs orphanage called Ekisa.  All the kids at this home were precious.  They all have their own history of how they got there; most of them can't speak fluently enough to tell the story, but that's why there is the leader of  the house.  I met one boy who loved to listen and sing Justin Bieber out loud.  I have most of his songs on my Ipod, so I went and listened and sang along with him.  He knew the lyrics better than I did!  He was the most precious little guy ever....

After I sang with mini Justin Bieber, a little girl came to sit on my lap.  She loved stickers and had them all over her adorable face.  She was five years old and couldn't walk yet.  After leaving the orphanage I felt a little more sad than I did when I first came.  Seeing all the children with those disabilities was rough, but the Lord has blessed them truly by allowing them to be at that wonderful home with those wonderful people.  I do believe that God has a future for all of them, and whatever that future is, He will use it for His glory alone.  After realizing that, my mood changed from sad to being so incredibly happy for the children who live there under that roof being loved and cared for.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


My daughter has HIV.

No, this isn't new information; I've known that for two years.
And I thought I was okay with it.
As okay as you can be with these things, I suppose....

Then there was today.
Today we were doing medical clinics at Ssenge Village with African Hearts.
Moreen (the school administrator) had suspicions about whether a few of the children at their school might be positive.  Lynsay and I purchased rapid HIV tests and performed five tests today.

Two of them were positive.

And I lost it.

I was so sad.
Then I was mad.

Adults can do something about whether they get HIV.
(Don't have unprotected sex; don't share sharp objects)

But kids.  These kids.  They didn't deserve this.
It's not fair.
See where this is going?

Sometime in the middle of being just plain ticked off about it, I realized that I've never really processed the fact that my daughter is positive.  MY daughter.  Positive. 
It's not fair.
And it's not fair for the babies we diagnosed today.

OF COURSE I believe that Leah can (and will) have a long, healthy life.
I pray about it and have faith that God will see it through.
But the fact remains that Leah has this rat-bastard of a disease (yea, I said it) and she will have it, barring a healing, for a lifetime.  And I'm sad.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Use your imagination.....

Hi, I am Anna Ervin.  I am 11 years old and I am going to Uganda.  One of the things that is funny in life is our imagination.  I imagine things like the source of the Nile to be an amazing rock stairway that has coral all over it.  And it is in the middle of the ocean spouting out water into the Nile.  I imagine the city (Kampala) kind of like Mexico although it is Africa.  I imagine the people nice and lively. 

 The human mind is a funny thing.  It can turn a cound into a whole made up story.  Our eyes can play tricks on us.  Our imagination can burst out and twist around reality and turn it into something completely different.  The human mind is very complicated.  But I think we are figuring it out.

This opportunity is GREAT and the whole team is lucky.  Bless everyone and good luck.
     - love Anna Ervin

Blessings to our youngest team member -- this year -- and my college BFF's eldest daughter, Anna.  One more day!!!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Dear Uganda....

Uganda, I can't wait to meet you.  I said these very words (insert Helen for Uganda) before I met my daughter from Ethiopia.  Now I cannot imagine living a breath without her.  I wonder if I will say the same for you.  It's not nearly the same, of course, but will we be intertwined forever once I step on your soil and embrace your people?  You are already delightfully tangled up in the tenderness of God's heart.  Will you be tangled in mine too?  We've prayed and fundraised, and now we wait, and in the waiting we think and pray some more.  I pray we will go in humility and grace and, most of all, love with abandon.  I pray we will be a delightful blessing to you.  I know you will change us forever.  Thankfully.

Team, I can't wait to meet you too! Wonder Woman Deb has amazingly put together a great group of people from all over the nation...well, world, really (welcome, Lynsay).  We are honored and excited to serve with you all!  Hang on to your hats, I feel like God (with the urging of Deb...He HEARS her!) has big plans for our time in Uganda.  And we are all going on the prayers and support of many, many people, on the wings of the sheer grace of God!  So amazing...and humbling.  I know that God will equip each of us with what we need for this trip as we move in concert -- one beautiful sound made from different instruments! -- to help, educate and bless those around us.  See you SOON!